"Flood devastation - urgent reconstruction initiatives needed"
by Krishantha Prasad Corray
The waters have now receded and the debris is being cleared. However, the real horror...... remains. The horror of the devastation is now surfacing with reports of entire families being swept away with no trace of their remains. Those who were able to survive the floods have been rendered destitute and have no idea how to pick up the threads of their livelihood and start living again. Though relief has been pouring in like a deluge in some areas, the sheer scale of the destruction and the lack of time to mount a co-ordinated effort has resulted in the misdirection of supplies and some areas being neglected. While the intentions of generous donors of relief are undoubtedly genuine if no proper mechanism is set in place to channel the goods and services to the victims in a need based manner, rather than haphazardly and with little supervision as at present all the good work done would be in vain and the misery of the worst affected would get even worse.
While in most areas relief, reconstruction and rehabilitation efforts are going on apace, there is a tendency to slack as the lives of the victims limp back to normalcy. However judging by the vastness of the devastation caused there is no doubt that the attention of the entire nation has to be brought to bear on the sufferings undergone by flood victims who having lost all, will now have to start life virtually from scratch.
Imagine the plight of a family, which has lost all household goods, clothing, along with their home. The present crisis calls for the entire country to be galvanised into an awareness of the real needs. To draw up an inventory of what is needed and where; how the aid programmes are to be implemented and how they are to be managed to best advantage. Sporadic and uncoordinated efforts can bring but a little short-term comfort to the hapless victims of the disaster. The nation is called in this hour of need to offer to the afflicted whatever resources they can give; each according to his ability.
National disasters call for some sacrifice at every level. The cry of the hour is for individuals of means, organisations, groups or companies to each take on the task of developing at least one village or neighbourhood in helping to reconstruct their homes, schools or restart their self employment ventures. It is futile to expect the State to cope unassisted with this task. State organisations are even at the best of times over-stretched. The attrition due to internal strife and excessive costs of defence operations has bled the country dry and fractured the administrative machinery over the last two decades. The problem is so enormous that the reconstruction and re-development process has to start immediately and fast with greater public support.
A massive exercise in re-construction is called for; something akin to the village re-awakening programme launched by late President Ranasinghe Premadasa. Apart from the thousands of families displaced there are also large numbers who have to be evacuated from several areas prone to landslides. Schools will have to be re-built and the education of the children resumed without delay.
In order to channel all resources in a proper direction the government should set up the required mechanism on a district basis perhaps with private sector participation. All assistance to rebuild the homes, business premises or self-employment ventures should be afforded devoid of political or racial differences and irrespective of their social standing.
There should be a quick assessment of the reconstruction and the redevelopment needs of the areas and requirement identified for each village or town so that an organisation or company could move in to reconstruct and redevelop the village or town.
Now that the country has a respite from the North East war (Hopefully forever) we have been presented with a golden opportunity to unite to overcome the ravages of the floods.
There have been instances in history when disasters have been turned into victories. A very striking silver lining to this dark cloud is that the recent natural disaster has unified the people and inculcated amongst the people of the areas the will to work together in a crisis casting aside political allegiances or personal animosities to help each other in times of disaster.
Even criminal elements have forgotten their evil ways and have been turning their skills to some socially desirable purpose. Let us hope that what is good in every man emerges in this time of need. The police and services personnel who played a stellar role in rescue operations and providing relief services immediately after the floods can also play a prominent role in ensuring the donations are not diverted to undeserving pockets.
Many moving tales of experiences of the agonies undergone by families and individuals have been highlighted in the electronic and print media in graphic detail. But these are only a fraction of the real numbers and many stories will remain untold forever.
It is now time that a comprehensive, co-ordinated and long term oriented relief and development programme is set in place so that individuals, groups or companies will further assist, not only to relieve the burden of the thousands of homeless families but also to help them achieve true development of their lives.
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