|“Tsunami Global Lessons Learned Initiative” at the Trusteeship Council Chamber of United Nations|
|Friday, 24 April 2009 19:20|
Statement by Hon.Rishad Bathiudeen M.P, Minister of Resettlement and Disaster Relief Services of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka at the “Tsunami Global Lessons Learned Initiative” at the Trusteeship Council Chamber of United Nations, New York, 24th April 2009Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen
I wish to congratulate the Government of Indonesia for taking the leadership in organizing this initiative. We believe it is timely to consolidate the lessons learned from the tsunami disaster 4 years ago. Let me also thank the UNDP for its excellent report.
Sri Lanka is one of the countries that were severely affected by the tsunami waves that ravaged several countries in the Region on December 26, 2004. Sri Lanka had the second highest death toll in the Region. Many were injured, and displaced. Many houses, schools and hospitals were also damaged. The tsunami affected 13 Districts in Sri Lanka. The most affected provinces were Northern, Eastern and Southern areas. They constitute about 18% of National GDP about 25% of the population of Sri Lanka. A large segment of affected people were women and children. More than 1500 children lost their parents. The children’s schooling was also unduly disrupted. Furthermore in the North East the tsunami added to the problems caused by the 20 years of terrorism and the economic hardships of the conflict.
In the fisheries sector alone two thirds of the Sri Lankan coastline suffered great losses. There has been considerable damage to the hotels sector with direct impact on Tourism. The economic impact was more wide spread in terms of increasing poverty, among already impoverished groups, especially small-scale fishermen. All affected people depended on Government social welfare schemes.
Following tsunami, the Government of Sri Lanka immediately took necessary action for the “Declaration of State of the Disaster”. The main goal of the response stage was rescue and aid. The efforts were mainly aimed at rescue of surviving community, ensure the provision of their basic needs and essential items, to provide decent temporary shelter and to set up quick logistical arrangements.
Because of the quick combined response by the Government, local communities, local NGOs, private sector and the international community, the country recorded no additional deaths because of tsunami related diseases or lack of delayed medical treatment. National and foreign military personnel assisted in the rescue operations, identification and burial of the dead, and debris clearance. The Government, with international support, carried out immediate repairs of basic facilities, such as major pipelines and water sources, roads, bridges, electricity and telephone lines. Nearly 600 schools and places of worship provided emergency shelter. Food aid was provided to 520,000 people.
The main goal of the recovery stage was to urgently recover and restore services and facilities of the public, private and civil society sectors as well as those of individual families households and communities. Services and livelihoods needed to be restored for the self sustained development and growth. The hospitals, schools, housing and economic infrastructure have to be restored and recovered.
The massive global support, the speed of delivery and the types of agencies involved created some unique challenges in post tsunami recovery. The involvement of many partners in post tsunami recovery created complex relationships affecting the speed, effectiveness and governance of assistance. The diverse participations recovery process resulted in a need to good coordination.
The total cost required for relief rehabilitation and reconstruction effort was estimated to be around US $ 2 billion for a period of 3-5 years.
His Excellency the President Mahinda Rajapaksa took over the Presidency in November 2005, and merged all the Tsunami-related organizations such as Task Force for Rebuilding the Nation (TAFREN), Task Force for Relief (TAFOR), and Transitional Accommodation Project (TAP) into a single Government agency. This is to focus on reconstruction and development issues across all sectors and stakeholders in affected areas. RADA, the successor organization which initially placed under the Presidential Secretariat currently under the Ministry of Nation Building and Estate Infrastructure Development aimed to Build Back Better the affected communities. The reconstruction process addressed regional disparities, reduction of poverty and security. The main goal of the Rehabilitation stage was to build the damaged infrastructure, environment, services, business, enterprises, community and family household structures and livelihood.
Housing, including transitional and permanent housing remains one of the most complex areas. The revision of buffer zone at the end of 2005 and the subsequent revised housing policy led to considerable changes in 2006. The increased housing needs were met by completing most of the houses about 95%.
The Meteorology Department of Sri Lanka has taken steps to link with PTWC, JMC, CISC and Ache Centre in Indonesia for smooth preparedness & mitigation measures. Furthermore disaster management committees are established in the villages along the coastal line while providing guidance of tsunami symbols, warning dissemination and related exercises to the people concerned.
Before concluding, I take this opportunity, once again to convey our appreciation for all who assisted Sri Lanka. I also thank the excellent coordination and supportive efforts of the UN led by OCHA and the UNDP. Let me also once again thank the Indonesian Government for organizing this significant event.
I thank you