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Permanent Solution for Tsunami

Upali Seneviratne, Nebraska, USA

Fellow readers and fellow Sri Lankans, during the past about 26 days, first with shock and horror, and then with great sadness I too as a Sri Lankan suffered from the savage destruction the Tsunami caused Mother Sri Lanka and her people.

I work in the USA and I too helped collect funds, wrote articles to local newspapers, visited schools, churches and attended various community events in order to make people in the town where I live in the US, more aware of the catastrophe and then to induce them to donate whatever help they could monetary or otherwise of course through local aid agencies and then on through international aid agencies.

I also read about the reconstruction efforts and planning with great interest.

In one instance at the very early days after the Tsunami, I read about our President or her advisors suggesting that in future in order to prevent such colossal loss of life no permission will be given to build dwellings within 1000 yards from the sea. I also read a few days later this tikme from one of the ministers that buildings will be located beyond 300 yards from the sea.
And yet today I read the following in the Lankapage - a newspapers available in the internet and read by thousands if not millions of Sri Lankans abroad.

Jan 21, Colombo: Minister of Tourism Anura Bandaranaike has stressed that the law to build all constructions 100 metres away from the sea shore is not practical.
He said the government’s decision will have to be reconsidered.

“There are some government (BOI) approved hotel development projects where these companies have invested huge sums of money. It will be unfair to put restrictions on these big investors, saying that they can only build 100 metres away from the sea. It is good to have these laws, but I do not see them as practical,” Mr. Bandaranaike said.

Following the tsunami disaster, the Sri Lankan government has decided to build all constructions 100 metres away from the shore except in the North and East, where the minimum will be 200 metres. "

Let us look at it from a practical and financial point of view.

Why and how did the Tsunami cause such havoc. What is Tsunami?.

" A Tsunami is an ocean wave with a long period that is formed by an underwater earthquake or landslide, or volcanic eruption. It may travel unnoticed across the ocean for thousands of miles from its point of origin and builds up to great heights over shallower water. Also known as a seismic sea wave, and incorrectly, as a tidal wave."

As the waves that were caused by the underwater earthquake moved at such high speed it gained tremendous energy. As it hit landfall the water kept moving till the energy was totally dissipated causing destruction and havoc to everything in its wake.

So how does moving the new constructions 100 yards or even 1000 yards inland solve any similar situations in the future. Well the pundits would say the next Tsunami - if it ever happens will be may be another 2000 years away. I also read in our news somewhere about the great flooding that were written about in our history books.

One thing we all know is, it is human nature to forget as time passes by. As usual, time is the best known cure for all illnesses including sad memories.

People! let us find a solution for this problem that will benefit both Sri Lanka and Sri Lankans. Early warning systems are really great, so at least people can run for cover or shelter. But how about doing something very practical and useful for the economy of our country.

Let alone a Tsunami, it does not take a geniuus to figure out how much land Sri Lanka has lost due to sea erosion over the last say 50 years. The railroad as well as the Galle Road has gradualIy got closer and closer to the sea, meaning the sea has advanced inland.

Populations grow, but the land mass in a country remains the same or as in Sri Lanka gets smaller and smaller. That is one of the main reasons why land prices sky rocket in Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka is a beautiful little island. Most Sri Lankans do not see it that way because the economic hardships they undergo take precedence over admiring beauty. It does not take a maths genius to figure out how much our land prices spiral up in a very short period of time.Then you understand dear reader why foreigners are so attracted to our little land in terms of investments.

In very few countries in the world land prices appreciate in value like it does in Sri Lanka - for reasons I mentioned before. As an example, in the state of Nebraska where I live in the USA, the state itself is about 3 times the size (78,000 square miles and that is just one state of the 50 states in the USA) of Sri Lanka and the population is a mere 1.8 million people. There is so much land here and the prices are quite low. I could buy 100 acres of farm land at about $ 700 per acre. Ten years fron now the same land would appreciate about 20 percent. Not so in Sri Lanka. A piece of land in Sri Lanka doubles in price every about 3 years.

Sri Lanka is a country, where in a worst case scenario, one could travel to a beach within two or three hours from whereever you live there. I live in Nebraska in USA and it takes me at least 22 hours of non stop driving to get to the nearest beach. Even then one will not see the unspoilt natural beauty of the beaches like one seas in Sri Lanka. One would see the artificial, over-crowded expensive beaches where everything costs money. Unlike in Sri Lanka one pays for everything including going and walking around the beach.

In every country in the world beach land or sea side property is the most expensive real estate.So here we are trying to sacrifice 100 yards or more of land. The length of the total coast line of Sri Lanka is 804 miles. That times one hundred yards will tell you how many perches of land that is. Considering this is prime land and putting a very conservative price of $ 2000 per perch.

Work it out maths wizards if we sacrifice 200 yards, 804 x 200/1760(yards to miles) x 640 (acres per square mile) x 160 (perches per acre) x$2000(price per perch of beach land.

A total of 59,000 acres of prime land which is a whopping 18.71 billion US dollars worth of real estate. Now you may be wondering where am I going here.

Well, in addition to life and property how many fishing boats got destroyed. One newspaper article says boats will be built with fibreglass in the future. You think that will prevent damages to fishing boats. In fact it will be more expensive to repair them. Did the writer who proposed building fibre glass boats ever realise how complicated it is to repair fibre glass boats once damaged, how our fishing community will buy resin, hardner and matting (which are all imported) once we have fibre glass boats. especially to a fishing community who for time memorial have repaired their boats will locally available wood.

Here's what I beleive is a very practical, long term but alas quite expensive proposal. A proposal if properly studied, planned and implemented will benefit Sri Lanka as a land, our people and our economy as a whole.

At this stage in my letter let me introduce myself. I am Sri Lankan, 58 years of age, an ex Marine Engineer, a former Sea Going Chief Engineer (both Sri Lankas Shipping Corporation and the British Merchant Marine) who during the past 27 years both as a heavy duty construction engineer and a chemical engineer, having extensive experience and expertise in marine environment; built coast protection facilities like breakwaters, deep sea and coastal dredging for sand for building construction, built marine craft from sea going ships, trawlers, dredgers and small fishing craft, developed, built and operated deepsea fishing fleets in both US and in West Africa, built off shore mooring terminal for large sea going tankers and now for the past ten years in the USA as owner/builder of a construction company in Nebraska, building ethanol plants for the US energy sector so US does not depend on imported fuel and building solid waste and liquid waste treatment plants to make effective use of garbage and to treat waste water so it does not harm our ground water.

So fellow readers; I have been there, seen that and done that too. And I think it is time for me to do something for my country.

Getting back to my letter

1) Instead of giving up 200 yards of our coastline, let us go into the sea not two hundred yards but about three hundred yards. How about that? At 2000 dollars a perch of land that alone is worth 27 billion US dollars plus an increase of about 90,000 acres of land.

2) Let us produce a master plan by using some of our Sri Lankas best designers, engineers and builders to develop a coast protection project that will involve building breakwalls, fishing harbours, that will virtually surround our entire country. This will not destroy our beaches but will protect everything in our beaches. Let us wage a battle against the sea so that the next sunami or the tidal wave will not be able to penetrate our meagre defenseless coastline and kill our helpless innocent people. That is what our country's elected leaders are supposed to do. To protect our people and their property while leading them to a better tomorrow (the people not the leaders). Hire or invite experts in this field from other countries who have had conquered similar problems in the past in their countries and who have effectively found solutions to similar problems

3) While protecting our shores, we should also build strong high rise houses for our people (not shanties and this will not only give them strong building but also will alleviate the unavailability of land) as well as high rise condominiums for the foreigners who want to enjoy our country. There will be plenty. Let us plan for the next fifty years not just do patch up work for today. There will be beaches, recreation areas for tourists and Sri Lankans alike.

4) Let us start in memory of the 40,00 plus innocent lives lost and let it be a monument to those lives.

5) Where do we get the money? Any business minded country would invest in a viable project, especially one where money is made.

What should the politicians do in the meantime? They have a big role to play.

Let them form a study group. Select those who are experienced and experts in coast protection and such above mentioned construction projects. Travel to countries like Britain, The Netherlands, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain and such to look at how they have conquered the sea. Are Sri Lankans aware that about 25 percent of The Netherlands is below sea level and with great planning have conquered the sea and they continue to develop further more complex but more effective plans to protect their country. Are the readers aware that a slight twitch in the ocean can flood more than 50 percent of Netherlands. But the ingeneous Dutch engineers have build a series of Dikes to control the flooding. Have a look at what Dutch engineers did 300 years ago in Galle Sri Lank. The MacDonald fortress They have a population of about 18 million people and a land size of 16,000 sq. miles compared to about 20 million people and a land size of 25,000 sq. miles in Sri Lanka.

After developing a plan let us sell it. Bring in investors. I for one would love to come back and work for a prject like this as a service to me country and I will work for free.

The politicians have another major role to play. Let them bring in peace. Sri Lanka is too small to be divided. Those who want to divide our country and those who caused mass genocide in our country in the name of marxism a few years ago brought the wrath of the gods that protect our land. Equality and Ahimsa are two of the main preachings of Buddha the greatest philosopher of all times. Today our school and other institutions of higher educations are divided along polical lines. Almost every sector of our society is divided on political, religious and ethnic lines.

Our tamil brothers have been treated pretty unfairly for a long time. One cannot blame them trying to fight for equality. Like the majority Sinhalese they too are hard working people. Together it will be a tremendous massive work force.

Let us go back to the American history here. The early settlers of America, almost all from Europe brought in Africans and made them into slaves and these slaves fought for their freedom and after a costly civil war and many years of suffering they were eventually free. Today they are one of the most dynamic sectors of the american population living the American dream.

Before Reverand Martin Luther King, the African Americans as they are called even today had rights in the constitution but they had very little to show for it. By non violent means they gained what they have today. Similarly our Tamil brothers in Sri Lanka whether they are original decendants or imported by the British have come a long way. But unlike the African Americans they have resorted to barbaric butchery. Our soldiers too have caused excessess.

It is a no win situation where the losers will be the innocent. This is an ideal opportunity for Sinhalese and the Tamils to come together. The world is rather repulsed by the killings of innocents whether by sinhalese or by tamils. One thing we all got to beleive in is Sri Lanka is not a country that can be divided. No power in the world is going to sit idle and watch Sri Lanka divided on ethnic, religious or racial lines.

Those who try will end up just like those who live by the sword (they die by the sword).

Those are the main contributions our politicians can make to our country. Spend more times working for a united Sri Lanka than trying to divide Sri Lanka. The Tsunami is an eye opener. Make use of the sacrifices the innocent made.


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