All participants at this summit have not been given a study pack prior to their attendance, so they have NOT been able to prepare adequately for discussion of the policy direction to be taken.
What we need is a FUNDAMENTAL LIFESTYLE CHANGE, if we believe our goal should be to build a nation, where the quality of life of all those who reside in Sri Lanka, is at its practical highest!
In order for the Fundamental Change, in my previous blog entry, I suggested a drastic change in the Education system as the catalyst and the only means. I don’t believe the reader envisaged, the seismic shift demanded there.
To begin with when 3 and 4 year olds are trained in behavior modification, it affects all core areas of development. Namely, Discipline, Conservation, Reduction in waste and disposal correctly of all items after use, including recycling. (I hope you realize that our sea is one of the most polluted in the world, and the muck that goes from all our rivers to the sea, is not just a cause for alarm, but shame, and none here today at the summit will be aware, let alone take steps to combat this menace)
Let me add Nutrition, that encourages eating habits of wholesome food, and sustainable practices and minimal use of artificial additives, pesticides and non-recyclable containers in fast food. Efficient living units with maximum use of renewable energy will be the result of these choices, not the current desire for single family dwellings on terra firma, that other Countries have determined are outdated, and we are still encouraging, in our housing policy! I pick on the current urge to provide homes on limited land, in areas with no employment as a prime example of idiocy at work, by well-meaning but uneducated politicians.
Only if this Education plan is successfully implemented can areas such as flood prevention, relocation with mobility, return of old growth forests, re- foresting of mountainsides, optimal use of existing fallow lands, water conservation and groundwater regeneration, soil conservation, effluent minimization and treatment, management of public transport with minimal pollution, highway construction and maintenance with minimum carbon footprint, and efficient traffic management, and expansion of parkland for recreation of the public be envisaged.
The aforementioned areas will ONLY lead to an improvement in the quality of life of all citizens living in Sri Lanka. This must be the ONLY criteria under discussion, above all else, and especially the numbers game being bandied about by people with self-interest over the national interest.
As part of this exercise and in order to understand why the above strategy is preferable to any other, is to look at a prime example of a major strategy gone wrong in Biyagama where I currently work.
Take the development of Biyagama, a newly designated area in 1977, carved out from Kelaniya, and created with the BOI Industrial Zone, the cornerstone of the development model close to Colombo, the port and ALL resources. The PM then as an extremely youthful Minister of Industries was tasked with making it a success. It had all the promising ingredients for success.
What do we have now? Haphazard development without proper designation of industrial and housing zones, so homes and factories sit side by side. On top of it people built, politicians took, and flood plains filled, sand mined, and now NO ONE living in Biyagama wants to work in the Industries created there!
The biggest industry is of people building rooms in their homes, to rent out to workers coming from all parts of the Country to work in the factories. There are more than 25,000 vacancies, with locals not wanting to fill any of them, or are not sufficiently qualified to do so. Due to the lack of respectable residential areas, ALL managers of ALL companies, those earning in excess of Rs75,000 a month commute to Biyagama from outside of the area to work there every morning, the residents of Biyagama go outside to Colombo to work, or sit at home, renting their rooms to workers and prefer to be lotus eaters, and about 75,000 workers from homes around the Country, live and work in factories in the area.
How stupid is this model? Worse the floods of this week brought home, the humongous idiocy in planning permission, to build in areas that should never have resulting in innocent people paying the price of their homes being under water, some for the first time ever, due to the political patronage for money at the expense of the development of the area.
Frankly, being so close to Colombo and with so much potential, people in Polonnaruwa have a better quality of life, than the residents of Biyagama, be they permanently living there, or working there living in boarding houses! In hindsight, designation of zones for different types of development should have been made, as well as quality education for the locals, to take the jobs on offer there, as there too few locals with the relevant qualifications work there!
You just have to drive around, seeing the way the unplanned development has organically taken place, with people in tiny plots, with hardly any road access living any which way he can, and half the BOI Comapnies closed down! some for lack of labor, others being uncompetitive with other Countries where productivity is higher, such as Vietnam. What has the local authority tasked with planned development done? NOTHING – What a wasted opportunity?
It worth taking a look at this previous strategy in trying to understand how well meaning policies look stupid 40 years on due to improper implementation of all segments for holistic success.
Sri Lanka is at a unique juncture in history, with a National Govt. in place, and a new Constitution in the offing giving it the ONLY chance EVER of going back to basics and coming up with the sustainable plan.
So let us set aside, personal and political agendas, draw up a plan for the Country for the next 50 years, and begin implementing it, being immune from short term political advantages. We dont have an option, because if current practices continue, there is grave doubt if there will be a habitable country in 50 years, so if we agree on that one point, then we can take the necessary steps to change, seismically! nothing less.