The two-day workshop (Oct 17 & 18, 2016) in Moratuwa, invited Sarvodaya members from Batticaloa, Colombo, Gampaha, and Kegalle Districts. These participants have first-hand experience responding to the 2016 Western floods & landslide and the 2015 Northeast floods, in Sri Lanka. The objective was to share their tacit knowledge on taking a holistic and practical approach to responding to crises. Then give them the tools to analyze the experience to develop the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) themselves. To that end, we applied community engagement social practices methods for analyzing the knowledge to realize the design parameters for developing the Sarvodaya Disaster Response SOP.
On May 14th that I retweeted a satellite image of a weather system over Sri Lanka. The tweet said “WEATHER ALERT – Severe rain over #LK will continue for next 24/48hrs. Public cautioned over flash floods & landslides.” The hazard was public knowledge, contrary to some claims now being made. WEATHER ALERT – Severe rain over #LK will continue for next 24/48hrs.
Based on its longstanding relationship with Sarvodaya, Sri Lanka’s largest community-based organization, we have already remitted the first tranche of cash support (donations matched 100:50 by LIRNEasia) already used in urgent relief work (bottled water and dry rations) in four priority districts: Colombo, Gampaha, Kegalla and Puttalama. We trust that Sarvodaya is best positioned to identify priority needs and deliver the relief in a reliable manner based on its strong values and years of experience. Sarvodaya has informed us that it is already looking beyond relief, to actions needed to get he affected people in Sarvodaya villages back on their feet. This will require more commitment of funds and energy than what is needed for immediate relief. We will be with Sarvodaya as they build back better.
Despite the massive goof-up with the situation reports which over-reported the number of casualties from the Koslanda landslide by a factor of eight (300 as against the actual 38), the country has been shaken by the disaster. The Sinhala language weekly, Ravaya, was dominated by it. The article that I contributed, building on the thinking we had done after the tsunami, and what our colleague science journalist Nalaka Gunawardene had contributed stood out in terms of constructive proposals that would help avoid such calamities in the future. The relevant sections in English are given below: The foundation is the development of good hazard assessments. Consultants working for the Disaster Management Center have developed these for the coastal areas though they are not public.
We’ve had too many disasters. The tsunami, the LTTE, Nandikadal. And now Koslanda. After the tsunami we asked what could be done to avoid a repeat. We found answers.