The disaster management guy

Posted Thursday April 09, 2015 by Hazel Durbridge

Monday I went to Ampara with Oxfam GB. This was to see if they were implementing the plan John had produced for them last year. It was dire. We went down in the car with the plans so Oxfam had not even distributed them. Lesson 1 learnt. The 2 guys I spoke to took zero responsibility in any of it and failed to answer any of my questions. They seemed vaguely bemused that John had not ‘implemented’ the plan. No co-ordinating meetings have been held. We left it that they would distribute the plan and call a meeting for the end of the month. I’ll try and rattle up some enthusiasm.

Today I was whisked off to the Batticaloa posh hotel beach at Kalkudah to meet some Japanese American guy who was running a free course from an American university at New Orleans on disaster management. Excuse me. I thought we were supposed to be looking at mitigating the annual disasters from flooding, cyclones, elephants etc not giving them leadership courses in managing them. This guy was probably in his late 30s, had been Director of the office of US Foreign Disaster Assistance and came across as a bit of a twerp. But he was a twerp who was here, possibly an influential twerp, talking about x million US Aid coming in to Sri Lanka for Disaster Management so we are taking him out to see our brightest and best irrigation guy to hear the story of the tanks. Maybe he will be a voice for Batticaloa at ministerial level.

I went and put my hand in the infinity pool at the hotel. I was seized by the moment and materialism. I wanted to have had my bikini on and to have stripped off and got in that infinity pool 20 yards from a barrier less pristine beach and the sea beyond and nobody but the bar staff there. It was all beige and brown and lotus flowers in bowls of water and I wanted to be in the moment, but the guy was a bit too full of his own importance to have been an ally in helping me achieve that.

I came back and went to my woman friendly hotel by the lagoon and had a beer instead.


In Sri Lanka, according to the department of meteorology the annual rainfall has decreased by more than 7% in the past 3-4 decades. Annual mean air temperature anomalies have shown significant increasing trends. Weather patterns have increasingly become less predictable, causing floods in certain areas and droughts in others. In January and February 2011 floods displaced over 1.2 million people from their homes in 14 of the districts in Sri Lanka. The long term damage caused to housing, agriculture, industries and infrastructure is yet to be fully enumerated.

Out of the 14 ds divisions in Batticaloa, 8 ds divisions along the coastal belt are most vulnerable to coastal hazards and floods. Due to the 2004 tsunami, 2,975 persons died and 24,013 houses were destroyed or damaged. The entire district is vulnerable to cyclones as it is located within the wind-loading zone. A total of 698 people died and 314,960 houses were damaged or destroyed due to the cyclone that took place in 1978.

The other hazards prevailing in the district are drought, lightning, epidemics, elephant attacks and industrial related hazards such as rice mills and prawn farming.

In 2010 Climate Change in Cities Initiative (CCCI) of UN-Habitat helped Batticaloa develop a climate change city profile. A report was produced: ‘Formulation of a City Development Strategy for Sri Lankan Cities to respond to climate change: Negombo and Batticaloa CMCs’.

Batticaloa District Development Plan DRAFT 2013


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