Disasters — Page 22 of 23


Tsunami Lessons

Posted on April 1, 2005  /  8 Comments

Ten preliminary lessons of the 28th March 2005 Sumatra great earthquake (Photo Source) LIRNEasia, together with Vanguard Foundation, intends to systematically analyze the Sri Lankan media response to the great earthquake of the 28th of March. However, it appears useful to draw some preliminary lessons from this tragedy which has cost over 1,000 lives, including the people of Nias and other islands and those in Sri Lanka and elsewhere who died as a result of the warnings. The conclusions are preliminary; comments are welcome. # Earthquake hazard detection is easy; tsunami hazard detection is not. One cannot simply infer the existence of a destructive tsunami from an earthquake.
COLLOQUIUM April 1, 2005 In accordance with standard economic principles, an all-hazards early warning system is a public good that is both non-rivalrous (consumption by one economic agent does not prevent consumption by another) and non-excludable (a user cannot be excluded from consuming the good without significant effort) in nature. Given these characteristics and the related “free-rider” syndrome, pure public goods will not be supplied by the market. Goods with significant public-goods-characteristics tend to be undersupplied. The two classic solutions to the problem of funding and the supply of public goods are taxation and the bundling of a public good with a private good. The latter solution is an innovative one that has not been fully explored in the public goods literature nor is there much evidence that such a solution has been deployed in practice.
Some of the key recommendations made by LIRNEasia in the National Early Warning System (NEWS:SL) concept paper are now being picked up by policymakers and the media in Sri Lanka as can be read in this new report by the Lanka Business Online: One Voice On Tuesday, Sri Lankan legislators called for a single body to issue warnings on potential natural diasters This is one of the key recommendations that LIRNEasia made in its paper ( NEWS:SL section 2.12, page 18). Mr. Newton Gunaratne head of the state-run Independent Television Network said: “We could not find any authority who was willing to say it was safe for people to go back, that is why we need a centralised system from where authoritative information can be obtained.” LIRNEasia recommended that a well-designed warning system will clearly alert a local population of the hazard and also provide all-clear notofications (NEWS:SL 2.
NEWS:SL [National Early Warning System: Sri Lanka] was presented to the �Presidential Commission of Inquiry to Inquire into Matters Relating to the Conduct of Relevant State Institutions/Agencies Following the Natural Disasters which Occurred on 26 December 2004, and the Measures that Should be Taken to Improve Early Warning Mechanism for Natural Disasters and Thereby to Prevent or Mitigate Such Devastation� following a presentation of same to the Commission� on March 15 2005, less than three months after the greatest catastrophe faced by Sri Lanka in modern times. The salient features of the Concept Paper were presented to the Commission, in addition several other research findings relevant to the Commission. The importance of an all-hazards approach was stressed and governance model options were discussed. Recommendations on actions that are needed by government were made and intended actions by the Vanguard Foundation were presented. Commission members, retired Supreme Court Judge H.
English Press Release English Background & Executive Summary Sinhala Press Release
Sinhala Tamil

Parliamentary Select Committee

Posted on March 26, 2005  /  0 Comments

Our colleague, Nishantha Kamaladasa, Director of the Center for Housing Planning and Building, testified before the Parliamentary Select Committee on the Tsunami on March 7th, 2005. The difficult-to-find and oddly named website of the Select Committee is at http://www.srilankanparliamentonnaturaldisasters.org/Sixth%20Meeting.htm The sixth meeting contains the slides and text of Nishantha’s presentation.
It has been three months since Sri Lanka lost 40,000 valuable lives and the Indian Ocean region 300,000. Given below is the e-mail message that LIRNEasia sent to its friends and well wishers on this sad day of remembrance. It is being posted here in case we missed your e-mail address or got it wrong. Three-month alms giving in remembrance of the victims of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami Prompt action to establish an effective National Early Warning System is the best memorial we can build to the 40,000 valuable lives that were swept away for the lack of a few minutes of warning and a little awareness.—NEWS:SL Concept Paper It is customary in Sri Lanka to offer a dana (an alms giving wherein offerings are made to monks and the resulting merit is offered to the departed) three months after the death of a dear one.

Learning from the tsunami

Posted on February 24, 2005  /  2 Comments

*This is a Flash version of the PowerPoint (File/Export in OpenOffice). Please click the image for the next slide. This morning I gave a talk by the above title to a group of senior private sector people at the monthly breakfast meeting of the Sri Lanka Institute of Directors. In contrast to the many presentations I have done in the past few months that focused almost totally on disaster warning, this talk addressed the broader approach to hazards. Suffice to say that the slides include pictures of an ostrich (with due apologies to actual beast who does not hide its head in the sand), chicken little and tweety (with Sylvester lurking in the background).

Monthly column

Posted on February 11, 2005  /  3 Comments

I have agreed to write a column on Choices for Lanka Business Online, starting this month. The first column is up, entitled “Surviving tsunamis: What we can learn from Hawai’i.” Any suggestions, comments, criticisms will be welcome. BTW, a tentative statement in my column (that was written on my flight back from Hawai’i Jan 20-22) has been confirmed: the undersea earthquake responsible for the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami is now the second largest recorded earthquake at 9.3 on the Richter scale.
A video news conference connecting experts in disaster warning systems in Colombo, Vancouver and Hawaii answered questions posed by the Sri Lankan press and television journalists. This event was organised by LIRNEasia and Vanguard Foundation on February 10 at the Distance Learning Center on SLIDA’s campus in Colombo. The event was launched by the release of the draft report on a National All Hazard Disaster Warning System written by local and international experts. This draft report emerged from an Expert Consultation that was held in January 26, 2005 where broad input was obtained from Sri Lankans with disaster management expertise, experts in hazard warning and the public who responded to newspaper advertisements. The primary purpose of the video news conference was to discuss the concept paper with the Sri Lankan media in order to give the widest possible publicity to the draft report that was written up on the basis of international best practice and local input.
Comments and suggestions are hereby invited on the interim report: “Specifications of a national all-hazards warning system.” Draft for comment The paper is based on international and local expertise and the input from an expert consultation held on January 26th, 2005. All comments received prior to February 19th will be taken into account in finalizing the report. It is intended that the final report will be handed over to the appropriate authorities in government on or around the 26th of February, 2005, two months to the day from Sri Lanka’s greatest calamity. Comments may be submitted in the comment space below, or alternatively emailed to asia@lirne.

Arthur Clarke on ICTs & Disasters

Posted on February 3, 2005  /  0 Comments

I knew that Sir Arthur Clarke was interested in disaster preparedness from the time I and my colleagues Nihal Kularatne and Shantha Fernando organized a ICTs and disaster warnings workshop for the Arthur C. Clarke Centre for Modern Technologies back in 1986 in Colombo. Here is evidence he is still in the game: http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/13.
The original purpose of the visit was to participate in a super session on “Strategies for implementing universal access.” The session was well attended and useful. My presentation was Expanding Access to ICTs (Powerpoint) Along with Bill Melody’s forceful comments it clearly established the importance of market and regulatory reforms, a position that may otherwise have been deemphasized as a result of the Chair’s interest in subsidies. The visit was also used to pursue the disaster warning-communication issues that have come to the fore in the aftermath of the Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004. On the 18th of January I visited the Big Island’s Civil Defense Emergency Operations Center and the Pacific Tsunami Museum accompanied by Bill Melody and at the invitation of Dr George Curtis, a tsunami expert at the University of Hawai’i at Hilo.
Adapting to an ICT based Emergency Warning System by Priyantha K. Weerabahu , Daily News, 25 Jan 2005 read article
The press conference in Colombo, Sri Lanka and Washington DC of the World Bank President, Mr. Wolfensohn is available in its entirety via Audio and Video streaming. More details on post-Tsunami reconstruction effort can be found on World Bank’s website. Detailed damage assessments will follow initial estimates WASHINGTON, January 12th, 2005-World Bank President James D. Wolfensohn said Wednesday that reconstruction in the tsunami-hit countries of Asia and Africa must be driven by the local communities affected by the disaster, adding that the process of rebuilding should be transparent and ensure accountability for the funds pledged.