Effective disaster management calls for better co ordination
The need for an umbrella organisation to alert people on impending natural disasters as well as coordinate relief work has come into focus with the situation that resulted from Sunday's tsunamis.

When several organizations should have been sharing information and working together to pick up warning signs of such natural disaster, the co-ordination between these institutions has been activated only since the tsunamis struck on Sunday.

The Meteorology Department is now co-coordinating its activities with the Geological Mines and Survey Bureau (GSMB) on picking up warnings of any future tsunamis or other natural disasters as it is the institution that has island wide offices and operates 24 hours a day. But sadly before December 26 there was little sharing of information between the two institutions.

The Meteorology Department, which had a seismograph several years ago but not anymore, is dependent on the GSMB to get reports of seismic activity, reliable sources said. They said the Department is not in a position to tally it's readings on the graph with the weather patterns that are monitored every three hours by it's regional offices to issue warning of any changes in sea activity such as rising water levels.

The Technical Officers Unions of the Departments have repeatedly asked that a seismograph be installed in the department and for coordinatiamong the relevant bodies. Several institutions that deal with similar subjects come under several ministries and thus making co-ordination difficult. For example the Irrigation Department gets data from the Meteorology Department and issues flood warnings while the Fisheries Department gets regular weather updates on sea activity, which is relayed, to the fishing communities.

There is also little co-ordination between these institutions and the national disaster management centre. Meanwhile, Meteorology Director G.H.P. Dharmaratne said the Department has satellite technology to track cyclones and gather weather data but earthquakes and tsunami activity is not considered as meteorological events and hence its equipment cannot detect such a phenomena in time, the Director said.

But since the event, the Met Department has kept in touch with the Hawaii based Tsunami warning centre and is gathering information on the alerts they issue. Other sources said there was a need for closer co-operation between Sri Lanka and India in the field of meteorology including other relevant subjects as similar natural disasters affect both the countries.

The major natural disasters that could affect Sri Lanka have been identified as cyclones, floods, landslides, drought, forest fires and thunderstorms. But with the incidence of the tsunamis, it is time to look at other natural calamities that can befall Lanka.

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