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Disaster Mitigation: Time to bridge the gap between Policy and Practice – Vinya Ariyaratne

There is an imminent need to revisit the institutional arrangements for disaster mitigation, response and warning systems because serious gaps still exist between practices and the policies in effect, as indicated by the recent folds and tsunami alerts, said Dr. Vinya Ariyaratne, General Secretary of the Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement, delivering LIRNEasia’s Disaster Risk Reduction Public Lecture on July 7, 2010 at the Foundation Institute auditorium. This was the inaugural public lecture of LIRNEasia’s series of disaster risk reduction events.

Illustrating Sarvodaya’s contribution to the disaster recovery process in response to a series of natural disasters including the cyclone in 1978, the Kantalai tank bund breach in 1986 and the tsunami in 2004, Dr. Ariyaratne explained the lessons learnt and how that changed the institutional attitude. For example, he has observed that many recovery issues are often addressed subjectively without a scientific basis, and recommended a greater degree of internal and external coordination, information sharing and regulatory mechanisms between concerned parties. He also emphasized the need for community-level capacity-building, arguing against a solely top-down approach to disaster risk reduction. Important lessons can be learnt from the communities and the training by the community should be for the community.

Commenting on Sri Lanka’s national policy on disaster management, Dr. Ariyaratne observed that although the policy comprehensively covers both natural and man-made disasters, ineffective implementation mechanisms have prevented us from seeing effective results.

The floods of May 2010 was an eye opener to many, highlighting the gap between policy and practice. Multiple factors that have caused this disaster have emphasized the need for a comprehensive, multi-level, multi-disciplinary approach to disaster management in the country. Observing a notable drop in attention by governmental authorities once the floods recede, Dr. Ariyaratne questioned the extent to which the general public can be guaranteed of a non-repetition of the same series of events in the future.

S.R. Jayasekera, Deputy Director, Department Of Meteorology and Ainsley Alles, Director, General Insurance, AvivaNDB Insurance PLC also spoke at the event highlighting the roles in government and private sector disaster risk reduction.

Click on the links for presentations by Prof. Samarajiva and Dr. Ariyaratne
LIRNEasia and disaster risk reduction – Rohan Samarajiva
From Recovery to Risk Reduction – Vinya Ariyaratne

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