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Sat, 25 October 2014 13:13:39
Sri Lanka dam safety confab gets Dutch expertise
04 Apr, 2011 07:49:05
Apr 04, 2011 (LBO) - A Dutch expert will lead an annual forum on disaster risk organized by LirneAsia, a regional policy research body that has been active on improving dam safety policies in Sri Lanka which is an island dotted with thousands of reservoirs.
LirneAsia says Sri Lanka has 12,000 small dams and 350 medium and large dams in the country.

"Of these, more than 200 small dams breached in the successive floods of 2011 and greater tragedies were avoided by emergency action on larger dams," the think tank said.

"But has there been any impact on perceptions in Colombo among decision makers and the media, with the honorable and significant exceptions of the Minister of Irrigation and officials of the World Bank funded Dam Safety and Water Resource Planning Project?"

Sri Lanka was hit by record floods in late 2010 and 2011 in quick succession which officials say exceeded the probabilities used in the design of even the large dams.

The World Bank funded project started work on the highest risk dams in Sri Lanka before record floods. Though Sri Lanka has built many dams in recent decades, less attention has been paid to maintenance and safety.

LirneAsia, which gave input to the World Bank project, says more need to be done, especially in finding a way to fund dam maintenance and safety on an ongoing basis.

In Sri Lanka, authority over dams is highly diffuse with multiple ministries and entities having responsibility for dams in the same river system, LirneAsia said.

LIRNEasia ahs proposed that maintenance be funded from user charges or Velvidane Panguva.

In the Netherlands, the Directorate for Public Works and Water Management (Rijkswaterstaat) or the water boards that raises revenue from all the landholders who receive protection have responsibility.

Holland also has dams or dikes, to hold off the sea from low lying areas.

At the sessions on April 27, Arad Correlje, an expert on dam safety policies will share the Dutch experience.

A community leader from Sri Lanka;s Kantalai area as well as government officials and other professionals will also contribute. In 1986 in Kantale, a large dam was breached costing 176 lives.

Flooding also causes enormous economic losses.

LirneAsia says options to manage risk include making inundation maps public and using insurance.

In Holland climate change is also being factored into Dutch policy. LirneAsia says some may argue that Sri Lanka's record floods could be due to due to climate change.

"What can economists and policy scientists say about this?"

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