The `Road Map for a Safer Sri Lanka` a comprehensive programme of action for disaster risk management in order to minimise adverse affects of natural disasters was officially launched (December 30th) when a copy of the Actin Plan was presented to Prime minister and Minister of Disaster Management Ratnasiri Wickramanayaka by the Secretary of the Ministry of Disaster Management Dr. Upananda Vidanapathirana at a ceremony held in Colombo.
A large and representative gathering of Ministers, Ministry Secretaries, Chief Ministers, senior Government officials, senior officials of international and UN Agencies, representatives of local and foreign non-governmental organisations, academics and professionals were present on the occasion.
Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickramanayake hailing the Road Map for Disaster Management as a historic one for Sri Lanka said it paves the way for disaster risk management taking a more co-ordinated approach. He said that it lays down clear objectives to identify and co-ordinate multi-stockholder efforts in the next ten years through a holistic strategy in the form of a road map towards building a safer Sri Lanka.
The Prime Minister said that the Road Map has detailed out actions in seven major areas co-ordinating all stockholders - from ministries, Government Departments and Organisation and Provincial councils to the Community based Organisations and communities.
The Road Map will pay attention to following areas of action:
* Policy and Institutional development
* Assessment of hazard vulnerability and risk
* Early warning systems
* Disaster preparedness, response, plans and programmes
* Integration of disaster risk management activities into development planning
* Community based disaster risk management and
* Public awareness, education and training
The Prime Minister thanked all those who assisted in the preparation of the Road Map including the UNDP and said that it needs the support of multi stockholders over the next few years. The Government looks forward for necessary support from everyone concerned in the endeavour to achieve the vision for a safer Sri Lanka as envisioned in the Road Map.
Mr. Wickramanayaka at the outset drew attention to the efforts of President Mahinda Rajapakse to give a prominent place in the state`s policy agenda for Disaster Risk Management by setting up a separate Ministry for Disaster Management which will take forward the `Disaster Management Act` passed in May 2005.
He also drew attention to the formation to the formation of the National Council for Disaster Management and disaster Management Centre.
Said the Prime Minister: `I`am confident that Sri Lanka will be able to manage disasters better, reduce loss of lives and causes least damage to property and livelihoods of our people and will reduce vulnerablities of communities to disasters like floods, landslides, droughts, tsunami and cyclones in the future.`
`We have to take action to prevent or reduce such hazards events where possible and also prevent or reduce the impacts when they occur. In addition, we have to take action to increase the resilience of the community affected by the disasters to return to normalcy in the shortest possible time.`
The Prime Minister also stressed that disaster management was not a separate sector of development but an integral part of development of all sectors. Causes of floods can be traced to the way development has taken place such as blocking natural drainage channels, filling up marshy land.
Although there were initiatives by different agencies in Sri Lanka there had been no legal framework and therefore the efforts of these agencies were not very successful. We respond only after a disaster occurs. For effective managements of disasters the country must have a pro-active stance and must take measures in the pre-disaster stage to reduce impacts. Now with the legal framework in place the country is groomed to carry out disaster risk reduction activities pro-actively.
He also stressed that the success of the aims and objectives outlined in the Road Map depended on the commitment to serve the vulnerable communities by all of us politicians, administrators and Professionals. The Disaster Management Centre and all other implementing stockholders agencies should be provided the backing of all.
A well equipped Early Warning System is a key priority area for disaster risk management as well as a proper mechanism in place to ensure that warning reaches every person and an educational and awareness programmes on what steps they need to take to save lives and belongings.
Dr. Upananda Vidayapathirana, Secretary to the Ministry of Disaster Management in his introductory address termed the launch of the Road Map as a historic and a landmark even in the evolution of disaster risk management in Sri Lanka. He said that leadership Prime Minister Wickramanayaka has given to disaster management since he assumed duties as Minister in charge of the subject has been inspiring and encouraging.
Sri Lanka in the past have focused more on reactive measures after a disasters like cyclones, droughts, floods and the devastating tsunami in December 2004 which had tested the country`s resilience and capacity to overcome the devastation.
The need for a strong institutional framework for this very important area has been fulfilled through the Disaster Management legislation and the establishment of the National Council for Disaster Management. The Ministry of Disaster Management has been created under the Prime Minister to lead the strategic planning for disaster preparedness, response, risk mitigation and risk reduction.
Thje Road Map for Disaster Risk Management in Sri Lanka prepared with UNDP support is one of the first activities undertaken by the DMC in collaboration with a range of stockholders from the Government, international agenciew and non governmental organisations. It also serves as a vision document for leading the way towards a safe Sri Lanka and incorporates prioritized activities that need to be implemented over the short, medium and long term, Dr. Vidanapathirana added.
Mr. Abu Salem, Resident Representative of the United nations Development Programme (UNDP) said that disaster management is a priority areas in order to reduce and minimise the ill effects of natural disasters. He commanded the Sri Lanka Government for the speed with which the Road Map for Disaster Management was drawn up with co-operation of all stockholders. He said it now up to all stake holders to work with commitment to realise the objectives and aims of the programmes of disaster management. He also thanked the Governments of Sweeden and France for the support they had given in this regard.
Dr. Suvit Yodmani, Executive Director of Asian Disaster Preparedness C entre (ADPC) outlined the role of ADPC in ??
Major General Gamini Hettiarachchi, Director General of the Disaster Management Centre outlined the salient features of the Road Map for Disaster Risk Management.`