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Building disaster-resilient infrastructure through enhanced knowledge



Strengthening Irrigation sector in Sri Lanka to ensure appropriate disaster-resilient measures

Recognizing the necessity for greater investment in the planning process for disaster-resilient infrastructure across Asia and the Pacific, UNDP through its Regional Hub in Bangkok with the financial support of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) has launched the Project, ‘Resilient Infrastructure through Enhanced Knowledge’. The Project will build the capacity of selected infrastructure sectors in four countries; namely Sri Lanka, Armenia, Cambodia and Fiji; to ensure that appropriate disaster-resilient measures are defined and applied into pre-disaster preparation for recovery and post-disaster recovery efforts.

Considering the importance of water and food security, Sri Lanka has selected the Irrigation sector to develop a comprehensive country-specific disaster recovery framework under this project.  The activities will concentrate on supporting Post-Disaster Needs Assessment (PDNA) training to Government officials, utilizing contingency and recovery tools and plans, improve financial preparedness planning which will help to meet the resources required for disaster recovery and cover the additional costs of building forward better.

The Project is implemented in collaboration with the Disaster Management Center (DMC), the Department of National Planning, Department of National Budget and all stakeholder agencies in the Irrigation sector; including the Department of Irrigation, Department of Agrarian Development, 9 Provincial Departments of Irrigation and the Mahaweli Authority of Sri Lanka.

The first training on Post Disaster Needs Assessment and Disaster Recovery Planning took place in Colombo recently, with over 63 participants from across the above stakeholders including Engineers, Planners, and Accountants. Speaking on the importance of such training Anoja Seneviratne, Director, Mitigation Research & Development, Disaster Management Centre said: “The Irrigation sector is one of the most important sectors in the country. Irrigation resilience is not only for water management, but also provides inputs for agricultural expansion, facilitates technological change and helps increase sectoral productivity and the GDP of the country…Introducing a disaster recovery framework will benefit the sector as it ensures recovery to build back faster and better. This workshop will be the first of such to brainstorm, share knowledge in damage & loss, and recovery in the sector following a more scientific way.” She went onto note, “This initial step will be foundational towards the country’s disaster resilience.  I appreciate all the stakeholders for their engagement and appreciate UNDP and ADB’s support for a cleaner, greener and resilient Sri Lanka.”

In 2016 and 2017, UNDP in Sri Lanka coordinated the PDNAs on behalf of the UN system, and supported the Government of Sri Lanka, together with the European Union and the World Bank, to conduct a comprehensive assessment of Post Disaster Needs after the 2016 and 2017  flood and landslide disasters. The total estimated cost of damages and losses for irrigation infrastructure was LKR 2708 Million.

One of the major challenges identified in this assessment was the lack of baseline data and insufficient capacities to conduct PDNAs, and the need to establish an institutional framework for recovery.

 This project will build the capacity of Sri Lankan Government officials and relevant stakeholders in the irrigation sector institutions and related partner agencies for disaster recovery in the long run, by adapting the PDNA and Disaster Recovery Framework (DRF) methodology for the irrigation sector including sector templates, developing SOPs by bringing together all relevant stakeholders to create a pool of experts in the sector.

 Eng. V. Premakumar, Provincial Director Irrigation, Northern Province as a participant of the workshop stated, “This is a great opportunity for us, particularly for the young engineers that work on the ground in the Northern Province. There are 24 engineers in the Province, and it is essential that we continuously enhance their capacities to ensure that the key infrastructure upon which the communities depend on are disaster resilient. This has provided us with the opportunity to engage with and learn from esteemed sectoral experts, as well, and will surely contribute to the growth of our engineers and their knowledge on disaster-resilience.”

M A F Mubarak, Deputy Director, National Budget Department said: “As a part of the development of the Disaster Recovery Framework, we’re received technical support on financial preparedness planning and post disaster budget execution capabilities. Hence, this enables Sri Lanka to be ready to face any upcoming disaster events, which in turn will be helpful for the economy of the country.”

Speaking on UNDPs role of supporting disaster preparedness efforts, Vajira Hettige, Technical Coordinator- Climate and Environment Team, UNDP in Sri Lanka said: “This pre-disaster recovery planning in the irrigation sector is a unique opportunity, since post disaster recovery planning is usually ad-hoc in nature. Involvement of national planning and budget departments from the inception will support  financial preparedness and identify new sources of risk financing, which will ultimately contribute towards expediting resilient recovery in the irrigation sector.”

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U.S. Ambassador to UN Agencies in Rome Cindy McCain to visit Lanka



Colombo, September 23, 2022: United States Permanent Representative to the UN Food and Agriculture Agencies in Rome Ambassador Cindy McCain will visit Sri Lanka from September 25-28 to highlight U.S. food assistance programs in Sri Lanka and reinforce the U.S. commitment and lasting partnership with the island nation.

In addition to meeting with senior government officials and aid organizations in Colombo, Ambassador McCain will join U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka Julie Chung to travel to Central Province to visit schools, agricultural research facilities, and community organizations and meet with recipients and implementers of relief provided through U.S. government-funded humanitarian assistance programs.

The United States is the single largest country donor to the three United Nations food and agriculture agencies, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), and the World Food Program (WFP).  U.S.-funded UN projects showcase how the U.S. government, the UN Food and Agriculture Agencies, and the government of Sri Lanka collaborate to reduce food insecurity and advance humanitarian relief, livelihood protection, and agriculture-led economic growth, especially at this critical time of increased global hunger.

The United States has provided partnership and assistance to the people and government of Sri Lanka for more than 70 years.  Since June, Ambassador Chung has overseen the announcement of nearly $240 million in new U.S. government assistance to Sri Lanka, including U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator Samantha Power’s September 2022 announcements of an additional $40 million to provide Sri Lankan farmers with fertilizer and $20 million to meet immediate humanitarian needs in the country.

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President urges SL diaspora in the UK to invest in their motherland



By Sujeeva Nivunhella
reporting from London

President Ranil Wickremesinghe last week urged the Sri Lanka diaspora in the United Kingdom to invest in Sri Lanka projects to revive the economy. Addressing a gathering at the Sri Lanka High Commission in London, he said that he is proud that the British Sri Lankan community for making a mark in every field of the UK economy such as trading, services, business, and requested them to come together as Sri Lankans and people of Sri Lankan origin to help build the motherland.

The President added that Sri Lanka is looking at transforming its economy to a competitive export-oriented one to meet the current challenges and build social systems and modernize the education system.

He remarked on the special affection Queen Elizabeth II had towards Sri Lanka as the Head of the Commonwealth and the longest serving Head of State of Ceylon for 20 years prior to the nation becoming a Republic and stated that her passing is the end of an era.

The president, first lady and party arrived in London on Sept. 17 via Dubai by an Emirates flight to attend the State Funeral Service of Queen Elizabeth II.They were received at the Heathrow airport by High Commissioner Saroja Sirisena and were driven to the Intercontinental Hotel in Park Lane, London where they stayed.

On Sunday (Sept. 18), the President accompanied by the First Lady and High Commissioner attended the Lying-in-State of the late Queen at the Palace of Westminster which was followed by a Reception hosted by His Majesty King Charles III at Buckingham Palace.The President and the First Lady attended the State Funeral Service held at the Westminster Abbey on Monday (Sept. 19).  On the same day, he signed the Book of Condolence. The Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs James Cleverly MP hosted a reception for the visiting world leaders at Church House.

On 20th September, the President met the Secretary General of the Commonwealth, Patricia Scotland QC. They discussed Sri Lanka’s engagement with the Commonwealth Secretariat and matters of mutual interest. He also visited the London Buddhist Vihara during which Ven Dr Bogoda Seelawimala, Chief Incumbent of the Vihara and the Chief Sanga Nayaka of Great Britain invoked blessings on the President and the people of Sri Lanka.

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Families countrywide facing malnutrition, says Cardinal



By Norman Palihawadane

Colombo Archbishop Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith has warned that the prevailing economic crisis and increasing unemployment and food prices are accelerating malnutrition among hundred thousands of families countrywide.

Addressing a ceremony at the annual get-together of the Archdiocesan Family Apostolate Service held at St Peter’s College Auditorium in Colombo, the Archbishop said that it was a shame that responsible local officials keep denying the prevailing status quo when world humanitarian organizations such as UNICEF continue to warn of the increasing malnutrition levels among children.

Many international organizations have pointed out that malnutrition in Sri Lanka was increasing at an alarming rate but the authorities responsible are hiding the truth and go to the extent of rejecting such reports.

“If they reject the reports of international organizations, then it is their paramount duty of conduct proper surveys to understand the situation. It is no secret that large numbers of Lankan families are starving due to the high prices of food. According to the UNICEF more than six million people consume only a single meal a day. It is so unfortunate that Health Ministry officials who spend their times in the air conditioned rooms in Colombo do not know the plight of the poor in rural areas,” the Cardinal said.He said that 225 MPs were concerned only of their well-being while continuing to ignore the actual and pressing issues of people.

“This country is in dire situation today mainly due to inefficient and corrupt political leaders. It is sad that these so-called people’s representatives are not concerned of the situation of people who are experiencing the worst ever economic and political crisis this country has ever faced,” the Cardinal said.

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