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The Times of Senthan: Little known Liberator and Silent Giant – I

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From Political disillusionment towards armed struggle

by Rajan Hoole

Sharing with Senthan birth at the time when Gandhi was assassinated and Ceylon received independence, political controversies and liberation struggles of the era have chequered our lives. Reflecting on the 1971 JVP rebellion, Lionel Bopage has written, “… all alternative left groups strongly believed in the seizure of power through armed struggle for social transformation.”

Coevally, there were two other related upheavals whose roots were constitutional. Both the government and the Opposition clamoured for the absolute supremacy of Parliament. This was reflected in the debate in August 1968, where Dr. Colvin R. de Silva assailed the 1964 Privy Council ruling by Lord Pearce that Article 29 of the Soulbury Constitution, dealt with ‘further entrenched religious and racial matters, which shall not be the subject of legislation.’

The 1972 Constitution presided over by Colvin R. de Silva made parliamentary supremacy absolute and removed judicial checks on legislation, not only the Privy Council’s, but more importantly, Justice O. L. de Kretser’s voiding of Sinhala Only. To the Tamil minority, it was uprooting of the already much abused protections under Article 29 – which, in the words of Lord Pearce, represented the ‘solemn balance of rights,’ ‘the fundamental conditions on which [the citizens of Ceylon] inter se accepted the Constitution.’ The caution voiced by Sarath Muttetuwegama MP, went unheeded. Another upheaval was brewing.

From the time the supremacy of Parliament came into vogue after the English revolution of 1688, many wondered if the parliamentary cure for monarchical absolutism could be as dangerous as the disease. In 1701 Chief Justice Holt said intriguingly in City of London v. Wood, “[An Act of Parliament] may discharge one from his allegiance to the government he lives under.” He clarified, ‘if Parliament violated the limitations implied by natural law, it would be dissolved, and individuals living under it would be returned to the state of nature.’ One may wonder if a state of nature, as opposed to a state of law, is the one we now live under.

By the 1980s our children had become exposed to assassinations, aerial bombing, canon fire and sudden death as their early experiences. Palestine, Vietnam and Algeria we read about as boys had become part of our adult lives. Although Senthan and I were engineering students at the University of Ceylon, Peradeniya, from the late 1960s, I came to know him intimately much later. His sister Vasantha, with whom I used to have tea in the University of Jaffna Common Room, in the mid-1980s, told me that Senthan was coming home; then began our close friendship that lasted until Senthan died, on 14th June 2020. Despite common sympathies and regular conversations as good friends, it was in death that it struck me in a flow of memories and awakening of gratitude, that he had been, by far, both a rare genius and an eminent giant among dwarfs. The two cannot be separated.

Education, long and hard hours of work to earn our prestigious degrees, the laurels we lie upon and pronounce on every other subject in semi-ignorance, breeds in us harmful arrogance. What we do not acquire is humility, that there is an enormous treasure of the workings of the universe that we can never comprehend. Senthan’s father Pandit Veeragatthy, who influenced Senthan’s deep appreciation of the Tamil classics and his keen ability to separate the wheat from the chaff, is frequently remembered by my wife for his pithy saying, “Read selectively; what you must do, is to think!”

Pandit avoided increasingly dangerous political controversy. Once, a group of militant youth showed Pandit their map of Lanka, dominated by Tamil Eelam. Pandit responded in his acid irony, “Thambi, where are the others going to live?” Senthan was by contrast a committed person, but the former might explain his sardonic humour that helped him to survive in Jaffna’s hostile political environment. Those who knew the family well attribute the gentle side of Senthan to his mother, Nahamma, much admired in Vadamaratchy as a dedicated teacher.

Senthan paid little regard to people commending themselves by an array of impressive degrees, he was sceptical. Far from envy it was because his standard of intellectual excellence was highly exacting. It must show itself in the field of human relations, how a person regards questions of justice, how he treats others and applies his mind to these. He valued his mathematical training and what it taught him about analysing problems, social as well as engineering. While taking his degree studies at Peradeniya on the stride, he also spent a good deal of his time at the Jaffna Public Library reading the Times Literary Supplement among other writings. From Marxist authors he acquired a deep interest in liberation struggles around the world.

Life did not permit Senthan to carry a huge array of books from which he could quote chapter and verse. He followed the dictum ‘read, mark, learn and inwardly digest;’ and above all, think! He was a Marxist and a great admirer of Marx as a thinker. Che Guevara was for him a model of humanity and profound intellect, without diminishing the regard he had for the great Indian humanists Bharathy and Tagore, besides Gandhi. For him worthwhile achievement requires unremitting dedication combined with hard work and thorough research.

The Left in this country, he decried as the lazy Left that had let down the Plantation Tamils. He saw the Tamil intelligentsia as a lot who despite their educational attainments had intellectually gone to sleep. Otherwise, it was hard for him to understand how a large segment of the Tamil elite sporting impressive qualifications, prostrated themselves before the LTTE supremo because of their anger in the face of state instigated communal violence, without any foresight or concern over where it was carrying the Tamil people.

Dilemmas of Armed Struggle

The communal violence of 1958, where Tamils leading ordinary lives were punished with mayhem and murder by persons close to the centre of power, was notice given that any crime against them could be ignored at will. Discriminatory laws simply enacted would have been one matter; Senthan observed that what hurt the minorities most was the humiliation. After the communal violence of 1977, where there was strong evidence of the Police having instigated it with the complicity of the political authority, few among the younger Tamils said that an armed liberation struggle was out of order and many Sinhalese agreed, particularly the new generation of left inclined students in the universities and younger activists, some of whom had been involved in the 1971 JVP insurgency. The 1970s was the era of liberation struggles, of Vietnam, El Salvador and nearer home, the birth of Bangladesh.

Many of the young were deeply affected with a need for revolutionary transformation of the state in Lanka. Some names of students who were together in the Social Study Circle at Peradeniya University give us an idea: Gamini Samaranayake, Mahinda Deshapriya, Dayan Jayatilleke, K. Sritharan, Visvanandadevan, Raja Wijetunge, Karunatilake and Sunil Ratnapriya. Some who had been in the JVP rejected what they saw as its adventurism and political ideology that was superficial and eclectic. Links across communal barriers were also formed at the Marxist study circle of the veteran Marxist N. Shanmugathasan, one of whose erstwhile disciples was Rohana Wijeweera, the leader of the 1971 youth insurgency. It was at Shanmugathasan’s study circle that Rajani Rajasingham met Dayapala Thiranagama, whom she married.

Their aim was broadly a socialist Lanka with equality. Not all of them were ready for an armed struggle. But the pace among Tamils was forced by two events. One was the murder of Jaffna Mayor Alfred Duraiappa in July 1975 and the formation of the LTTE by a group around V. Prabhakaran, who had committed the murder. In 1976, this group met A. Amirthalingam, leader in waiting of the parliamentary Tamil nationalist TULF that made no pretence of condemning Duraiappa’s murder. The TULF had played a leading role in branding as traitors its parliamentary opponents, of whom Alfred Duraiappa was one.

This shadowy alliance with little substance between the TULF and the LTTE created the right amount of intimidation or approval that buttressed the TULF’s parliamentary monopoly in the North. The state instigated violence against Tamils soon after the 1977 elections changed the political situation drastically.

Even though the LTTE was relatively unknown and there was hope that the TULF would obtain justice for victims of the violence through the Sansoni commission of inquiry, arguments supporting a militant response grew in private conversation, especially among the Tamil expatriates, and drew increasing support. By the time of the PTA in 1979, there were movements that interested people could actually support. That these young men were placing their lives on the line for the public good provoked the question ‘what are you doing for the cause?’ It placed most people on the back foot. The existence of the cause was not disputed though few dared to take the next step that involved risk.

Even the young activists, many of them socialists, who opposed the LTTE’s intolerant nationalism and militarism, felt their credibility to be at stake unless they formed their own military wings. Visvanandadevan was a Marxist political activist who went against his temperament to form a military wing to his NLFT following July 1983. The result was the multiplication of groups, which additions the LTTE was quick to brand as criminal outfits. The militancy entered a new phase when the LTTE leader on 2 January 1982 used Seelan, a confidant of his, to murder Sundaram, a capable leader of the PLOTE that had split off from the LTTE. By this time the militancy had assumed a degree of legitimacy, where many others were ready to make excuses for such murders and preserve their complacency, ignoring the fatal effects of the malaise.

Once the people following the TULF’s cue had failed to condemn Duraiappah’s murder in 1975; through fear, confusion or complicity, Sundaram’s was dismissed as vendetta between armed groups and the disease festered. For those already associated with the LTTE condemnation would have been fatal.

For those of us who professed non-violence, our position seemed to have become merely ritual and even hypocritical; not least because in time taking on Sinhalese civilian targets had among many assumed a degree of legitimacy comparable to the destruction of German cities by Allied bombing during the Second World War. Even though Tamil civilians killed by the government forces’ atrocities formed the bulk of the dead, the massacres of unarmed Sinhalese civilians, particularly by the LTTE, failed to arouse the measure of moral indignation it deserved. Some social leaders applauded or bypassed these crimes as a legitimate means of defence. The best among us had to constantly check ourselves not to fall prey to the inhuman within.

Amidst this moral anarchy of civilian killings on both sides, the view of militant groups, in spite of their crimes, as defenders of the Tamil people and ‘our boys’, gained strength. For Rajani, whose heart was moved by the sacrificial ardour of some militants, particularly Seelan, whose accidental injury in 1982 no other doctor in Jaffna would treat, guided her first steps into the LTTE. However, Seelan’s fate within the LTTE, his self-isolation and death in an army ambush, was one of the eye openers which convinced Rajani of its utter inhumanity, a conviction for which she paid with her life. Her husband Dayapala who made his observations from his vantage in the Rajasingham household had warned her, having read the signs when Sundaram was killed.

After her disillusionment, Rajani’s motherly ardour was extended to the young whom she saw were by circumstances absorbed into the LTTE; which in turn threw them on the scrap heap as human wrecks after having squeezed out their dedication and humanity like sucked lemon. It took me until April 1986 when the LTTE wiped out its fellow militant group TELO to completely rule them out as capable of any good. Senthan’s grasp of political reality matched by his humanity was far in advance of the rest of his generation. There was no confusion in his grasp of what was criminal. (Part II will be published tomorrow.)



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Record breakers in a Covid disaster

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Sri Lanka has certainly scored another world record.

Just look at the number of vehicles on the streets every day at a time when the country is in a lockdown. The Police Spokesman is pleased to tell us how many thousand vehicles were on the streets each day. They have moved to the pasting of stickers – from a single sticker to different coloured stickers to give different messages, and then to stop all stickers!

Just think about how the streets of all major cities were virtually empty when lockdowns took place in other countries, when the Covid pandemic began spreading. We are not like that. Why should we take examples from other countries – East or West? We must have our own traditions, with our Presidential Task Forces to handle Covid-19 and the Economy, and a celebration uniformed Army Commander to give us contradictory messages.

Sri Lanka is truly proud of having more vehicles on our streets than any other country amidst a Covid pandemic lockdown. Who will ever break such a record?

This is certainly in keeping with that other huge record of having 25 violations of the Constitution in the Bill to establish the Port City Economic Commission. Who would get the prize for this record – the Legal Draftsman and/or the former Attorney General, or either or both of them and the Minister of Justice?  The Podujana Peremuna must be planning a special prize day to celebrate this.

The Media people in the President’s Office must be having a special delight in telling us matters that are wrong and uncertain about foreign responses to requests by the President. Can we forget how the WHO contradicted the report that the Sinopharm vaccine had been approved soon after the request made by our President?

We have another such situation now. Japan has refused to confirm reports that it is considering giving Sri Lanka 600,000 doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine.

The President’s Media Division reported this week that Japan was considering a request from President Gotabaya Rajapaksa for 600,000 doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. This request had been made by President Rajapaksa to Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga.

What the Japanese Embassy had told the local media was that Japan will allocate around 30 million doses of vaccines manufactured in Japan to other countries and regions, including through the COVAX Facility.

Is this another record for the President’s Media Division?

The six lakhs of Sri Lankans who received the first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine, must keep hoping against hope, about getting the next dose. Looks like even the President or his office cannot do much to get those vaccines.

All of this uncertainty is in the midst of the supposedly unavailable AstraZeneca vaccines being used with other Chinese or Russian vaccines in the vaccine exercises in many parts of the country. The 600,000 plus citizens waiting for AstraZeneca must be thinking if they can form a Citizens Vaccine Trade Union, like the GMOA, to get the vaccines to themselves, as well as members of their families, friends, relations and catcher’s too.

While on the subject of vaccines, it is interesting to read that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, so thoughtful of the people and their needs, has instructed the officials to order a batch of vaccine for a third dose, taking the ongoing global situation into account and based on the recommendations by the medical experts.

He is said to be following the pattern of leading countries that have already ordered vaccines for the third dose. This is great. Ensure a third dose is ordered, while we are not sure what will be done about the missing 600,000 plus of the much-needed AstraZeneca.

Are we moving to a Third-Dose record?

Is this not the time to make a special request to the US to get the vaccines we urgently need, from the vaccines that President Biden has announced will be given to the world? Or from the other millions that the G7 countries will soon give to the world? Have we gone too close to China to make such a request from the western world? Is this moving away from the Cheena Saubhagyaya that is the motto of Rajapaksa Rule?

We are now told that the lockdown will be lifted from June 14, with new rules to be introduced. Let’s see what these new rules are. Will they help to bring down the rates of infection from Covid-19? Will it help bring down the deaths from this pandemic? How many more people will be infected, taken ill with all symptoms and die at home, or while being admitted to hospital, as the records keep showing?

We are now in the midst of increasing tragedies bringing alarm to the minds of the people, whatever the planners of the lockdowns or its relaxations may be thinking. 

We are also in the midst of contradictory quarantine rules imposed by the Police. The people, including two foreigners, who had a party at the rooftop of a Colombo building, have been ordered to quarantine at home. But the beauty and cosmetics names and models who were partying at the Shangri-La Hotel, were sent to a special guesthouse far away from home, with plenty of good food too, to spend their quarantine. Looks like we are dealing with a double-angled Police. Or, could the Police be even triple-angled seeing how they have been enjoying the huge traffic amidst a lockdown, and looking on as politicos and agents send their catchers to beat the public at vaccination centres.

This is the land of the record breakers in lockdown travel and the misuse of Covid vaccinations. Will we soon have new records on the Covid infected and deceased, possibly even beating India in under reporting of Covid tragedies?

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Luxury cars for MPs; floods, disease and death for electors

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Never has Cassandra been so downcast and heart-sick. It certainly is not what she terms lockdown fatigue like metal fatigue that was identified after parts of planes just snapped off. This was long ago. Now in the third week of lockdown, we could break under the stress of being shut in but we Ordinaries are made of sterner stuff. We have our support system – friends and relatives whom we keep close in touch with via telephone and electronic media. We have our safety net – our several religions. Speaking as a Buddhist, Cass can vouch for the strength of this safety net and how beneficial it is. Just being mindful most of her waking hours she keeps away depression and a sinking of her heart each time she reads news on-line or sees TV news broadcasts. If meditation is attempted it is even more efficacious. Mercifully Cass and her ilk order veggies, fruit and groceries on-line. Most certainly bare essentials in consideration of those many near starvation. We are totally sorrowful about the plight of daily wage earners, but cannot right wrongs such as poverty and impecuniousness of the less well to do. That is what governments are elected to achieve.

Reasons for deflation of spirits

We are battered and bruised by the pandemic; inundated by incessant rain and floods, some suffering landslides too. And we had an acid leaking ship sneaking to our waters, catching fire, and being made welcome as a money earner through claimed damages. Now we are told marine pollution will last a hundred years. Can you imagine that – our beautiful blue seas with shining sand now a death dealing home to marine life? Turtles have been washed ashore, dead. Dr Anoja Perera in her heartfelt speech in which she let the present leaders have it, said that the nitric acid that leaked into the sea will destroy even the cartilaginous bones of fish. Their gills have been suffocated by plastic pellets let loose from the burning ship. In all the debris there is a stinking rat or rats too – rousing suspicion. The Sri Lankan Agent of the parent company that owns the ship has proved himself elusive; secrecy reeks. MPS and Ministers who claimed SL would be rich with compensating dollars are sure to lose their parliamentary seats next time around, of course that is if the Sri Lankan indigenous malaise of short memories does not afflict us four years hence and we vote the same rotters in to govern us.

Those who are card holders testifying they received the first A-Z shot in February/March are in the blues wondering when the second jab of A-Z will be given to them. The US, thanks to Biden’s mercy, promised to include Sri Lanka in its list of beneficiaries to receive the A-Z vaccine from what it stockpiled. Prime Minister Wickremanayake’s daughter in England appealed to Boris Johnson to donate vaccines to us. Not only the government but even individuals have started begging for vaccines. We heard Mangala Samaraweera was another. Cass is surprised that fair play on the part of these rich countries supersedes the fact that we are obviously open-armed supplicants to the Chinese. Surprises Cass their mercy prompts then to help us. They hear the cry of the Ordinaries.

 

The final straw that breaks our spirit

Unbelievable, implausible, impossible such crude greed and feathering their own nests, this time not with money but with luxury cars. Cass did not believe it when she heard that Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa had ordered a whole fleet of cars for MPs, not just ese mese vehicles but most luxurious and thus very, very expensive. Cass not realising such greed and injustice could prevail, especially at this very bad time for Sri Lanka, surmised the news of the Cabinet passing the proposal to import 399 luxury cars to be fake news. But it turned out to be true and nearly kicked the life out of Cass, she finding it difficult to breathe – not asthma or C19 but through sheer disbelief of such selfish, unthinking, gross act of importing cars for MPs and other favoured persons while the majority of Sri Lankans suffer and many near starve. I quote Shamindra Ferdinando in his article titled LCs opened before Cabinet rescinded its own decision in The Island of Wednesday June 9.

“In spite of the Finance Ministry decision to withdraw an earlier Cabinet paper for the import of 399 vehicles at a cost of Rs 3.7 bn, the cash-strapped government was not in a position to unilaterally cancel what Media Minister and co-Cabinet spokesperson Keheliya Rambukwella called a tripartite transaction. (Why did the govt place the order in the first place, Cass asks).

The Island yesterday (8) sought an explanation from Minister Rambukwella regarding the status of the high profile leasing arrangement pertaining to 399 vehicles. Minister Rambukwella said that he was not aware of how the state bank that had opened the Letters of Credit handled the issue at hand. However, as the opening of Letters of Credit meant guaranteed payment, Sri Lanka faced the prospect of being blacklisted if a unilateral decision was taken on the matter. The minister explained the difficulty in reversing the original decision.”(Fine howdy)

Later in Ferdinando’s article is this even more damning statement which really hits us a second whammy.  “None of the Opposition political parties have criticised the government move on vehicles made at a time the country was struggling to cope with Covid-19 fallout.

“SLPP’s 2019 presidential election manifesto, too, assured that vehicles wouldn’t be imported for members of parliament for a period of three years.”

“After the change of government in 2019, the SLPP put in place a much-touted project to expedite repairs to state-owned vehicles as part of the overall measures to meet what co-cabinet spokesmen Ministers Rambukwella, Udaya Gammanpila and Dr. Ramesh Pathirana called immediate shortfall.” (It all sucks!)

The roads are choc-a-block with posh cars which give the impression we are far from being Third World, but one that is rich, prosperous and with no short falls or poverty anywhere within it. When one sees those in the legislator convene for meetings at the old parliament building down Galle Face road, one is shocked at the luxuriousness of the vehicles that shed the VIPs – all local – from within. Are we a poor country, one asks. The sight of most of the alighting VIPs confirms that question – so well set are they: obese in simple language. Sri Lanka had no money to buy vaccines for its people and went begging hither and thither. But on the quiet the PM himself, approved by his Cabinet, orders 399 luxury cars. Are royal kids and pets to be given cars too? While the hard-working farmer cries, some with tears, for fertiliser; the village mother moans her husband dead from Covid 19 and all beg for inoculation. No wonder Kuveni’s spirit is active at present, and her curse is heard and experienced. We are cursed with totally unnecessary luxuries for some; inoculations given entire extended families and friends of those with clout; floods devastating the country; a sure forecast of a poor rice harvest and starvation staring us in the face; tea prices falling due to lack of needed fertiliser, caused by a sudden, stubborn, trigger decision to ban imported chemical fertiliers. Disease and death pile up because vaccination was not carried out en masse. This could have been done.

That is Free Sri Lanka of now, that once resplendent isle, touted to be like no other. Yes, it is unique in its mismanagement and obvious contrasts between those with political clout and us Ordinaries.

 

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How to gamble with floods

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by Eng. Mahinda Panapitiya and

Eng. Wasantha Lal (PhD)

(Two residents from Attanagalu Oya Basin)

Introduction

Flooding during heavy rains and water pollution during normal time in natural streams is a common problem all over the world when human settlements are located near flood prone areas. For example, about 7-10% land area, in the US, under human settlements, are prone to flooding. In ancient cultures, flooding was perceived as a blessing in disguise because it was the main transportation method of fertilisers, free of charge, for agriculture activities in temporary submergence areas called flood plains. After moving people into flood plains because of shortage of space for settlement, floods have become a curse for humans. Deciding to settle down in flood prone area is a gamble. However, there are modern technologies called flood modelling available for us to overcome this problem.

 

Flood Modelling

For an example, it is now possible to simulate different flood conditions that may arise due to heavy rains, before it actually occurs, using satellite and survey data. This is called “modelling” in engineering. Any area prone to floods can be modelled and divided into zones so that land users will know in advance how deep their lands will get submerged. This type of performance-based methods also evaluates how an existing or newly introduced flood mitigation effort, performs under different flooding events.

Hidden reasons behind frequent flooding and water pollution of natural streams

* Unplanned real estate development by clearing local tree cover resulting in impervious areas (roofs, carpeted roads, etc.,) prevents water infiltrating the soil. This increases the runoff rate, causing flash floods during heavy rains. On the other hand, during droughts, all the natural tributary streams and wells in those areas dry up soon after the rain. This is very common in basin such as the Attanagalu Oya.

* The obstruction of natural stream and their tributaries due to poor maintenance. This is very common along the Kelani River basin

* Illicit encroachment causes the filling of wetlands in the flood plains. As a result, rain water has no designated place to collect before flowing out gradually. Most of the floods in Gampaha, Ja-ela and Wattala are due to this issue.

* Deposition of sediments washed down from upland areas due to lack of tree cover and also the erosion of stream banks whose reservations are encroached on either for agriculture in rural areas or for settlement in urban areas

* Inadequate flow capacity in local streams due to invasive weed growth associated with polluted water and lack of riparian tree cover. (Wattala)

* Lack of awareness among officials who manage water resources in natural streams about the role of riverine environments in flood plains which act as kidneys in our ecosystem while preventing flash floods.

 

How the community could face these challenges

Those who are already living in flood-prone areas or are planning to do so should be aware of the different risk levels in the areas concerned. For that, there is a need to do an exercise called Flood Hazard Zoning, This approach is very common in the developed world. This exercise will also enhance the community participation for government intervention such as canal cleaning and discouraging further encroachment on flood plains by land fillings.

 

Available Technologies

A sketch above extracted from a technical guideline adapted in the US shows a typical flood zoning map, which could be used by a community to decide whether they should or should not build houses in a particular location.

 

For example, in this map, people who are in Zone A are in a high-risk area subject to flooding. Zone C is a low risk area. A person who wants to build a house in Zone A, which is designated as “100 Year Flood Zone”, will have a 26% chance his house being submerged once in 30 years, which is the normal bank lending period of a housing loan. For the next 70 years, which is the normal lifetime of a building, the chance of being flooded is 50%. For a person who wants to build a house in Zone B designated as “500 Year Flood Zone” will have 18% chance of his residence being submerged once in 70 years. By knowing in advance through these flood zoning maps, people themselves become aware of flood danger before it occurs and, therefore, they prepare themselves for the challenges during flood situations. When there is no such initial warnings, governments will have to bear the whole responsibility.

This type of mapping would also be a useful guide for land valuation as well as for insurances against flood risks. With flood zoning, flood insurance becomes an option that adds a financial component in designing buildings to address those future risks. For example, people can build their houses at elevated levels on columns to suit predicted flood levels. Also the sewerage systems can be introduced to suit the wetland environments.

 

Lessons from the US

Every state in the US is required by law (water policy) to demonstrate that (a) the public is protected from floods; (b) the public has sufficient water available for drinking and farmin, etc. (d) there is enough water to support the environment. Computer models simulating the year-round hydrology are used for the purpose. Those models show how water from the rains could be saved for use during the dry season. Government agencies in the US do not use the models currently in use in Sri Lanka. They have developed their own models to simulate flooding. Models used in Sri Lanka are bought primarily from two European countries. They are normally used only to study individual flood events. The fundamental ideas used in these models have not changed since 1980s in Sri Lanka, and these models are still sold primarily to developing countries like Sri Lanka. On the other hand, teams of senior engineers are employed for developing those models used in the US, before permits are issued for new development projects. There are also Sri Lankans engineers among those teams in the US, as primary developers.

 

Opposite of flood

Wetlands of flood plain are the interface between aquatic and terrestrial areas. Plants in those wetlands play a very vital role in cleaning water biologically before it falls into the main streams. Wetlands are in fact the kidneys of ecosystems. Over the years, due to the so-called development, the environmental features of flood plains have undergone changes, causing not only floods during heavy rains but also malfunctioning natural water cleaning process, especially during droughts.

Note that those new technologies address not only flood situations but also help face drought situations, too, by identifying areas suitable for temporary water storages within flood plains. For example, during a previous drought situation there was a water shortage in the Attanagalu Oya basin, and the people had to purchase water from trucks, though annually the Oya releases into the sea a volume of water equal to that of the Parakrama Samudraya! Severe drought situations are even worse than floods, especially in view of the current pollution levels of natural streams bordering urban areas. To address this issue also, technologies could be used to identify naturally available water cleaning wetlands to be preserved.

King Parakramabahu’s famous quote about water conservation and utilization—“Do not release even a drop of rain water to the sea without using”—applies not only to our dry zone but also to the west zone.

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