Sri Lanka dam safety confab gets Dutch expertise

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, especia