Sunday, May 08, 2005

Buffer zone blues...

Random disorganized thoughts about the buffer zone...

Does anyone know what the buffer zone is really about? I didn't know much till a few days ago when I started digging and I still don't know as much as I would like to.

What legal framework is the Government banking on to implement their 100 meter buffer zone? As far as I know what they are using is the 1987 Coastal Conservation Act (CCA), which says nothing can be built upto 300 meters from the beach. For the past 18 years the Government and the people have disregarded this law, and have built whatever they wanted to build wherever they wanted to build along the beach.

If the Government wants to implement this law then implement the law properly and ask for a clearing of 300 meters. But this law was not made thinking about a Tsunami. Which is what makes the CCA a poor tool for Tsunami-damage-prevention.

Here are some practical problems with implementing the 100 meters.

The Galle road and the Colombo-Matara railway line, for much of their length run inside the 100 meter buffer zone. If the Government is concerned about the people living inside the 100 meters in the case of another Tsunami, then shouldn't they also be worried about the people on the trains and on the road who might be a lot closer to the sea than a 100 meters? Are they going to shift the entire Galle road and the train line inland? But then that would really take the fun out of taking a train to Galle wouldn't it? Raise your hands all those of you who have hopped onto a Galle-bound train in Fort Station and gasped as the train takes the curve in Colpetty and suddenly the sea is in front of you!

FYI, if they implement the 300 meters of the CCA, or even a 100 meters, then the President's House in Fort and the Araliya Gaha Mandiraya (PM's reseidence) have to go too, along with much of the heavily developed commercial zones all the way from Moratuwa to Negombo. Bummer. Methinks they are not going to implement it in the Western Province.

Last week at a hearing held at the GA's office in Galle a few of the displaced people who own land within the buffer zone raised some questions. 'Will we have ownership of the land even though we will be resettled elsewhere?, and can we have complete control over what the land is used for?'. The GA guaranteed them that the Government would not acquire the land. Let's see if they keep their word. The people also said that if they were given an early warning system, like a few basic sirens every few kilometers along the coast, they don't need a buffer zone. Have some respect for democracy for chrissake. The people don't want to be resettled elsewhere. They just want some help to rebuild their houses where they were.

Anyways, let's say the buffer zone is about saving people and preventing future damage, here's a new idea:

Why don't they do a flooding chart to see which places need more than a 100 meters buffer and which places don't need a buffer at all? We all know that in some places all along the Eastern and Southern coast the Tsunami affected different areas in different ways. For instance the village of Panama had only one death while all the areas around it suffered heavy damage. (The one death was a guy who was actually on his way back from another village). This is because of the dunes between the sea and Panama. In Tangalle the only place in town that was severely damaged was the market. Much of Tangalle town was saved because it lies fairly high. So in cases like Panama and Tangalle implementing a 100 meters buffer would make no sense because the don't need a buffer.

But in other places like Peraliya in Galle, and Akurala, Kalmunai, where the water came in upto 1.5 kilometers, a 100 meter buffer is clearly not enough. So why not do a bloody flood plan to see which places need a buffer zone and which places don't?

Or, is the buffer zone not about saving people at all?

Good debate you've raised. Now just as human rights is not one of our strong points - caring for the environment whilst we all bitterly squabble & fight & murder each other daily, is definitely not on the agenda. C'mon you know this.
In most parts of the world a 300m buffer zone is law - where educated people have come to value the enviroment & not just greed.
In S/Lanka - Chandrika & her mates are probably thinking - let's use this as an opportunity to land grab. So once they've worked out what they're going to do about the JVP - they will.
Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?