Flooding was never a problem in Colombo back in the 1960s, the time I joined the Irrigation Department as a graduate Assistant Engineer (AIE). The issue then was to find safe land to build on, and this task was entrusted to the research and development division of the Irrigation Department.
The result was the Government Sessional Paper 26 of 1966, “Reclamation of Swamps in and Around the City of Colombo”.
A separate board was formed in this connection under the Ministry of Irrigation in 1968. As the youngest participant in this exercise, I remain the only survivor in the list of participants.
Dangerous flooding was something new and it was largely man-made, while warnings had appeared in 1981 that the New Parliament was in danger of getting flooded. The warning was not heeded, and Parliament was flooded on June 4 and 5, 1992.
This also marked the period when the Reclamation Corporation then responsible for the subject of floods changed hands – from competent and experienced engineers with a background in irrigation to non-engineers.
The problem was compounded when the latter broke away from the Irrigation Ministry and transferred to the Ministry of Urban Development, which had nothing to do with flood control, drainage and reclamation.
The simultaneous closing down of the R&D division of the Irrigation Department in 1968 added to the confusion.
Colombo’s flooding problem persists, and we wonder what kind of catastrophe awaits us should the Kelani Ganga decide to flood at the same time.
The problem leaves no room for experimenters, adventurers and opportunists to play around with the lives of the people living in and around our capital city.
The post-flood remedies proposed are certainly shocking, and causes shivers among those who know better.
I highlighted the dangers faced by the fast-developing Madiwela catchment area in a paper titled, Destruction of the Madiwela Catchment. The paper was written at a time of large-scale earth movements, haphazard land filling without regard to drainage and large pits left exposed to erosion.
In terms of floods, the Madiwela catchment poses the biggest threat for Colombo, while at the same time offering the only hope.
The November 2010 flooding showed that measures taken at great cost to the government and inconvenience to the people were a wasted effort, and that the problem had become worse. In 1992, when Parliament was flooded, there was one foot of water; in 2010, when Parliament was flooded, the water was more than five feet deep, and with less rainfall.
So what are we doing about all this? And what have those in positions of unlimited influence and power to say?
By Anton Nanayakkara,
Senior Deputy Director of
Tusker’s demise a crying shame
The nation is mourning the tragic death of the majestic tusker that died while being transported from its natural habitat by the Department of Wildlife Conservation, its statutory custodian.
Tusked elephants are too precious and great a rarity to entrust to the inefficient, careless, state-paid officers who are put in charge of “our National Wealth.”
It was quite obvious from the photographs in the newspapers that the vehicle provided to transport the elephant was inadequate to carry the weight of this majestic animal – perhaps the last of its kind in our jungles.
The Department of Wildlife Conservation must take full responsibility for the tusker’s death, and account for failing to make a proper assessment of the precious cargo and failing to provide safe transport.
As a result of the department’s mishandling of the situation, we have lost a tusker for ever.
The officers concerned should hang their heads in shame and relinquish the posts they are incapable of holding.
By Ranjan Fernando,
We have no right to invade their territory
We congratulate the Sunday Times for its coverage of environment and animal issues. In the case of Raja, however, looking for the Uda Walawe tusker may be a futile exercise. The number of elephant deaths in 2007 and 2009 was about 200 each year. It is possible that Raja is among the dead, especially because he is a tusker.
Meanwhile, we appeal to the Sunday Times to do all in its power to ensure that our politicians do not settle their constituents in areas marked out as elephant corridors, and then start hollering about human-elephant conflict.
We have not forgotten how former President J. R. Jayewardene and Ranjan Wijeratne set up the Pelawatte Sugar Corporation, an ill-advised move that led to the decimation of the Handapangala elephants. The Sri Lanka Sugar Corporation supplies only 10 per cent of the country’s sugar needs. At what cost to our wildlife?
By C. B. Perera
Stray dog population shrinking
I have been following with interest the endless discussions in the newspapers on the National Dog Sterilisation Programme.
As a dedicated community service officer, I fully support the government in its various efforts, from economic development to raising the living standards of rural communities.
The government has set itself a goal to eradicate rabies by 2016, and it launched a five-year anti-rabies programme in 2008.
As a Kandy resident, living in a proper residential area, I am constantly confronted by the sight of dogs looking for food in rubbish dumps. Howling dogs keep us awake at night.
I have helped to organise dog sterilisation programmes in the Central Province. All those involved, from government officers to veterinary surgeons, go about their work with the utmost competence. It was heartwarming to see the way they attended to the animals, with care and compassion, and to what lengths they went, sometimes travelling to remote villages, to do their job.The sterilization programme is closely monitored by government health officers, and the animals are tabulated for further scrutiny, according to the governmental regulations.
I travel to different parts of the country and I have noticed that there are fewer stray dogs than before. Obviously, the government programme is working.
Too bad that some people want to bad-mouth such a valuable programme. We should join hands and help the government in its noble efforts.
By Shamila Ariyananthan