Disaster management: engineers’ ideas ignored
The Institution of Engineers Sri Lanka (IESL) claimed it had not been consulted nor had any of its proposals been included in the 'Sri Lanka Disaster Management Bill' being presented to Parliament.

IESL vice-president Daya Mallawaratchie claimed that nobody had conferred with the IESL with regard to the contents of the Bill and neither had any amendments been made to the Bill by the inclusion of some of the proposals presented by the Institute.

The IESL suggests that disaster management be given a pro-active role in the future contrary to the reactive role it currently plays in the country with the proposed Disaster Mitigation and Management Authority (DIMMA) being headed by experts in the field of disaster management.

It states there is no need to duplicate bodies already in existence such as the Road Development Authority (RDA), National Building Research Organization (NBRO), Sri Lanka Land Reclamation and Development Corporation (SLLRDC), Urban Development Authority (UDA), Centre for Housing, Planning and Building (CHPB), or the Irrigation Department. It says there has only to be a central authority to liaise between these already functional establishments.

Regional branches of the DIMMA are also a part of this plan, as they will facilitate regular monitoring in their areas. The IESL further explains that such regional branches will help expedite pre- and post-disaster management in affected areas.

The need for institutions such as the NBRO, Meteorological Department, Irrigation Department, Geological Survey and Mines Bureau (GSMB), the Central Engineering Consultancy Bureau and universities island-wide to be better funded with regards to disasters and be more involved in the entire operation has been spotlighted. The proposals further state that the DIMMA too must be adequately funded and given the necessary authority to carry out its functions. In addition the support of institutions such as the Survey Department should be enlisted as well, it said.

The IESL also proposes that the National Disaster Management Council which is presently under the Social Welfare Ministry, when relocated as the proposed DIMMA, should be placed under an apex ministry such as the Policy Planning Ministry. It is the IESL's opinion that pre-disaster mitigation considerably outweighs its own expenditure by reducing the adverse effects of a post-disaster period.

Same bill-but too late
The Supreme Court has said that if the Bill carrying provisions for counter measurers had been in effect, a National Disaster Management Plan would have been in place to cover natural disasters including a "tsunami".

The Court noted that if the previous Bill containing almost the same provisions and titled "Sri Lanka Disaster Counter Measures Bill" had been proceeded with in Parliament in 2003, a National Disaster Management Plan would have been in place. Chief Justice Sarath N. Silva along with Justices Raja Fernando and R.A.N.G. Amaratunga noted this, when the court gave a special determination on the new Bill when it was taken up on February 14.

The judges said that for some reason the earlier bill was not passed by Parliament and the Court had once again to make a determination on almost the same Bill, two years later, after a tsunami had devastated Sri Lanka, at a time when the country was totally unprepared to meet that situation.

Additional Solicitor General P.A. Ratnayake agreed to amend several provisions which were declared as being inconsistent with the Constitution. Objections were raised against provisions, with regard to the declaration of state of disaster, requisition of property and in relation to human disaster.

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