Thursday, March 29, 2012

Looking beyond the disaster

With the onset of a disaster, everyone becomes a victim in one way or another; no one is spared.  The most globally impacted natural disaster occurred in 2004 when a 9.0 magnitude earthquake struck off in Sumatra, Indonesia resulting in a tsunami that washed on the shores of Sri Lanka, Indonesia, India, Maldives, Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand and Somalia.
The effect of the tsunami in Sri Lanka was different from the regions but mostly the north-eastern, eastern and south eastern parts were hit hard. Overall, the tsunami affected two-thirds of the coastline of Sri Lanka, over 1,000 kilometers in total.  Seawater penetrated from tens to hundreds of meters inland (in places thousands of meters), and typically drained away within 30 minutes.
Boxing Day tsunami claimed more than a million lives. In addition to human impact, it had a devastating effect on the ecosystem and environment of Lanka.
The island is home to several rainforests, mangroves, agricultural fields, coral reefs, sea grass beds, salt marshes, beaches, sand spits, rocky shores and dune systems.
A great stretch of coral reefs is located mainly in the east coast of Trincomalee and north-west of Mannar coast. The reefs faced heavy exploitation of mining and as the tsunami struck it displaced large chunks of boulders and sections of reef, as well as thousands of tons of smaller fragments, sand and silt, which crush and kill marine biota.
Mangrove areas are extensive in Puttalam district followed by Batticaloa and Trincomalee districts and have been diminishing with the amount of deforestation. The surging waves uprooted most of the young mangrove plants and displaced them.
The beaches of Negombo, Lunawa, Maduganga, Hikkaduwa, Habaraduwa, Mawella and Kalametiya were polluted by debris and rubbish as the presence of houses and hotels were close to the coast.
A lot of seawater, wastewater and sewage have contaminated the bore wells which the lankan population depend on for supply of drinking water. The pipe water system bore damage as well leaving the survivors with nothing to quench their thirst. Efforts were taken to pump out the wells and chlorinate them. Salt water that seeped into the paddy fields have destroyed the fertility of the land and rendered them useless.
In order to create plans of environmental restoration and disaster prevention United Nations and Environment Programme (UNEP) Asian Tsunami Disaster Task Force (ATDTF) was established by the Executive Director of UNEP on 28th December 2004 with support from the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources of Sri Lanka.

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