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Serving Sri Lanka

This web log is a news and views blog. The primary aim is to provide an avenue for the expression and collection of ideas on sustainable, fair, and just, grassroot level development. Some of the topics that the blog will specifically address are: poverty reduction, rural development, educational issues, social empowerment, post-Tsunami relief and reconstruction, livelihood development, environmental conservation and bio-diversity. 

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Let US Rebuild

Great cities of Europe and Japan arose from the ashes of the world war.Adversity brings out the best in people. Natural calamities such as the great tsunamis will be no exception.WE SHALL REBUILD a Great Society out of the flood of tears that were shed by the fathers, mothers,sons and daughters of those whose lives were cut short by the tsunami!Though it is largely unknown to the western world, Sri Lankan culture goes back 2500 years.Two history books,Deepawamsa and Mahawamsa, written over centuries starting from 100AD, chronicle the history of Sri Lanka.They say that there was a great tsunami around 200 BC, and princess Viharamahadevi offered herself to the oceanto save the country. Her son established his kingdom in the north central city of Anuradhapura.The next millennium and half was the most enlightened period in Sri Lankan history.Irrigation tanks and canals built still serve hundreds of thousands of farmers.Already in the second century BC they built magnificent 9-storey high, 1000 room, monasteries.Many mighty dagobas, parks, flower gardens, and irrigation tanks were constructed during the ensuing centuries.The city utilized sophisticated urban planning techniques. Most people were farmers, and their religion was budhism,yet areas were set aside for foreign travelers, and people of other faiths. There were well developedhospitals for both humans and animals. Stone carvings and wall paintings of exquisite beauty were world famous.Some of these have recently been named world heritage sites by the UNESCO. Scholars from Pliny the elder to MarcoPolo have written glowing accounts about this civilization.
We sense that we are on the verge of another great revival of Sri Lanka. The silver lining, if any,of the 2004 tsunami is that, it has united Sri Lanka in its determination to rise up to meet many challenges.It has also brought much attention to Sri Lanka, and great many people all over the world like what they havediscovered about the country and its people, and many are determined to help the country work toward usheringin the next golden era. Selfless actions by people in the aftermath of the tsunami have taught that problemsthat have haunted us for the last several decades such as the ethnic squabbles are only foolhardy exercisesto massage egos. Through this tragedy, an opportunity has presented itself to solve nagging problems of the yesteryear,and Sri Lankans must be determined to grab hold of it. This is the only right way to memorialize the dead,for then their deaths would not have been in vain.
What will the citizens of the world gain by helping out Sri Lanka?Sri Lanka is a just society that invests in its people, and has always worked toward worldpeace and prosperity for all. There is no denying of the fact that, monetarily speaking,Sri Lanka is a poor country. In fact, the personal income for many hover around $30 per month.However, from the perspective of human capital, it is very rich. I submit to you the following facts.Democracy and secular governance are firmly entrenched. Its life expectancy is 70 years for males and75 years for females; primary school enrollement is 100%; adult literacy rate is 92%.It has overcome the gender bias; school enrollment rates at all levels are the same for boys and girls;the first female prime minister of the world is from Sri Lanka, and its current president is a woman.In fact the person in charge of coordinating rebuilding efforts is a woman as well.Sri Lanka has an advanced health care system.Mortality rate at birth is 0.3 per thousand,a rate comparable to the most advanced countries of the world.Sri Lanka is cognizant of the value of protecting the environment;63% of electric power is generated using eco-friendly hydro power plants,and eight percent of the land area is protected as national parks. In the 2005 Quality of Life Index,published by the Economist magazine, Sri Lanka is ranked 43rd, only about dozen steps behind France and UK.United States has recognized Sri Lanka as being (a) Governed Justly ,(b) Investing in People, and (c) Promoting Economic Freedom.These three criteria have made Sri Lanka one of only 16 monetarily poor countriesin the world that are eligible for participation in the US Millenium Compact Challenge.
From a monetary viewpoint, rebuilding Sri Lanka will only cost a drop in the bucket.Only a few dollars can make a huge difference. With $2000 one can build a structurallysound house for a family of 3. For $500 a fisherman can buy a traditional fishing boat.For $5000-$10000 a school building can be constructed. School supplies for a child willonly cost less than ten dollars. Indeed, basic needs of an orphan in Sri Lankacan be met with as little as fifteen dollars a month. Even a penny is worth something.The total cost of rebuilding has been estimated at around 2.5 billion US dollars.When compared to the 1 billion dollar price tag of a single B2 bomber, even thetotal rebuilding cost does not appear to be too much.
While we are engaged in the rebuilding, let us be mindful of several things.First, there are many remote areas that were badly affected, and people thereneed as much help as anyone else. One may maximize the impact of their reliefefforts by helping out people in such areas. Second, there is a huge digitaland information technology gap between urban areas and villages.Projects aimed at rebuilding libraries, computer labs etc.in villages should help bridge the gap. Third, our involvementin Sri Lankan communities should be long term. Through therebuilding projects direct links can be established betweenSri Lankan communities and the rest of the world, and thesewill open up multitude of opportunities in the future toengage in endeavors that will improve living standardsof our neighbors across the globe and nourish the minds of their young.
Sri Lanka is famous for breathtakingly beautiful sunrises.Our vision ought to be is to rebuild a Sri Lanka in which for every child,every waking or sleeping moment is as beautiful as the sunrise they wake up to.Each one of us is only a small cog in the machinery of this vision, yet in theaftermath of the tragedy there are hundreds of thousands of small cogs meshingtogether perfectly to create a fine tuned precision rebuilding machine that isalready breaking ground. We must pat each other on the back for performing our respective tasks.


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