President tells Flood Task Force to expedite relief

Wednesday, 16 February 2011 00:42 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

President Mahinda Rajapaksa reviewed the extent of damage caused by the recent floods and the restoration process, at a meeting with the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on flood relief yesterday at Temple Trees.

There was agreement to expedite infrastructure restoration, rebuilding of roads, rebuilding of tanks, tank bunds and canals, and other irrigation schemes.

They discussed the relocation of people affected by landslides and the Task Force pointed out the need for material assistance for the people to rebuild their damaged houses. The President was informed that alternative lands will be provided for the affected.

The President highlighted the importance of having an insurance policy that covers paddy fields in the event of natural calamities.

He instructed the Task Force to commence the rehabilitation work as soon as possible following a thorough assessment process.

The President instructed the Ministry officials to work with the Civil Defence Force in cultivation programmes.

To restore agriculture in affected districts, the Agriculture Ministry plans to provide seeds free of charge. They will also receive a subsidy to purchase fertiliser in the open market, the Task Force informed the President.

Crops like cowpea and green gram which mature quickly should be promoted in the affected areas, the President said.

The floods have ruined almost 200,000 out of an estimated 700,000 hectares of paddy cultivation during this Maha season resulting in an estimated loss of 800,000 metric tons of paddy.

The Task Force comprising relevant cabinet ministers and chief ministers of the affected provinces also discussed ways and means to restore properties and other livelihoods of people in all affected districts.

The proposed rehabilitation programmes will be implemented in the flood-affected districts of Batticaloa, Ampara, Trincomalee, Polonnaruwa, Anuradhapura, Vavuniya, Mannar, Mullaitivu, Badulla, Nuwara-Eliya, Matale, Kandy and Kilinochchi.

The Minister of Economic Development Basil Rajapaksa informed the Task Force that the government is distributing dry rations for the affected communities with the assistance of the World Food Programme.

People in the affected districts who lost their livelihoods are being recruited to carry out the restoration work and will be paid Rs. 500 per day, the Minister said.

The Task Force informed the President that agriculture, road network, provincial and national highway network have been severely damaged. Around 500 tanks, anicuts and several irrigation systems were also damaged, the Task Force said.

The floods in the North, North Central, and Eastern Provinces have affected over 1.2 million people and left 3,663 houses totally destroyed. Another 23,653 houses have been partially damaged.

The government has allocated Rs. 33 billion (approximately 30 million US dollars) for rehabilitation and restoration programmes in the affected districts.