Disasters: Government caught napping
Posted on May 29th, 2017

Dr MWN Dharmawardene Rajagiriya Courtesy The Island

The monsoonal rains for an island like Sri Lanka are nature’s gift to the nation, which has been plundered by ad hoc management all self-seeking politicians since independence. Nevertheless, in spite of the so-called climate change phenomenon sweeping across the world, Sri Lanka has not been failed by rains at least once a year. It is unfortunate that we have failed to do justice to this natural gift, by managing it properly, so that not a drop flows to ocean without being put to use, as vowed by our ancient kings.

Instead of managing and using this nature’s gift, we have allowed it to cause havoc and destruction every year, so much so that, a Ministry for Disaster Management has been established to protect the nation from such calamities. It should have used its mandate to give leadership to all government agencies whose business should have been to manage flooding, by implementing a master plan for water management from day one of its establishment. Instead, it has become another post box, which passes the buck by issuing media announcements, on weather, earth slip prone areas, flood relief, etc., while asking the people to take suitable action to move out after the damage is done. It has become a mere agency doing the work of a social services department, waiting until some disaster strikes to distribute some handouts! Instead, it should have been the agency that implements the Master Plan for Mitigation of Natural & Man-made Disasters.

For instance, our country would not go under flood waters if we had implemented a Master Plan for Water Management, which should include among other things the following:

1. A boundary survey of all reservations of all major rivers and their tributaries, and secure the areas with chain-link fencing prohibiting all unauthorized entry.

2. Remove all unauthorized structures and cultivations.

3. Strengthen all river banks with granite enmeshed in wire mesh, similar to the construction system already in place for protection of river banks of Diyawanna Oya – Wellawatte canal.

4. Raise the river banks at places already known to overflow its banks.

5. During the dry season clean all rivers and waterways of all debris & sand, as done during the days of Civil Service administration. If all rivers and reservoirs are cleaned, desilted and sand mined appropriately, annually, then we need not make plans to import sand from overseas countries, increasing our debt burden.

6. Clear the outfalls of all rivers to the sea during the dry season, and widen the mouths and install gates which can be controlled mechanically as and when required, instead of waiting to widen river mouths after the damage is done in a very ad hoc manner, as practiced now.

7. In order to take water coming into a river from unprecedented rainfalls, a cascading system of reservoirs should be constructed at appropriate places downstream to divert such excess waters along the reservations of the major rivers.

8. Plant bamboo trees along all river banks and all watersheds to hold soil in place, to effect conservation and prevent soil erosion, while all river reservations should be made into bamboo plantations.

9. Landslides occur, when heavy rainfall percolating soils of hilly areas is unable to escape from enmeshed soil. The solution is to use make terrace waterways available or insert ducting in the ground laterally, as practiced in Japan. Rehabilitation of hilly lands in a similar manner should be part of the scheme.

10. If such a master plan is implemented by obtaining foreign assistance, Sri Lanka would tame nature for ever for the benefits of its nation, and we shall not then here of flood relief annually anymore. Such a plan would create plenty of productive jobs for thousands of people; provide river sand for all construction work, and many other raw materials for various industries. Savings will be in billions to the country, including billions of cubic meters fresh water that is now flooding the countryside, and thereafter flowing to the ocean unused.

Over to you Mr. President & Prime Minister for action.

Dr MWN Dharmawardene


2 Responses to “Disasters: Government caught napping”

  1. Ananda-USA Says:

    A very large number of families in Sri Lanka have lost everything in the floods. They have lost their homes, all of their possessions including furniture, clothes, cooking equipment, and the books and schola supplies essential to the continued education of their children.

    While the GOVERNMENT will help each family in the FULLNESS of TIME, the NEEDS are URGENT. They need HELP NOW and CANNOT WAIT until the slow wheels of government machinery unstick itself and begins to function. Each affected-family needs FOCUSED CONTINUOUS HELP NOW!

    I think it would be a good idea for GENEROUS WELL-TO-DO SPONSORING FAMILIES in Sri Lanka to ADOPT one or more FLOOD-AFFECTED-FAMILIES in Sri Lanka, and help them RECOVER from this MONUMENTAL DISASTER.

    Such helping families can maintain a focused level of help thst would be impossible to achieve by an impersonal government bureaucracy.

    I propose that an organization such as the YMBA in collaboration with Buddhist Temples that know both the well-to-do people and those needing assistance in each community should do this in collaboration with the media organizations that gave already done yeomen service such as Manusath Derana, Sirasa and Hiru TV.

    Once such an organization is quickly setup, the first step should be to CREATE A LIST of the participating Temples, and make a PUBLIC MEDIA ANNOUNCEMENT for SPONSORING FAMILIES to volunteer and sign up to adopt flood-affected families in their neighborhoods. Then, each SPONSORING FAMILY can be paired with specific FLOOD-AFFECTED- FAMILY thus avoiding unnecessary duplication of effort while assuring that those in need get the needed help.

    I am convinced that such a API-WENUWEN-API PROGRAM would be the VERY BEST WAY to ensure that no family in need is left behind without SOME HELP and SOMEONE to turn to in their hour of need.

    I plan to do this by myself in collaboration with one or more Buddhist Temples in Sri Lanka in the immediate future, irrespective of whether this suggestion is implemented by others.

    However, a SYSTEMATIC Nationwide Program is what is really needed. Once established, it could become a MODEL for coping with FUTURE DISASTERS.

    I also believe that this would be GREAT WAY to promote the UNITY of our NATION and ALL OF OUR PEOPLE leveraging the unfortunate pain and suffering this flood has caused, at a time when the common people are feeling ABANDONED by a PROFLIGATE and UNCARING government.

  2. Dilrook Says:

    Does anyone know what happened to the massive rice stock donated by Indonesia just 4 months back for drought?


    If you follow skyrocketing rice prices in Sri Lanka recently you would know. They ended up in the rice cartel headed by a very important person. Drought affected people got little! Next “Yala” harvest is ruined now which will help these elements make bigger bucks.

    No reflection of politicians (who were also accused), but 3 years ago Sri Lanka was a net rice donor. Today a beggar.


    It is not just the flood. People’s livelihoods and food security are all affected. All these must be fixed soon.

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