After the Flood – How to recover and better prepare for extreme weather in Sri Lanka

The heavy rains have finally subsided and people have stopped holding their breath. There is no imminent threat of further disaster. The extreme weather in Sri Lanka has passed. But, our vulnerability as a nation to a future disaster is still lingering on.

Is our Disaster Management Model flawed?

The Disaster Management Model used globally consists of four elements: Mitigation, Preparation, Response, and Recovery. Due credit needs to be given to the Sri Lankan community for our level of effectiveness in terms of response and recovery. Since the extreme weather in Sri Lanka impacted the livelihoods of over 500,000 people during the past few weeks, the whole country has united as one to respond to the crisis. With due time, actions will also be taken to in terms of recovery to help people to re-establish their lives. However, we have always failed on the two most important elements of this cycle – Mitigation and Preparation.

The monsoon that struck and destroyed many parts of the island was always expected. The timeline may have shifted a little to be later than usual and the magnitude of rain was definitely much higher than what anyone anticipated. However, all of us were fully aware of the fact that rain was coming. We were also aware of the fact that it could result in flooding and landslips. With all these information in place, were effective measures taken to mitigate the possible risks?

This isn’t a fact only the authorities are responsible for. It’s a given that maintenance of infrastructure and proper coordination among entities should have been done better by the government. However, as the people of the country, there was little effort from our end to mitigate the issues that we knew were forthcoming. This can be accounted to us not having access to the right information, or (the lesser appealing truth) that we chose to be ignorant even while having the information.

How do we recover?

When re-establishing communities, it is essential that due attention is given to the possibility that extreme weather in Sri Lanka will be more frequent than usual– similar to the global scenario. It is important that experts in the field get directly involved in decision making while also factoring in the opinions of the community. It isn’t enough to reinstate the people for one year, until the next flood or landslide happens. We require a sustainable solution and should ensure its implementation.

What about the next time?

It’s critical that we all understand the reason for the losses we experienced during the past few days. The very reason for this kind of extreme weather in Sri Lanka and other parts of the world has mostly to do with how we and our forefathers have been treating the nature that provides a home to all of us. We’ve lost our sense of humility. We consider ourselves to the most powerful force on earth when in reality, nature holds more power than any of its species have and will ever possess. Therefore, first and foremost, it’s time to start understanding the importance of treating nature the way it always deserved to be treated. To stop undermining its power.  Redefining our lifestyles in a way that it agrees more with the ecosystems that surround us and making sustainability THE way of life will help us to at least try and spare our future generations from witnessing similar catastrophes.

At the same time, it is also imperative that we take individual measures to protect our hard earned valuables through means of insurance. So that when crisis strikes, we can focus on what’s really important – people, lives, and communities, with the assurance that we will still have security in terms of assets and finances.

Additionally, as a nation, it’s time to collaborate with each other and to find a solution that will prevent lives being lost in vain. Whether it is through technology, innovation or simple communication, it’s important to have a system in place to protect our people.

It’s never a good solution to wait till after the flood to wonder why things happened and what we could’ve done better. Let’s not let this happen a third time.

Let’s be the proactive nation that was known for its resilience since ancient times. Let’s protect our people and safeguard a secure future for us all together.