The ONE DAY of rain on May 26th 2017 seems to have caused an unexpected calamity of deaths in ALL the affected districts primarily of earthslips of one sort or another caused by the rain, that came down in buckets within a short period, and not by drowning in the resulting floods.
It is now accepted that this is to be blamed NOT as an ACT OF GOD, but due to man’s own destruction of the environment. I do not wish to comment here on the complete unpreparedness of the Disaster Relief Ministry to cope with this situation as that is another topic. I wish to concentrate on a means of keeping the public aware of their own status vis a vis potential hazards and the necessary precautions that MUST be taken in order to minimize the loss of life in future.
We know there are too many public servants, but too little for the important tasks that they are responsible for, but have not been sufficiently resourced! It then begs the question “why aren’t the resources properly allocated to meet the needs of the Public who these SERVANTS are required to protect?”
It is this latter question that I will concentrate on as it relates to the avoidance of THE LOSS OF LIFE arising from a relatively small amount of rain. Just imagine if it had rained continuously for three days! DO we then assume the loss of life would exceed 500? That is the issue THAT MUST BE TACKLED immediately and IS NOT addressed in the Media or by any of the pundits be they experts or in Govt. responsible for alerting the public to the dangers lurking
It is NO secret and frankly commonly accepted by the people that the landslides are now occuring due to the destruction of the land, by quarrying, cutting mountains for soil and removing the trees that keep the soil together. IF that is so, then it is NO secret that this problem will get worse and NOT better. Let us me mindful that loss of life occurred in MANY places all at once and NOT one huge earthslip. This means that the land is severly degraded and this problem with only get worse and NOT better.
The science of earthslips is now advanced, and there is a public organization called the NBRO that alerts people to the areas that are prone to earthslips. My recommendation is thus! We IMMEDIATELY map all the GN divisions in the Country, requesting the GNs (Grama Niladaris) to map out initially the areas within their purveiw that are most likely at risk of earthslips or poorly constructed retaining walls meant to hold back such earthslips.
Once this database is computerized, the Govt. should direct the necessary resources by seconding public servants in areas that they are NOT productive in to independently verify these areas and perhaps spot others that have NOT been identified by the GNs as a FIRST STEP, as a matter of independent verification and for them to color code initially into three categories of severity or likelihood of immediate calamity, if the soil is saturated.
THEN EVERY HOUSEHOLDER KNOWS their plight, and when a warning is issued, know that if they do not vacate they are in danger of dying! It is in the public’s interest that this step be taken, as otherwise householders are living in serious danger, and any more rain in this monsoon season means we have NO idea who will fall victim, and the victims themselves are unaware of the DANGER THEY ARE CURRENTLY IN.
This plan must be implemented without delay if we are to reduce the loss of life from minor rains, and NO TELLING what will happen if we have extended rains where soil saturation could conceivably cause untold level of earthslips.
One problem I foresee with this plan is that the recipients themselves DO NOT wish to have their homes SO CATEGORIZED as it will affect the value of their homes. By extension, when they want to value or sell their home, they will be asked to furnish what category their home is or if it is NOT given, this information will be freely available through the Fredom of Information Act, and so will be common knowledge as this database is essential for planners, disaster relief and for obtaining building permission etc.
It is therefore going to be the very people who are most seriously affected who will not wish this proposal to go through because of this fear. Frankly, they would prefer to die in a landslide than get their home categorized and known publicly as in danger of being destroyed by an earthslip!
It is therefore essentail that the President, in the interests of public safety use his power, NOT TO PLAY POLITICS and implement this in the public interest.
One important point regarding landslides and floods that MUST not go unnoticed, and that is those who suffer are always the poorest in our midst, and those who cause the landslides and floods are some of the richest in our midst. It is therefore very important that the mass destruction of forests, and the constructions that obstruct the natural flow of rivers and streams, that have led to the problem are prevented in the future, and all illegal constructions removed. A rapid reforestation plan MUST put in place, and people discouraged from building homes in future, in areas that are prone to landslides by NOT permitting them or re-zoning land for forest ONLY. (public or private)