Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Sir, Mr PM – “Megapolis just can’t be livable just because you say so”

With absolutely no concept of how to EVEN define THE LONG TERM OBJECTIVES, of Megapolis, which is still only in the head of the PM, how can it be livable as reported yesterday, see link below:

For the largest city in the Indian Ocean growing to about 10Million and eventually encompassing the whole of the Western Province, there is NO PLAN.

One has to take Government OUT OF THE MEGAPOLIS for it to work effectively. We cannot have Govt. servants littering the Megapolis, their ideas are way 19th Century and the faster they are sent off to Siberia the faster the Megapolis will take root in people’s minds and only then in people’s actions!

Let me be frank on what is needed for a truly diverse, naturally regenerative, sustainable, Megalopolis!

A well defined Transportation plan, that is quick, efficient and a public rapid transit for it to operate effectively. There is simply none. Where is the 15 year master plan?

Living areas, defined as multi-family dwelling spaces with shops and schools, easily connected to work places, around the ring road, is still on the drawing boards. ONLY some areas to be defined for high rise living, one section for high cost, along the sea front and low cost housing further inland that are smaller units, but nevertheless livable spaces in the way that Singapore has successfully built infrastructure around them, including schools, parks and playgrounds for recreation.

Work areas like High Tec Cities, with shops and cafes and also parkland easily accessible by public transport and by separate motorbike and footcycle pathways such as the new Apple HQ in the Silicon Valley. The MOTOR CAR is not a necessity in the new workplace, but quick safe, public transport to residential areas around the Megapolis is a must. I bet you transport is still being directed to be “Motor Car centric”, when advanced countries are ditching the use of the Motor Car, which will only be used on a hire basis for transport out of the Megapolis for weekends away and holidays.

Schools are simply ONLY located in Living areas, restricted to the residents, and NOT for commuting students, which is the unique phenomenon of Sri Lanka that has to be done away with, as being extremely wasteful, and non-productive. 

None of the above points have been considered – I ASSURE YOU!

Those tasked with implementation do not have the vision for a place in 50 years, as they are bogged down in today's baggage. A 5 year old will be able to come with a better vision of what livable really means.

It’s all the fault of our Education system – they have not been taught to behave!

The Eastern Province Chief Minister’s outburst at the compere for not recognizing him and bringing him up to the podium, is simply a sign of the lack of education of our politicians for their job. This is akin to a street cleaner being given a position, and when he is not recognized for his position, the only thing that makes him stand out from the crowd, he goes berserk, PURE AND SIMPLE!

When a human being does not have a chip on their shoulder, they can stand on their own feet, and don’t need anyone to do it for them. This can only be taught at a young age, say about 3 or 4, and no matter what degree you have, the chip you grow up with and NOT GROWN OUT OF due to this lack of proper early education, you get this kind of riff raff littering our top jobs.

It was therefore laughable when this joker of a Chief Minister, blames the Governor for not having introduced him to the compere, who probably did not recognize him. In an analogy, if Dudley Senanayake was in the audience, and he was not recognized, he would have quietly remained there, COMPLETELY UNAFFECTED and not made a play to get on stage at ANY COST!

I know this issue has taken FB by storm, for the WRONG reasons, because it is using the fact that he scolded a Naval Officer. It does not matter who he scolded, he should not have scolded, and the fact that he was a Naval Officer would MAKE NO DIFFERENCE!

Step back and think of the background, breeding, education and class of the person in question, he has nothing of this, he is just a CRASS joker, who for some mistake of birth happened to be given this position for the wrong reasons!

Worse when he maintains he has to delicately balance the various conflicting parties made up of religions and races and languages and political parties. What a load of cobblers. They are all Sri Lankans and it SHOULD NOT MATTER what if any of these they come from. ALL MUST BE TREATED with equal respect IN SRI LANKA, and let even FB be put on notice that many of the contributors from Sri Lanka, don’t hold a truly inclusive opinion of the people who live in Sri Lanka, and are entitled to the privileges of being resident here.

So readers, put aside petty differences in the best interest of the Country, and put yourself at the back of the queue and this Country will prosper.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Flooding in the Kelani River Basin in simply unacceptable!

It is not surprising that NOT ONE person in authority uttered the above words in any press or media or FB posting! Why? They are simply not up to the task.

When basic flood precautions are not carried out as a matter of normal practice, is it surprising such an unwarranted tragedy like this took place. From the mouth of the River, where it meets the sea, all obstructions to the smooth water flow MUST be removed, so that any sudden pressure from upstream can be met without water backing up, that is basic maintenance of a river valley.

If one Considers the Megapolis Plan, it is SUNK before it STARTS unless adequate measures are in place to PREVENT A FUTURE REPEAT.

I can understand that low lying areas such as Ratnapura have had a history of Chronic flooding, but that was not as severe as the Kelani River basin, where AN IMMEDIATE drastic flood control measures MUST be adopted WITHIN MONTHS no matter how politically unacceptable it is.

When Jokers like Coca Cola have their factory by the Riverside, where is excess water to go? And Other Jokers like Laugas, build a storage site within meters of the River Bank by filling up a huge area, then the water has NO WHERE to go but back up into the fields above, and houses built by their sides! I don’t know how laufgas got planning permission to build their terminal there, but it must have been due to political and pecuniary influence, and this MUST be investigated and the terminal torn down, and replaced in a different location, if innocent householders further up from them are not to go under in future. Do they realize that they DIRECTLY CONTRIBUTED TO THE PROBLEM OF THE PEOPLE?

Tell the public, about 50,000 that they have to move out within say 5 years to let this land go back to agriculture. They have spent millions buying land where they should not have, and built their homes. There are NO TWO OPTIONS HERE. Politicians don’t want to face reality so have not had the guts to broach this subject. Politicians have made enough money giving permission to fill and build, for businesses and homes, now they have to face their music!

Like mentioned in the prior posts in the last two or three days, a dual plan of flood protection and relocation MUST take place as the flood situation will get worse, further added to by the building of the remaining section of the Outer Circular Expressway. I am particularly concerned that NO committee has been set up, in a Country where one is established for the slightest issue, and is that because no one has appreciated the gravity of this problem that will repeat!

Groundwater ponds, about 1,000 at least must be set up along the way, to improve the water table at the same time, so this will act as a drought relief measure as well, as Gampaha District now pumps up 40% of the water needed from the Ground and so is depleting this in the process. There are many paddy field areas that remain uncultivated due to practical considerations that can also be used for this.

Why has NO POLITICIAN mentioned any of the above, basic commonsense measures? Is this due to the limited brain cell capacity they possess or true to form, do not want to make statements that affect their popularity even though it is true? Are they NOT leaders? Perhaps they are merely users of People!

I am told that businesses have lost billions due to the floods, and they have Insurance Policies to protect them. However home owners and householders DON’T. There is NO protection mechanism for them. Just imagine if your whole house had gone under. How do you get back your life?

Even my home has gone completely under water once when the tank overflowed and the excess water was discharged into the river, and the house went under, mainly because a big miller of paddy had filled up the normal flow with his charcoal from burning paddy husks for his power plant. So ordinary people suffer due to the greed of others, especially the rich and powerful in Sri Lanka who don’t have a care in the world for the poor, and indulge in a media circus when they are shown distributing rations and food to the same people their activities have put in trouble! How IRONIC IS THAT?

The President is in a UNIQUE position to assert his authority here, as the Minister for the Environment. He has a golden opportunity here to take the mantle and say that this flood WAS CAUSED by the lack of ENVIRONMENTAL AWARENESS and he will take immediate steps to REVERSE environmental degradation and take a full page ad in the papers with a 50 point plan to give a list of what he is going to implement immediately to convince the people of the seriousness of the problem and the importance that the State has placed on it, and with the Leadership of the President, the people can be assured that ALL steps irrespective of political considerations will be taken to protect the Citizenry from future disasters, and implore the public that both they and big businesses will have to bear some of the brunt of the decisions collectively if we are to prevent tragedies like this occurring frequently in future.

Foreign assistance will only come to us if we have a positive plan of action, not the current series of politically motivated statements that amount to a hill of beans that our elected representatives have hitherto spouted like parrots.  

Disaster preparedness – What any Government Should have known!

The weather forecasts were available for all to see. The international TV satellites images were available on the net, and the SL weathermen had NO excuse, (Dept. Of Meteorology) saying that they do not have sufficient uptodate equipment to make accurate predictions, as they could AT LEAST have used freely available data. Just give them a half day seminar on accessing info on the net with all the weather satellites at their disposal, and Govt.s willing to share their data. The problem is that the jokers employed do not know these basics, and are challenged in basic English to even want to listen to foreign TV reports. It is possible, that they are hired NOT for their qualifications, but for their ability to pay the asking price for the job in a state institution, brokered by the price for a particular job!

How can two or three days of rain cause so much flooding? God forbid, that when the heavy monsoonal showers arrive, the result will be untold damage, and destruction, and let’s get ready for it now. Better be safe than sorry.

Through time, mass migration into the Western Province, cutting down of Rubber Estates there, to build housing developments that add run-off, schools, factories and shops, have left water with no way of increasing the Groundwater aquifers, and instead and FIND ITS WAY DIRECT TO THE KELANI RIVER BASIN. Plan a series of water holding reservoirs to fill groundwater supplies that are currently being depleted badly, due to this top soil run off, to reduce this pressure.

No wonder then that each year the problem will get worse. This has been further exacerbated by destruction caused by sand mining along the river from upstream, along with forest cutting, that have reduced the height of the riverbanks, so the overflow that naturally occurs with rain, will cause flooding downstream, to spread to land hitherto unaffected. This is a natural phenomenon that has NOT been addressed and rectified, due to short term fixes to political gain, and NOW the politicians are busy filling up FB with their show of solidarity, hiding that they themselves have more to answer for this tragedy!

There are certain areas that flood regularly, like clockwork. The Govt. MUST take steps to move people out of these areas by FORCE if necessary. Should we as a society have compassion for them, if the Govt. has offered alternatives that they have refused to accept?

Then EVERY home within a distance of 2 KM should be given a flood certification, For example they could be given between 1 to 10 with 10 being the most at risk of flooding. They are then on notice, and in time MUST make alternative arrangements in case of need. The number given is very easily calculated depending, on both distance and elevation from the Kelani River itself. This will affect about 150,000 homes and businesses, and they could be asked to vacate immediately depending on the flood stage predicted. Its tough if this affects the value of their home, as it should, in a responsible Country.

This certification is the only alternative to asking all people to vacate their homes permanently, and is the fairest way to warn people and not be too complacent. If a Stage 8 alert is issued, those with 8, 9 and 10 will have to vacate their homes temporarily or face the consequences of their own foolishness. It is possible that the present flood situation only went up to Stage 5, that is 5 through to 10 be on notice of imminent flooding. The monsoon yet to come could go down further to stage 4 and 3 if necessary!

This kind of certification will warn people some 100,000 homes and businesses who don’t think they are in this zone are also in the flood plain! They will then not be able to say they did not know that their home was in danger. This goes to the gravity of the threat of flood, that the Govt. either does not know how to communicate, or do not wish to warn people out of electoral unpopularity. I say it is worth the risk, to put people on notice, as it will also force the Govt. to take steps to reverse this process, with sufficient people knowing that unless they take those steps they will be next in line to GO UNDER!

Of course it goes without saying that Flood Insurance would be affected depending on what number you have on your certificate. Only you will eventually have to face the consequence if you bribe to get a more favorable certification, as you will be found out if you are to make a claim!

Forewarned is forearmed and people MUST learn to make the lifestyle choices, on this basis, or suffer the consequences of complacency. Frankly, this is the ONLY way to get a handle on the potential flooding situation, and not risk and surprises of being NOT READY for it!

To repeat it is only best that people know their danger level, rather be completely in the dark, wondering or be in shock when it does engulf them. I will welcome a better proposal to mine, but I can assure you that none of our pundits in power have even remotely suggested this as a long term solution to a growing problem that with global warming and unpredictable weather scenarios will not get any better in the foreseeable future.

Having said all this, a long term strategy to minimize this risk, and reduce flooding must be taken concurrently, that is done in parallel by legislation, and other practices, with a strong persuasive push from our leaders of its necessity!

Sunday, May 22, 2016

NO NEEDS ASSESSMENT from flood and landslides! – Grama Niladaris still living in 1916 with quill pens!

Not one of the GNs in this Flood and Earthslip disaster had a list of their people with PHONE numbers. That is of all people, with a blank where there was NO number at the time of enumeration. NO wonder then that those who don’t even know to use a laptop are the Govt’s main representatives at the local level, who should provide this data to authorities immediately a disaster occurs, to account for all the people and then make a needs assessment for assistance without delay.

There is STILL NO assessment of the true consequence of the flood, something which should have been at the table of the President 5 days ago. Needless to say that not one MP in parliament had the grey matter to ask this question of the relevant ministry in Parliament! This then has resulted in a waste of 100,000 lunch packets yesterday, Vesak that even the animal population could not partake in!

When the MPs were busy fooling the people, they are professional people foolers! With photos on FB showing them delivering food to the not so needy, as the needy are far too difficult to access! They should have been TRULY ASSESSING NEED that is their job, not playing Santa Claus.

NEEDS ASSESSMENT IS VITAL BEFORE CHARITY IS HANDED over, as we know from prior disasters like the Tsunami, where those in real need were left out and those in NO NEED were handsomely rewarded! When will they ever learn. Again it is simply the system that is wrong, as it is administered by people who don’t have any knowledge in organization, and do not know how to handle any situation. A simple procedure outlines above would make sure that within hours, those in need were fully cared for, and we would not be in a chaotic situation, where every one who can get publicity was giving themselves publicity at the expense of the suffering of thousands.

How utterly disgusting is that? GN should be ready for a disaster with the data, for others to act on them, even if he does not have a mobile phone to call with!

Let’s begin tomorrow, ask all GNs to prepare a list by hand, and they can use the electoral register to begin with and include all in households that are NOT already on the list and get a number for each every one, leaving blank those who don’t have a number. Those currently overseas could be so noted. This list can be computerized within a month, and can be used through a central depository if a disaster strikes and we need to take stock of the affected. Govt. servants with job titles and dept. or ministry or forces they are with can be so noted too.

The divisional secretary can be entrusted with the responsibility of this job being done properly and timely, and computerizing the relevant data with the over staffing that currently in place with graduates without tasks to undertake! 

FLOODING – Its mainly the fault of the system!

It is only going to get worse unless the systems change NOW

The system must be changed. This is only the tip of the ICEBURG, as later on this year when the rains really come, (the last week’s rain were minimal) it will get worse. Even this week, many people who did not believe they were under threat, in fact had their homes go underwater, resulting in quite a shock to those hitherto smug residents believing them to be completely immune from attack!

The Prime Minister in his visit to Biyagama flood victims was quite categoric with his insinuations as to who was to blame for the cataclysm! In 1977,(40 years ago) when Biyagama was no more than marshland and paddy fields, as Organizer for the area, planned a new BOI Economic Zone there. He had identified that Kelani River Valley in that area as particularly flood prone. Plans had been made to reduce this threat, none of which have yet been implemented, and steps have been taken to actually aggravate the problem even more!

This week’s flooding was an accident waiting to happen. People together with political patronage, broke all regular rules and procedures, and obstructed natural flood defenses, by destructive sand mining projects that have reduced the height of the  river banks significantly, unauthorized buildings, hotels and halls on river banks, and filling up paddy lands to build structures, that undermined the free flow of water, restricting their natural flow further squeezing excess water further out inland. This has left a gradually increasing area, that is flood prone that is only going to extend this area further with more development, and human habitation, inland.

As quite normal in other Countries, a series of berms or levies, raising river banks in certain risk areas, along with the above restrictions would have easily prevented this unnecessary flood and waste of property and loss of life. Why has this not been done here? It will have to be considered and implemented immediately.

The Monsoon rains are yet to come next week. Further floods are likely that will be much worse. NO contingency plans are being made as I write to reduce this economic loss. Further a long term plan must be put in place that is actually implemented, and not be stopped by another set of rulers! This will include a series of levies, tearing down unauthorized structures, creating a flood plain ONLY for agricultural use, with a long term plan of rehousing the people displaced in condominium projects on higher ground as there is insufficient property for each to have a house on terra firma.

This problem will only get worse each year and this is THE ONLY solution. In fact houses unaffected this year will be affected next unless the above is adopted.     

Friday, May 20, 2016

Foresight & Innovation Summit – just a HOME & HOME affair!

Whilst not trying to be overly critical of a concept that is timely, isn’t it IRONIC that the Tamasha on 24th and 25th of May is being held at the Diyawanna Edge, aka Waters Edge, all of which has been created out of dredging and filling up, Colombo’s swamp, which was the flood plain that prevented places like Lake Drive from flooding, and a lack of FORESIGHT!

If there was FORESIGHT, then all of Battaramulla would have been in a massive green belt around Colombo, that could have ben called Marshlands National Park, that would have been a huge tourist attraction, for bird life on the Outskirts of Colombo.

In the same vein, with FORESIGHT, the Capital would now be in Polonnaruwa relieving the unnecessary stress on Colombo, which would have developed into a model, Commercial Capital of Sri Lanka, with designated areas of Condominium development, separate areas for low income housing, another for single family dwellings, all connected by an excellent public transportation system. It is not too late if we can put greed aside. If this had been done, soon after 1977 opening of the Economy, a chance that will not return, Colombo would probably be the most live-able city on Earth, and we would not have lost our Best to overseas Countries, retaining them to develop Sri Lanka.

Now Condominium complexes can go up anywhere, blighting once beautiful neighborhoods, all in the name of someone’s greed, to make more millions! In short, this is an example of the price we have already paid for the lack of FORESIGHT, to say nothing, of traffic congestion, and Urban Decay in the most salubrious of neighborhoods that are now taking place, making even Horton Place one of the most undesirable streets to live on despite its ridiculous land costs.

I would like to point out the particular fascination that Columbians, (Who in this audience does not live within 25km of this location?) have with Seminars, Summits, Workshops, and Teach-ins on Work Time! All paid out of funds that don’t come out of any of the participants post tax income, so none of you today have a real stake in this Summit. In short you are enjoying a junket at someone else’s expense.

I believe that there are those who wish to contribute positively to this debate who should be included, with perhaps half the participants here present being mere deadweights. (would be better off dead!) They are willing to pay 50% of the cost of the fee, as they are NOT wealthy. They will however have to forego their main meal for a month, in order to participate, believing in their value.

THE UNDP bless their souls, has NO chance of finding them at present, as they do not venture outside their IVORY TOWER on Baudhaloka Mawatha, the Beverly Hills of Colombo. The UN civil servants on the job will not even work at the UN if they were not pensionable and did not get the perks of the job, and so have NO personal motivation, that is greater than the task they have organized to help them in their rise up the INGO ladder if nothing else.

With such a prognostication, it is hardly surprising that NO ONE wants the Summit to be anything but a networking event, and make more contacts for personal rather than professional reasons of achieving lofty goal of “FORESIGHT & INNOVATION”.

This leads me to the cynical conclusion that this event is a mere Home and Home show of likeminded intellectuals who form a comfort zone in their theoretical mirages of life, and business men looking to profit from participation, without the intention of coming up with a workable solution to the Country’s pressing problems.

Ironically only the Prime Minister has this true vision, devoid of personal agendas, that wish to see Sri Lanka achieve its true potential, but cannot harness, sufficient likeminded and capable people to carry out this vision.

I have the freedom to express myself here, as I don’t expect anything (credit or monetary gain) from anyone in return, and have NO personal goals left to fulfill, as I will be dead before these lofty goals ever come to fruition. I am only committed during the rest of my days, to do what is necessary to ensure that in 50 years, the inhabitants of this Island, under whatever name they choose to call it then, will have a livable environment, something I am afraid is NOT going to happen if current policies continue.

I believe the priority then MUST be to do whatever is possible NOW so that by then, there is NO debate that these three most important of aspects to a good quality of life are an inalienable right of its inhabitants, namely the right to breathe the cleanest air possible, eat the purest food in that the human digestive system will be unharmed, and be able to drink clean water devoid of impurities that cause illness. It goes without saying that to ensure this, environmental pollution has to be reduced drastically if not eliminated, with recyclability of everything being paramount. Everything we posses becomes meaningless, if we cannot achieve these basic needs of human existence.

To that goal, I wish that this summit directs its focus. Everything else is matter of fact and subsidiary to the three basic needs outlined above. Then Sri Lanka can hold its head higher than any nation in sustainability of LIFE.