Alerting people in landslide areas
By Faraza Farook
If the residents living in areas prone to landslides were made aware of the signs of an impending landslide, then the lives of the hundreds buried under mounds of sand during the recent floods could have been saved, Prof. Kapila Dahanayake of the University of Peradeniya said.

"People living in terrain that are prone to landslides can in most cases avoid the ill effects if there is an awareness about the causes, signs and dangers of impending landslides," Prof. Dahanayake said last week.

He said that, construction of houses on unstable rock foundations or on locations of previous landslides should be discouraged. Prof. Dahanayake said that during his recent visit to the flood affected areas, he was told of instances where people had noticed certain signs such as cracks on walls and slanting trees, but being unaware of the consequences that might result had not taken any precautions.

He said that if the people in such areas were made aware of the danger signs, they could have been evacuated prior to the disaster thus to a great extent minimising if not avoiding the loss to life and property.

Following the devastation caused by the recent floods, steps are now being taken to instruct the people and raise their awareness levels- through programmes held at schools and religious places of worship- on how to preempt landslides by being aware of its causes and on how to look out for danger signs that signal landslides so that they could take necessary precautions thereby avoiding the dangers to life, limb and property.

Some of the reasons for the recent landslides as pointed out by Prof. Dhanayake was the construction of highways without taking into account sites of previous landslides that could be liable to damage due to continuous rainfall as it often happens in the Kandy District.

He said that in the last three decades landslides have occurred with increasing frequency in the Central Highlands. He attributed this to the rapid increase in population and the resulting construction of houses on slope and on unstable land.

The University don said that in Sri Lanka one of the main causes of landslides is the heavy rainfall which at times is recorded to be in the region of 75 mm and above and could trigger a landslide in certain geologically weak sloping lands of the Central Highlands. Another reason is due to unplanned construction of highways and also due to the rapid rate fo deforestation which leaves vast tracks of land prey to soil erosion.

Meanwhile the Met Department said that flooding in these areas was due to the large amount of rainfall causing the overflowing of the many rivers and streams that cross and criss cross these areas.

The intensity of the rainfall and man-made factors were factors for, G.B. Samarasinghe of the Met Department said. He said that the department was seriously handicapped due to the breakdown in the telephone communication link with the weather station in Ratnapura that could have provided the much need observation on weather conditions every three hours.

This problem lasted for two days from May 17 to 19. However, the observatory was able to pass on all information around 4 p.m. on May 18 through a mobile phone borrowed from a visitor. Until such time there had been no communication on the weather situation from the affected areas.

The Global Telecommunication System that transmits meteorological data had also failed from time to time during May 14 and May 20 which was another obstacle to the Met department's weather observation, he said.

The recent calamity had once aging underlined the urgent need for disaster preparedness if Sri Lanka is to prevent or minimise such a catastrophe in the future.

Self-immolation by father, probe ordered by Ministry
The Ministry of Education has ordered an investigation into the suicide of a parent over the alleged refusal by the Kolonnawa Balika Vidyalaya to admit his daughter to the commerce stream.

Piyal Udayakumara, 37 years old set himself ablaze in front of the school in protest of the institution's refusal to admit his daughter in the commerce stream. While his daughter 16 year old Nadeeka Sevvandi claimed she had the required aggregate for entry and had passed her ordinary level with a credit pass in Mathematics, residents in the area state that earlier her family had said she failed in mathematics.

Though Nadeeka was admitted to the Arts stream of the Kolonnawa Balika Vidyalaya, she was very keen to study commerce. This led her parents to request the school authorities to admit her to the commerce class.

Secretary, Ministry of Education Mr. V.K. Nanayakkara told The Sunday Times that the Director of National Schools had been asked to conduct an investigation into the incident.

He said he was unable to comment on the issue in the absence of sufficient information. However the aggregate required for entry into the commerce stream could differ from school to school, Mr. Nanayakkara said.

"If it's true that this child doesn't have the required marks in mathematics as reported in newspapers, then she cannot be admitted to the commerce stream. “If we make an exception and admit her, then we would be setting a precedent," he said.

Nadeeka's father Piyal had soaked himself in kerosene and set fire to his body last Friday after a final plea to the school principal had also apparently failed.
The School's Principal Mrs.Yasanthi Herath refused to comment on the issue.

Bar Council support Desmond for UN post
The Bar Council of Sri Lanka last week decided to support the nomination of Desmond Fernando, P.C. as the United National Special Rapporteur. At a meeting held on May 31 the Bar Council ratified the decision of the Executive Committee of the Bar Association to support Mr. Fernando's nomination as UN's Special Rapporteur.

The speakers agreed on supporting Mr. Fernando in view of services rendered to the Bar Association of Sri Lanka, the Legal Aid Committee and the Human Rights Committee of the Bar Association.

Mr. Fernando was Secretary of the Bar Association from 1975 to 1977, Vice President in 1998 and President from 1989 to 1991.

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