The moderator of the DRR lecture and panel and leading science writer Nalaka Gunawardene has written about the discussion at the DRR lecture.
More than 200 small dams did breach during those rains, causing extensive damage to crops and infrastructure. The most dangerous form of breach, the over-topping of the earthen dams of large reservoirs, was avoided only by timely measures taken by irrigation engineers — at considerable cost to those living downstream. This irrigation emergency was captured by a local cartoonist: the head in this caricature is that of the minister of irrigation.
In early February, Sri Lanka announced that it will expand its dam safety programme to cover more large reservoirs and will ask for additional funding from the World Bank following recent floods. Never mind the irony of a proud heritage now having to be maintained with internationally borrowed money. Public safety, not national vanity, comes first.
Only two corrections. The expansion of the USD 71 million dam safety and water resource planning project is no sure thing. Until the agreements are signed, nothing is certain. And while I did propagate the story that 200+ reservoirs breached in the January-February rains, I have since been informed that more than 400 breached.