There is little doubt that Man-Made Disasters in particular do disrupt progress and destroy developmental efforts, pushing nations back by several decades. The three decades of civil war experienced by Sri Lanka resulted in pushing the country back by five decades.
Another man-made disaster occurred on Sunday 5th June 2016 at the Salawa military base at Kosgama, a small town located 46km from Colombo and administered by the Seethawaka Pradeshiya Sabha in the Colombo District, on the A4 highway and served by the Kelani Valley Railway Line. The blame for the calamity was directed at the government for not taking the necessary precautions as discussed in an earlier posting in Northern Breeze.
Questions were asked as to why the authorities under the previous government failed to relocate the ammunition dump from a residential area even five years after the war had ended. Army Commander has said that if arrangements were made to remove the unwanted ammunition after a proper study from the ammo dump in the Salawa Army Camp the explosion could have been averted. But the damage has been done and it is better for all to work jointly to restore the lives of these unfortunate people who faced this unprecedented peacetime tragedy to hit the country. The National Government has routed government’s energies to focus on the management of this disaster to bring solace to the victims at the shortest possible time; accordingly the authorities have ensured the comfort of the victims in the best way possible while the tri-forces are busy with the repairs and rebuilding of the damaged and destroyed buildings in the town.
The Disaster Management Ministry has inspected 585 houses affected and it would take at least sixty days to reconstruct the houses destroyed by the fire. According to Technology and Research Ministry rebuilding of about 90 seriously damaged homes may take months. The government has responded promptly and the owners of these houses are expected to receive a sum of Rs. 50,000.00 each for three months. The army has taken over the reconstruction of the destroyed and damaged homes and 51 damaged houses that suffered the least damage had been repaired by Friday 10 June 2016 and some 45 families had already moved back.
A study to estimate the cost of the total disaster including the exact number of the buildings damaged commenced on Saturday 11 June 2016. According to Colombo District Secretary the handing over of compensation payments will begin from Tuesday 14 June 2016. How the compensation will be quantified remains a question. It is not just the buildings and structures that had been destroyed but other valuables as well. Among the victims are those generally well to do upper middle class families with destroyed multi-storied buildings and residences; with disruption of the education of their children, with some of them still in the clothes in which they fled their homes when the pieces of weapons rained all around them. Few have temporarily moved to live with friends or relatives until matters are sorted out, but not all have this opportunity. Hence the government has to not just rebuild homes to their original shape but also compensate for lost possessions and business goods.
On Sunday 12 June 2016, over 250 naval personnel have started repairing the Kosgama Government Hospital which was damaged by the explosion. All the damaged areas of the hospital are expected to be taken to its precondition as soon as possible. There is no doubt Navy with be equal to the task as they demonstrated during the flood crisis few weeks earlier. Navy expects to hand over the hospital to its staff on Monday 13 June 2016 in order to carry out its routine administration and medical treatments.
While appreciating the good work of the present government, due to the increasing frequency and intensity of disasters it must endeavor for efficient management of disasters, rather than mere response to their occurrence; State has to receive increased attention to shift, from the past relief-centric response to a practical prevention and preparedness-driven approach for conserving developmental gains and also to minimise losses of life, livelihoods and property.
Nation as a whole must acknowledge and appreciate the caring policy of the National Government with good governance in responding positively to deal effectively with the devastating impact of the Salawa disaster without any controversy or constraint on the people. We as a Nation cannot ignore the fact that a totally different policy was adopted by the previous government seven years ago in dealing with the victims of the man-made disaster to end the civil war in 2009.