In the first weekend of April, the Sarvodaya Nagarodhaya Center hosted a planning meeting to launch a disaster mitigation project sponsored by the IDRC. Titled “Strengthening Resilience in Tsunami-affected Communities: Coastal Bioshields, Livelihood Development, and Village Knowledge Centers in India and Sri Lanka,” this project was designed in response to the disastrous tidal wave of December 2004.
After the Tsunami, it came to light that there was relatively less loss of life and property in coastal areas shielded from the sea by mangrove wetlands and other thick coastal vegetation. This fact was also apparent in villages where there were efficient communications systems and information on coastal hazards. In places like Nallavadu village in Pondicherry, there was no loss of life because warnings were provided by telephone or a public address system linked to international information sources. Experience has also shown that the resilience of the poor to natural disasters increases as livelihoods are made more secure and diverse.
This project sponsored by the IDRC and implemented in Sri Lanka by Sarvodaya is taking these facts into consideration to better-prepare coastal communities to face any natural disaster. It will develop and test innovative tools to link ecological rehabilitation and coastal shelterbelt forests to improve local livelihoods in part through village-level access to strategic information. The project coordinators hope that the results obtained will demonstrate how new technologies and local institutions can reduce the vulnerability of the poor to natural disaster in coastal areas.
The planning meeting was held on 1st and 2nd April and was attended by representatives from the IDRC, the MSSRF, Practical Action, Sarvodaya, and CIDA. Mr. Renauld Lafond, Mr. Rana Auditto, Ms. Katherine Hay, and Mr. Frank Tulus participated for the IDRC while Dr. V. Selvam and Mr. Senthil Kumaran represented the MSSRF. Ms. Ramona Miranda, Dr. Vishaka Hidellage, and Mr. Ramitha came from Practical Action while Mr. Nihal Atapattu of CIDA also took part. Dr. Vinya Ariyaratne, Mrs. Udani Mendis, Ms. Priyanthi Daluwatte, and Ms. Sajini Pathiraja represented Sarvodaya. The initial planning was completed and targets set for the first month of the project. The same group of project partners will meet again later in the month for a follow-up.