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And Another One Bites the Dust

Not the dust this time though but tragically – water! Snippets refers to accident – a preventable one at that, when two speeding Trishaws [no surprise there!] crashed into each other and one jam packed with 06 souls [wasn’t there a Traffic ‘Rule’ introduced some moons ago that not more than 03 passengers should be transported in a 3-wheeler – well that’s another story]. Returning to this ‘amphibious 3-wheeler’, well as it was designed not to float or withstand high impact, it did what it was supposed to – crush the people inside and throw them out into the water – sadly a 21 year old female died on the spot and two kids missing in the water [presumably drowned] and the Trishaw washed away for one [01] km along the Viyana Canal by the Mahiyangana-Badulla Road, vide Daily Mirror Sat June 10th 2017.


What ever happened to ‘Stringent Laws’ applicable for Trishaws? Seriously, why the heck do ‘Authorities’ pontificate from roof tops that ‘this Law’ and ‘that Rule’ will be introduced when all it does is to fall on deaf ears? Reverting to maximum passengers – 03 Adults/04 kids, yet Trishaws continue to overload passengers with tragic, totally preventable consequences! Then what about 3-wheelers that still go around sans ‘Taxi-Meters’? What about trishaws that still operate without vital information on Driver/Owner affixed? There was a time when 3-wheelers had to prominently display an ‘All Clear’ Sticker from Police – now mostly idiotic, frivolous and openly racist ‘messages’ abound on a majority of these 3-wheelers who invariably zigzag their chaotic way, cutting thru or choking traffic at will, flouting all norms of traffic safety! Who cares??


Floods and its deadly aftermath

Come May and the South-West Monsoon in its wake brings forth eagerly awaited rains in the Western, Southern and Central Provinces of Sri Lanka – just that since of late it doesn’t simply rain but pours buckets incessantly flooding all low lying areas in its path and invariably triggering off landslides, some minor but quite a few major with its fatal effects. Here again have the ‘Authorities’ been vigilant? The answer is an emphatic NO!


Flood Preventive measures are numerous and should be interlocked with relevant entities: For starters NO denuding of forests above the natural ‘Tree-Line’ of the Up Country that was 4,000 feet above Sea Level, now not possible but it should be enforced for all areas above 5,000 feet; all tea fields must adopt stringent soil conservation practices such as establishing forests belts between tea fields, ensuring that all lateral / leader drains conform to original dimensions; all exposed areas within tea fields be either in-filled with tea [after soil rehabilitation] or planted with leguminous cover crops – in short NO cultivated area to have unsightly areas exposed to rain and wind as this brings about preventable soil erosion. A tea field with stand 5,500 bushes per acre [13,500 per ha] along with required stand of both Low/High Shade trees, mimics a forest.


Soil Conservation, Soil Fertility & Flood Damage minimizing are interlocked

Many potato and vegetable growers and indeed forestry officials up-county appear to be ignorant of this basic truism! The conservation of life-enhancing, invaluable top-soil is absolutely vital at least from the angle of soil fertility. The soil in patchy tea/vegetable lands is lost by erosion due to high intensity rain-fall. Erosion is consequent to detachment and dislocation of soil particle by rain-fall. The ‘onsite’ effects of soil erosion is the loss of fertility and the ‘offsite’ effect is the silting of reservoirs and the blockage of down-stream water ways and drains. Significantly the silting of reservoirs negatively impacts the capacity of hydro-electric power generation and irrigation, to say nothing about the death and destruction when Monsoonal showers wreak its fury, period!


Factors that contribute to EROSION are: [1] Rainfall [erosivity] [2] Vulnerability of the particular area for erosion [edodibility] [3] Slope length of land [4] Steepness of the land [topography] and [5] Type and extent of soil cover and of course [6] the management [or lack of it] in such areas.


Snippets doesn’t wish to sound pedantic by offering above ‘technical stuff’ yet the calamitous events relating to the recent flooding of low-lying areas and ghastly, destructive mega land-slides prompts yours truly to record such vitally important information in backdrop of so called Disaster Management authorities being caught off guard and proving to be mostly ineffective & clueless!!      

Regional Plantation Companies [RPC] managing our Tea Plantations and all Tea Small Holders need to strictly conform to all TRI accepted soil conservation practices. Disturbingly, apart from just a handful, most RPCs have ‘conveniently’ ignored soil conservation practices such as Draining, solid/live ‘Terracing, SALT hedges, proper stands of Low/High Shade, fortifying road side edges/banks etc or for that matter even to maintain estate roads – now mostly reduced to that akin to dried up river-beds – so when the heavens open up the rain water/deluge takes the path of least resistance and gushes into streams that gorges their way thru rivulets and onto rivers and low lying areas ‘unchallenged’ to inflict havoc along the way, inundating homesteads and indeed ‘swallowing up’ entire townships! Re-building roads/buildings is of course a must but more importantly to ensure that ALL ‘players’ associated with soil conservation, managing forestry, estates, irrigation channels, reservoirs and flood prevention must ACT together. It is common sense to have in place an all-encompassing Monitoring Authority to supervise to ensure that customary floods do NOT result in such destruction to human and animal lives in future.


Why are ‘road-sides’ particularly vulnerable to Land Slides? As motorists this is indeed a vexed issue. To protect road sides, one must first check the hill tops and higher ground ABOVE the land-slide prone roads. The apex of mountains/hills must be afforested ASAP. No houses/huts be ever erected on exposed soils at high gradients as such area are vulnerable.  All road side banks too to be fortified with Bamboo at edges and grasses such as Vetiver – indeed Bamboo and such bio-engineering interventions with mangroves are absolutely vital for mitigation of riverbank erosion.


Photographic Evidence of callous disregard to clearing up clogged drains

This photo was taken by ‘Snippets’ himself whilst walking at point between Nugegoda Railway Station and Jumbugasmulla Road end along the Old Kesbawa Road. Any Tea Planter of yore would have cleared up this road-drain obstacle [here a big Guard Stone!] within 24 hours, flat. Not State Authorities though! Snippets informed top people in the upper echelons of power though – who promised to have it cleared up but nothing of the sort occurred! The block still remains! State authorities may say, “Look, we have Rs 8 billion worth of work for repairs after the recent disaster – what’s this insignificant ‘road-side-drain-block’ to do with all our work?” Snippets would answer thus: it is ‘little obstructions’ such as these road-side drain blocks that need to be cleared and maintained before waiting until the whole road surface is totally ruined! Each MC, UC, TC, GS area RDA office etc must be allotted a particular area of operation and then supervised. No rocket science as the cliché goes! Trouble is many of these VIPs don’t know What to do, When & How!


Enjoy your Drive with Zero Alcohol and sufficient Sleep before planned journey – Cheers! Dyan [dyans@sltnet.lk & dyan.sene@gmail.com]