Yesterday’s Daily Mirror contained an article on “Moves to end flood menace – DMC and CMC work out extensive plan”. The article started by indicating that “The government along with the Disaster Management Center and the Colombo Municpal Council are implementing a number of short term and long term projects to prevent floods from recurring”. Hurrah for them! Among the “three main reasons identified by a senior spokesman of the Drainage System of the Colombo MC” were “the large number of development projects in Colombo, bad habits of the people and the robbing of gully covers by thieves”. One wonders where such enlightened and erudite spokesmen claiming to represent the interests of the public were found! 

Anyone with even a basic reasoning power and aware enough to have noticed the horrendous development taking place on the filled areas that were originally swamps and that served as collection points for the waters that drained out of the city, would understand that there is no place for the drained waters to go once these low-lying lands have been (what is euphemistically referred to by the powers that be as) ‘reclaimed’! All the puerile excuses trotted out by the ‘authorities’ – if deserving of any merit at all, would be overwhelmed by this one overriding reason for the floods in the city of Colombo – and, perhaps in other areas as well. 

Too many times have we read in the press of the dubious deals that result in low-lying areas being filled and ‘handed over’ to some cronies of those wielding influence. The Nawala and Jayawardenapura areas are replete with examples of such instances and these are some of the areas that suffer most. What recourse does the citizens that have been severely inconvenienced by loss of property and sometimes life, have? Who do they appeal to for compensation? And how do they replace their losses? Are class-action law suits viable in these instances? 

There are solutions to some of these problems – even at this very late stage. One would be for the ‘authorities’ to identify the remaining swamps or low-lying areas and then excavate large parts of these areas so that very extensive ponds or lakes are formed, which will absorb the overflow from the city. Some of the surrounding areas that have been designated to be ‘filled’ with the dredged earth and silt out of the excavated points could be landscaped and made into parks and sanctuaries for birds and small mammals that are losing their territories due to the unplanned development in those areas of concern. The public could also have access to these recreational sanctuaries, which would then enable the public to safeguard the areas themselves and put a stop to the callous disregard of the corrupt individuals involved in this debacle. 

There are other solutions as well that could easily be found by a panel consisting of ecologists, conservationists, hydrologists and other scientifically knowledgable experts, if only the government authorities would allow them to plan and execute the solutions. However, as we are all well aware of, there is very little chance of any enlightened perspective from the top as the concerns related to flooding are not really aimed at those who are affected now or who will be in the future. Instead, the overriding concern of most of those in power is how to make hay while the sun shines – and the hell with the rain and the havoc it may cause the rest of us.  

And so it goes – more landslides, more floods and more excuses trotted out by the ‘authorities’ with promises to “end the menace”. In the end, however, “the menace” turns out to be ‘authorities’ themselves, so it is most unlikely that it will end at any time in the near future.

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