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Since the publication of the 1st edition, natural and societal hazards
have increased rapidly. The main theme of the book remains and
additional material and chapters have been added.

H.M.M.B. Seneviratne, B.A. Hons (Cey), M.Phil. (Notts.),


ISBN 978-955-52362-6-3

Chapter 1

What is an environmental hazard

An environmental hazard is a deadly or injury causing effect originating

from natural and human environment. Occurrence of a hazard results in
the destruction of life, property and livelihoods of the community in
which it occurs.

Two major forces form the environmental hazards.

1. Natural environmental forces

2. Societal environmental forces

Natural environmental forces are geologic in nature and encompass

cosmological, solar, earth core system, climatic and biological systems
in operation. These are identified within the realm of geologic system,
because their influence is studied in the time scales of geologic history.
Societal environmental hazards originate from the society induced and
society made systems. Society induced system is associated with all the
areas of interaction between society and natural forces. Society made
hazard is either individual or group in nature and they occur when
corruption infiltrates the ethical and behavioural domains of the society.

Environmental hazards in context

Study of environmental hazards in this book is placed within the context

of environmental change. The natural environmental change is a
continuous process activated by the earth’s cosmological and geological
evolution. Society is also a constantly changing organisation, which
utilises or controls natural and cultural environments.
Environmental change is the process of change of the nature and
dynamics of space and place. The concept of environmental change
emerged from the studies on changing nature of earth systems, like
green house gases, ozone depletion, soil erosion, desertification and
emergence of new diseases. The geological forces of the environment
create changes in the physical environment and form various types of
hazards. Society change space and place through many types of
consumption systems from cultivation to recreation and in the present

civilisation, culture has become the primary force behind change of
natural space and place. Human activities utilise culture to develop
space and place and in doing so create a constant competition for places
(Sack, 1999). Therefore we can assume that, natural environmental
hazard is created or formed when there is a crisis between nature of
place and culture, and the societal hazard is formed when there is a
conflict between the established forms of culture and new or emerging
strands of culture.
The historical transformation of human behaviour is recognised as one
of the most important factors in the construction of many social
responses to environment and concept of hazards. Use of a response
model is clearly detailed in Qurantelli (1998). Dale and Robinson (1996)
claim that long-term sustainability is a process of reconciliation between
ecology, economics and society. The human response to environmental
change and hazard is conducted through either adaptation or avoidance.
However, total adaptation is not possible and avoidance is extremely
Since 1960s the place of environmental change has become one of the
most important approaches in the study of environment. The global plate
tectonics and study of Quarternary history has changed our
understanding to be more scientific and now all global environmental
problems can be addressed through the utilisation of this concept
(Slaymaker and Spencer:1998).

New strands of culture

Ethnic identity, feminist thinking and human rights has also introduced
many new social perspectives on hazards. These are more important in
the developing world where there is a deeper connection between
environment and social groups based on ethnicity, women play a more
crucial role in the survival of family and human rights are constantly
violated. For example in Sri Lanka, the social group associated with the
coast, where fishing is the major occupation is stricken with poverty due
to high level of hazardous nature in their occupation. In the tea
plantations the work force most exposed to continuous wetness (as they
walk among the dew filled tea bushes) is women and respiratory
ailments are more common among them. Most of the poor live in
marginal areas and when they are faced with hazards, relief and
compensation is not provided on a free and fare basis, because of
corruption in the public and private sector organisations in Sri Lanka.
However the fishermen and farmers in the developed world are not poor

and are less exposed to hazards, basically due to existence of a less
hazardous social system, which warn of an incoming hazard and provide
proper relief when a hazard occurs. Then it is clear that the social
organisation is of paramount importance in the study, preparation and
recovery from hazards.

History of the study of environmental hazards

The history of impact of environmental hazards is noted since the

beginning of organised agriculture and living in a defined environment.
It is because the effect of any hazard is felt and society feels injured or
damaged when people have a definite place to live.
Modern study on environmental hazards began through the study of
natural hazards in the middle part of twentieth century within the
domain of physical geographers. Natural hazards were discussed in
geology, engineering and agricultural sciences within the topics of
geological evolution ( Hutton, 1937 and Strahler and Strahler, 1976).
Gilbert White (1936 and 1945) and Smith (2001) produced the social
perspective to the study of natural hazards. Geographers led the hazard
based approach and sociologists were using a disaster based approach
( Mileti et al, 1995). 1973-74 killer drought of the Sahel brought about a
new thinking on hazards and the effect of drought, disastrous cyclones
and earthquakes in the decade of 1970 brought awareness on natural
hazards to world organisations. White (1974), White and Hass (1975)
and Burton (1978) were primarily responsible for the development of
thought on natural hazards. The studies conducted by the author from
1974 to 2005 in Sri Lanka, United Kingdom, Nigeria and Norway, on
the effect of climatic change and migration in Sahel, climatic change and
social destabilisation in Sri Lanka and hazard preparedness in Sri Lanka
is also used in the formation of this presentation. The above studies were
conducted using the primary methodology of White (1974).
The rapid rise in population in the developing world between 1970 and
1980 made the impact of natural hazards more exposed to the global
academic and research community. Introduction of personal computers
and formation of Internet made the exchange of information a norm in
the study of sciences. The rapidly rising population in the developing
world is settled in marginal land where impact of hazards are felt more
and number of deaths and injured have increased to alarming heights.
The death toll from 1973-74 Sahel drought were in the millions, most of
the dead in the 1970 Bangladesh cyclone were poor living on the beach
front, majority of the 1976 China earthquake victims were living in mud

houses. By 1980s hazards were also making an impact in Europe and
USA where high living standards were a norm.
This trend continued into 1980s and terrorism and rogue states became
places of killing grounds of many innocent people in cross fire. Between
1 and 2 million non-active population were killed and wounded between
1980 and 2000 by acts of terrorism. The rise of religious
fundamentalism added another dimension to hazards studies. The study
of hazards became the domain of all types of scientists and institutions.
The UN began the formation of disaster response teams (United Nations
High Commissioner for Refugees, UNHCR) and USA established
FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency). Soon all the
developed countries joined USA with the establishment of their own
national and some times regional hazard response organisations.
The emergence of new diseases and their rapid spread added another
dimension to hazards studies. Impact of Influenza epidemics, Malaria,
Polio and HIV Aids on populations of the developing world made the
developed world to wonder about the destructive power of disease in a
globalised world. The fast aeroplanes and easy immigration laws in the
1990s increased the risk of spread of communicable diseases in the
developed world. Reports of Malaria in and around the airports of the
developed countries and suspicion of transportation of animal disease
viruses by dust laden wind from the desertification of Sahel, brought
another important perspective to the study of hazards.

Hazard Management

By the time we entered the latter half of the 20 st century society has
become an extremely powerful force, affecting nature and its dynamics
leading to chaotic behaviour of natural things. In addition society was
changing so rapidly a crisis was formed between the established norms
and ethics and change. This change of living environment became a
great challenge to science and other belief systems of the society.
Most of the population of the world live on flood plains and coastal
lowlands. Alaskan Tsunami, Hurrican Andrew and Northridge
earthquake in USA, Kobe earthquake in Japan and the south Asian
Tsunami of 2004, showed the depth of vulnerability of human
population to natural environmental hazards. Poverty and ethnic
cleansing in Africa, globalised terrorism and gluttony of the elite in
developing countries have become more hazardous than the natural
environmental hazards causing massive loss of wealth.

The emergence of management science led to the formation of many
types of management systems, which were capable of providing answers
to environmental hazards. Environment also became a focus of
management as the demand for natural resources have risen to
unimaginable heights. The experiments conducted in countries like
Switzerland, which utilised its scenic beauty to earn about 65 percent of
its annual foreign exchange revenue and Finland, which managed to
become a country with highest standard of living through forestry
showed that the proper management of the natural and human
environment is able to develop a country. Techniques like forest
harvesting, spring regeneration and rainwater harvesting also showed
that there is great capability in existing resources. This type of thinking
led to the idea that hazards can be managed and the loss of property and
life can be minimised with the use of scientific management. It is
estimated that between January 2000 and December 2005, about 25 to
30 billion US dollars of property damage was prevented and 300 lives
were saved through the application of hazard management techniques in

The best story comes from the south Asian Tsunami of December 2004,
in which a schoolteacher from Eastern Sri Lanka saved about 40 people
from drowning, because he read about the warning signs of Tsunami
(that water recedes before the onslaught of the big Tsunami wave) in a
journal article about 4 years before the day of the Tsunami. Every
hazard has a level to which it can be managed and today most of the
societies have access to these systems of management and it is the
intention of this book to provide a very simple insight in to the
knowledge of environmental hazards.


Burton, I., Kates,R.W., and White, G.F. 1993 The Environment as

Hazard, 2nd edition, New York and London, Guilford Press; 1 st edition,
Dale, A. and Robinson, J. (eds), 1996, Achieving Sustainable
Development, Vancouver, University of British Columbia Press.
Hutton, J. , 1795, Theory of the earth, William Creech, Edinburgh.
Meyer, W.B. , 1996, Human Impact on Earth, Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press.

Mileti, D.S. , Darlington, J.D., Passerini,E., Forrest, B.C. and Myers,
M.F. 1995 Towards an integration of natural hazards and sustainability.
Environmental Professional 17: 117-26. et al, 1995).
Quarentlli, E.L. ed. 1998 What is a Disaster? , London and New York:
Slaymaker, O. and Spencer, T. 1998, Physical Geography and Global
Environmental Change, London, Longman.

Smith, K., 2001, Environmental hazards: Assessing Risk and Reducing

Disaster, Routledge, London.
Strahler, A.N. and Strahler, A.H., 1976, Elements of Physical
Geography, John Wiley, London.
White, G.F. 1936 The limit of economic justification for flood
protection Journal of Land and Public Utility Economics 12:133-48
White,G.F. 1945 Human Adjustment to Floods: A geographical
Approach to the Flood Problem in the United States, Research Paper 29.
Chicago, IL: Department of Geography, University of Chicago.
White, G.F. 1974 Natural hazards: Local,National,Global. New York:
Oxford University Press.
White, G.F. and Hass, G.E. 1975 Assessment of research on natural
hazards, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Chapter 2

Types of Environmental Hazards

Types of hazards are identified in this book under three major

categories: Geological, Man Induced and Manmade. However, it should
be always remembered that the three categories are interconnected by
many feed-in and feed-back systems, which do not allows any single
field of study to be masters of the study of environmental hazards. This
complex relationship demands just one factor: the study group on
environmental hazards should consist of field scientists who can relate
well with people probable to be affected by environmental hazards.
Sometimes these scientists should be able to relate to and take note of
belief systems, elder’s predictions and animal behaviour in a given

Table 2/1, indicates the major points of origin, time line and scale of
destruction as identified in this book, which will be used in the detailed

Table2/1, Types, presence and spatiality of environmental hazards

Type Presence Spatiality

Space Debris All the time Local to global Global
Meteorites All the time Local to Global
Magnetic Fluctuations Any time Local to Global
Pole shift Any time Global
Solar Flair Any time Local to Regional
Magnetic storm Any time Local to Regional
Earth Interior System failure Any time Global
Plate tectonics All the time Global
Mountain Building Cyclic Regional
Isostasy Cyclic Regional

Type Presence Spatiality

Earthquakes Sudden Local

Earth tremors Sudden Local
Subsidence Sudden Local

Climatic Change Cyclic Regional to Global

Climatic Oscillations Cyclic Regional
Drought Intermittent Local to Regional
Flood Intermittent Local to Regional
Landslide Intermittent Local
Tornado Intermittent Local
Blizzard Intermittent Local
Dust storm Intermittent Local

Biological evolution Evolutionary Local to Global

Species Extinction Evolutionary Local to Global
Species reduction Evolutionary Local to global

Technological Evolutionary Local to Global

Man Induced

Type Presence Spatiality

Cultivation Evolutionary Local, Regional, Global

Construction –
Settlement Evolutionary Local, Regional, Global
Roads Evolutionary Local, Regional, Global
Buildings Evolutionary Local, Regional, Global

Recreation – Evolutionary Local, Regional, Global

Man Made

Type Presence Spatiality

Corruption Evolutionary Global
Gluttony Self Global
Madness Self Global

*data for the table was collected from media and public records are
taken from, newspapers, television and radio. Public records are from
National Health Bulletins, many types of study reports on hazards by
various government and non-governmental organisations and field
studies and papers published by the author.
The study of hazard is not only directed towards the understanding of
these mysterious things, but to find a way of safeguarding life and
property in an increasingly crowded world.


Geological hazards are the hazards originating from the activities of

cosmological and geological forces which begin from the construction
of Space. Space consists of galaxies, solar systems, meteorites, asteroids,
planets and moons. In between these objects, there are large regions of
matter in state of gas and uncondensed matter. All these objects are
moving away from the centre of creation since the Big Bang.

Space Debris

Space debris is falling to the surface of the earth all the time in all the
locations. The average amount is calculated to be about 200 tons per
day. Most of this debris is harmless, but some streaks of hot material
have produced injuries and started forest fires. Most of this type of
space debris is pieces of meteorites.
Historically large sized space debris has fallen to the earth causing
regional destruction since the beginning of civilisation.
In Siberain taiga on June 30, 1908, the report of the eyewitnesses is that
a fireball nearly as bright as the Sun fell to earth. This explosion was so
great that it registered on seismic stations across Eurasia. The damage
was high but there are no deaths reported.
An eyewitness description
“At 7:20 AM, a mighty noise was heard resolving into thunder cracks,
though the sky was cloudless at the time. The noise caused houses to
shake. Many inhabitants saw "a fiery body like a beam" shoot from the
northwest above the ground before they heard the thunder. Immediately
afterward the bang was heard, and in the place the fiery body had
disappeared, a "tongue of fire" appeared, followed by smoke”
The scientific investigation could not find any piece of the meteorite as
it was melted on impact, but they only saw the imprint of the

catastrophe-- fallen trees, scorched and stripped bare, strewn radially
away from the explosion's epicentre (
The most recent event of meteorite hit in Sri Lanka is reported from
Pulasthipura, Polonnaruwa (
This was a rare type iron meteorite and X-Ray Fluorescence
Spectrometry analysis and several other tests, revealed that it consists of
elements Ti, Cr, Mn, Fe and Zn. The weight was 47.015 kg with a 4.75
specific gravity. It fell at Sankabodhi Viharaya, Pulasthipura,
Polonnaruwa on November 27 around 1.20 p.m
The probability of fall of space debris of the size which can cause death
and damage property is rare and human are helpless in the event. These
debris fall at the speed of light and so far people have not been able to
develop technology to counter this activity. However the “Star Wars”
programme of USA is monitoring all space debris and they are capable
of giving an early warning to the world in case of large debris directed
towards earth from space.

Polar wandering

Polar wandering is a rare cosmological event, which is supplemented by

paleoclimatic and paleomagnetic evidence. To geologists, the words
'polar wandering' has two distinctly different meanings. That's partially
because 'pole' can refer to the magnetic pole or to the geographic pole.
The polar wandering was ain conflict with continental drift for some
time, but now the crisis is over with the identification of the two
processes in separate form.
In any case, many geologists go no further than saying that it appears
there was some sort of shift in the pole position. But since the magnetic
poles and geographical poles are so close together, maybe it happened
and maybe it didn't. Wegner's idea was that the continents did the
moving, drifting through the oceanic crust and pushing up mountain
ridges ahead of them as they moved. (
The probability of polar wandering which can cause death and damage
to property is rare and human are helpless in the event. The major
impact is change in gravity and regional climate of the world. The
destruction is a slow and a gradual process.

Solar Flair

A flare is defined as a sudden, rapid, and intense variation in brightness

and heat associated with it. This occurs when magnetic energy that has
built up in the solar atmosphere is suddenly released. Radiation is
emitted across virtually the entire electromagnetic spectrum, from radio
waves at the long wavelength end, through optical emission to x-rays
and gamma rays at the short wavelength end. The amount of energy
released is the equivalent of millions of 100-megaton hydrogen bombs
exploding at the same time (
Solar flares have the ability to create heat waves, increase thunderstorms
and effect climatic change. The immediate damage from solar flares is
loss of satellite communications due to electronic damage caused by the
flares to their equipment.

Magnetic storms

Magnetic storms are of many types. The lightning storms are the most
common and they will be discussed under lightning at a latter place. In
here the magnetic storms resulting from solar disturbances are studied. A
magnetic storm is a period of rapid magnetic field variation
Magnetic storms have the ability to create heat waves, increase
thunderstorms and effect climatic change. The immediate damage from
solar flares is loss of satellite communications due to electronic damage
caused by the flares to their sensors. The large-scale solar flares have the
capability to destroy the climatic balance of the atmosphere and finally
make earth inhabitable.

Earth Interior System failure

The core of the earth acts like the rod of a dynamo, the fluid outer core
circles around this solid core and produce all the radioactive energy
required to construct the repelling of microwaves coming from space
and sun. If the outer core movement stops micro-wave radiation to enter
the atmosphere creating heavy magnetic storms, which can gradually
destroy all life forms within a period of about 3 years
( and Baker, 1999).

Plate tectonics

In geologic terms, a plate is a large, rigid slab of solid rock. The word
tectonics comes from the Greek root "to build." Putting these two words
together, we get the term plate tectonics, which refer to how the Earth's
surface is built of plates. The theory of plate tectonics states that the
Earth's outermost layer is fragmented into a dozen or larger and small
plates that are moving relative to one another as they ride atop hotter,
more mobile material. Before the advent of plate tectonics, however,
some people already believed that the present-day continents were the
fragmented pieces of preexisting larger landmasses ("super continents").
The break-up of the super continent Pangaea (meaning "all lands" in
Greek), which figured prominently in the theory of continental drift --
the forerunner to the theory of plate tectonics.
According to the continental drift theory, the super continent Pangea
began to break up about 225-200 million years ago, eventually
fragmenting into the continents, as we know them today. Scientists now
have a fairly good understanding of how the plates move and how such
movements relate to earthquake activity. Most movement occurs along
narrow zones between plates where the results of plate-tectonic forces
are most evident. There are three major types of plate boundaries. At
divergent boundaries new crust is formed as the plates pull away from
each other and, crust is destroyed as one plate dives under another along
divergent boundaries and the crust is neither produced nor destroyed as
the plates slide horizontally past each other at transform boundaries. At
or along all these types of boundaries faults are formed and the pressure
from the plate movement is released through these faults. When
excessive pressure is accumulated it is released in vibrating wave from
the center of the pressure point under the plate. If these vibrations are
felt at the surface of the earth we identify them as earthquakes

These activities form earth movements leads to mountain building,

isostatic imbalance, earthquakes, earth tremors and subsidence. Then
these activities will affect climate through emissions of carbon dioxides.
Mountain building type earth movements will destroy the earth on a
continental scale and human habitation will not be possible. These
movements will involve mountain building, massive plate collisions and
volcanic activity similar to the time of Himalaya Mountain Building
about 30 to 40 million years ago. This activity occur every 30 to 40
million years and the next episode of mountain building will begin soon.

However the term “soon” in geological time scales is about 100,000
years from now.

Isostatic imbalance

Isostatic imbalance occurs when plate boundaries sink by mountain

building and buoyancy of the crust begins to lift the plate when
mountain building ends. This is a slow process but can affect large areas
of the plate. These occur immediately after earth movements or release
of ice sheets. In Northern Europe melting of ice sheets have led to the
rise of land by about 12 to 15 meters in the last 30,000 to 40,000 years.
In Sri Lanka the present location of the beach between Kalpitiya and
Galle was lifted out of the seabed during the last 100,000 years. In some
places the coral reefs are slowly rising by about 1 centimetre every 10
years. The effect of slow rises and falls of the plate surface results in
subsidence and faulting


Earthquakes are the most disastrous environmental hazards, which lead

to total destruction of the environment and people within a space of
seconds. These are formed due to sudden release of accumulated
pressure in the plate boundaries, which then travel along already existing
fault lines or fault lines formed by the quake itself. In addition
earthquakes can occur in and around hot spots (where magma plumes
can rise through the mantle) of the earth where heat from the core of the
earth is released through magma flumes. Sri Lanka is not situated in an
earthquake zone, but it is surrounded by many plate boundaries, which
produce powerful earthquakes. To the west is the Carlsberg Ridge, to the
east is Sunda Trench and to the north and north east is the Karakoram –
Arakan Yoma boundary. There have been three destructive earthquakes
and one massive volcanic explosion in this region, in the last two years
making it the most active region in the world. Estimate deaths since
2004-12-26 Sumatra Earthquake is about 50,000 and death toll from the
Tsunami resulting from the 2004 – 12- 26 Sumatra earthquake is
estimated to be 245,000 (Discovery, 2006).There were about 9 tremors
felt between 1998 September to 2006 June 1 st in Sri Lanka as recorded
from media reports and geological Survey media reports. A few

geologists working in the field in Sri Lanka agree that the area around
Sri Lanka is becoming more active than in the past. Anyhow, Sri Lanka
will have to face earthquakes, but we do not know when.

Aalawathugoda- Ragala tremor, September 1997,

About 7.30 pm on the 26th of September 1997, a powerful tremor went

along the region between Alawathugoda to Ragala. The day after a field
visit was made to the area, which revealed that there were very minor
breakages of domestic items and slight falls of rock fragments and soil
on unstable cuttings. At one place the glass showcase was cracked and
another place the newly constructed toilet was tilted. A detailed article
was sent to Dinamina News Paper (Seneviratne, 1997). The crystalline
basement of Sri Lanka was shaken during the 20041226 earth quake
which caused the South Asian Tsunami and people at Madawala Ulpotha
and Ukuwela reported of muddy water in the underground springs in the
area and some tremor was also felt. ( Plate 1)


Volcanoes are distributed over the Earth's surface along the plate
boundaries or on hot spots. The line of volcanoes in the Pacific Rim area
is identified as “Ring of Fire", where more than half the active volcanoes
are present. In the past 25 years, scientists have developed a theory
called plate tectonics, which explains the locations of volcanoes and
their behaviour ( Volcanoes and their
behaviour are now fairly well understood and most of the dangerous
volcanoes are monitored 24 hours a day.
The reason for people living close to and in around volcanoes are that
the area around them is with highly fertile soil and volcanoes bring lot of
tourist money.
Great and Little Bases (Maha and Kuda Rawana Kotuwa) situated in the
southeastren corner of Sri Lanka are identified as extinct volcanoes, but
the risk of explosion in them are considered to be negligible.

Climatic Change

Climatic change or change in the present pattern of climate is a result of

the change of earth’s geological and human environment, which exerts
pressure on elements and factors of climate. Since 1960s the change in
the climate began to affect people through drought, flood and increase in

thunderstorms and tornadoes. The world organisations joined the study,
research and rehabilitation programmes in the 1970s and today it is one
of the major discussion topics in science and global programmes. A
detailed discussion on the effect of climate change and its impact on Sri
Lanka is presented in

Table 2/2, Tables CST/1 to CST 4

Table 2/2 The following consequences are associated with climatic


Consequences Global status Sri Lanka

Long term drought – Few areas –5percent of Not present
more than 5years the area
Annual drought Many areas – 30 % of 25 % of the area
the area
Seasonal drought Large area 40 percent of the area
Agricultural drought – Very Large area – 60 percent of the area
affect crop cultivation maximum of 45 % of
the area
Shortage in drinking Very large area – 60 percent of the area
water supply maximum of 70 percent
of the area
Desertification – Many areas – maximum 5 percent of the area
encroachment of desert or of 20 percent of the
loss of top soil through area
dust storms
Loss of species Very large area - 25 percent of the area
maximum of 60 percent
of the area
New diseases and Very large area – 25 percent of the area
increase in some of the maximum of 30 percent
old diseases
Effect of high intensity Rapidly increasing Rapidly increasing
Tornadoes Rapidly increasing Rapidly increasing
Seasonal climatic Broken Broken
Average wind speeds Increased Increased
Dust storms Increased Increased
Fight for water Locally begun Noted by some
International Begun May affect in future


* data for the table was collected from media and public records are
taken from, newspapers, television and radio. Public records are from
National Health Bulletins, many types of study reports on hazards by
various government and non-governmental organisations and field
studies and papers published by the author.

Climate of Sri Lanka (Seneviratne, 2004)

The following case study indicates the nature of climatic change

identified by many researchers in Sri Lanka, which can change the
nature, occurrence and impact of environmental hazards. Two major
systems of rain formation (monsoon system - inter-monsoonal
convection and tropical convergence activity) are identified in the

Table CST 1- Southwest Monsoon
South-west monsoon The tropical maritime air The most readily awaited rainfall process The global climatic change has
Monsoon is an air mass with a massive mass (massive and a in Sri Lanka, which brings rain to all the seriously affected the regularity,
amount of stratus clouds. These clouds are powerful climatic scenario) upper catchment areas of the major rivers reliability and the rainfall status
pushed by the upper atmospheric trade moves over the island in a – Mahaweli 60 percent/ Kelani 80 of the south west monsoon. The
winds and reach Sri Lanka riding on wave south-west north- east percent/ Kalu 80 percent/Walawe 40 prime reason for the above
disturbances. They form overcast sky and direction between may and percent/ Maha oya 80 percent/ Ging 80 situation stems from the effect of
rainy spells with moderate intensity long September. Enters the percent - Ozone hole and El Nino and La
duration rain. A few rainy days are broken island from the south-west The source of water for the cultivation of Nina scenarios. These elements
by a dry spell of two to three days. and run to the western wet paddy in the wet zone and irrigated affect the direction of flow and
hills. paddy in most of the newly established the quantity of water vapor
Stages of the Monsoon The system originates in settlements in the dry zone. Supports the supplied to the air mass. The
the southern Indian ocean/ plantation system in the hill and open air nuclear testing in the
1. Arrive in the island in the beginning of deflected by the coriolis mountain country of Sri Lanka. The south pacific in the 1950-60s
June and stay active till the middle of force/ pulled by the heat spice cultivation and the vegetable and may have caused the primary
September. cell formed in the north fruit cultivation depend heavily on it. damage and is being accelerated
Indian plains and Thar Can be called the lifeblood of the nation. by global warming.
2. The burst of the monsoon (the strong surface low pressure/ The strength of the south
wind currents and heavy rain occurs monsoon air mass drifts Causes floods in the western lowlands. westerlies may be weakened in
around 10 to 15th June. (sometimes the over Sri Lanka loosing The western mountains are subjected to the next 50 to 100 years as
burst will not occur like in 2001 and height and converging on prolonged rain, which causes landslides predicted by the climatologists.
2002). the south western and and gravel flow on steep slopes. The
western faces of the central time of the monsoon is the period of
A break may occur in August. hill country. heavy soil erosion in the area affected by
4. In some inland areas the stratus clouds
will encourage the growth of cumulus
clouds strong enough to activate

Table CST 2/ Northeast Monsoon
North – east Monsoon is an air mass which A result of the tropical The most readily awaited rainfall process in the The global climatic change
draws moisture from the Bay of Bengal on its maritime air mass eastern lowlands and mountains of Sri Lanka, has seriously affected the
way from the Central Asia to the equatorial low moving over the island which brings rain to all the upper catchment areas regularity, reliability and the
pressure. These clouds are pushed by the upper in a north-east /south- of the major rivers – Loggal oya, Badulu oya, rainfall status of the north-
atmospheric trade winds and reach Sri Lanka west direction between Uma Oya, Maduru oya Gal oya, Menik ganga. In east monsoon. The prime
riding on wave disturbances. They form overcast November and addition this brings rain to the reservoir system of reason for the above situation
sky and rainy spells with moderate intensity long February. the North, north central, Eastern and Uva stems from the effect of El
duration rain. A few rainy days are broken by a The system originates in provinces of Sri Lanka. Nino and La Nina scenarios.
dry spell of two to three days. the Siberian high The source of water for the cultivation of wet These elements affect the
pressure/ deflected by paddy in the dry and intermediate zones and direction of flow and the
Stages of the Monsoon the coriolis force/ pulled irrigated paddy in most of the newly established quantity of water vapour
by the heat cell formed settlements in the dry zone. Supports the supplied to the air mass. This
1. Arrive in the island in the beginning of in the equator drifts over cultivation of many types of vegetables and fruits is a result of the global
November and stay active till the middle of Sri Lanka loosing height of the eastern lowlands and hills. warming.
March. and converging on the Causes floods in the western lowlands. The The strength of the north
North eastern plains and western mountains are subjected to prolonged easterlies may be weakened in
In some inland areas the stratus clouds will the hill and mountain rain, which causes landslides and gravel flow on the next 50 to 100 years as
encourage the growth of cumulus clouds strong ranges of the eastern steep slopes. The time of the monsoon is the predicted by the
enough to activate Thunderstorms. highlands. period of heavy soil erosion in the area affected climatologists.
by it.
North-east monsoon is a weaker air mass than the
south-west monsoon.

Inter-monsoon periods

There are two inter-monsoon periods in the climatic regime of Sri Lanka.
1. October to November – Thunderstorm and Depressions (Cyclonic activity)
2. March to May - Thunderstorm and wave disturbances (weak depressions)

October to November – Thunderstorm and Depressions (Cyclonic activity)

Table CST3/ October to November – Thunderstorms and Depressions

Thunderstorms of Sri Lanka originate from the sea-land breeze Most of the thunderstorms are of The thunderstorms are It has been noted that the
activity or the water vapour supplied by the easterly waves of the moderate intensity, but some of them can an important element of intensity of thunderstorm
tropical convergence. be deep and rise to a height of 6 to 10 rain in the intermediate rain has increased as a
kilometres and produce heavy lightning zone. They provide a result of global warming.
Cyclonic activity is rare in the Weather of Sri Lanka, but the and torrential rain. valuable component of
depressions originating in the Bay Of Bengal area can develop heavy rain to these The global warming has
into cyclonic status. These cyclones generally travel across Sri Cyclonic rain is heavy and winds can areas. However they reduced the frequency and
Lanka in a south-easterly/ north westerly direction along a line damage property and lives. They cause can activate heavy intensity of cyclones in
from Batticaloa to Mannar. Sometime the powerful waves can damaging flash floods and mud flows. erosion and landslides. recent past.
affect the wide valleys of the highlands.

Table CST4/ Thunderstorm and wave disturbances
March to May - Thunderstorm and wave disturbances (weak depressions)


Drought is the state of insufficiency of water in the environment for

cropping, domestic, commercial and industrial uses. The detailed effect
of drought is explained well in the reference articles given in this book.
Thunderstorms of Sri Lanka originate from the sea-land Most of the thunderstorms The thunderstorms are an It has been noted that the
breeze activity or the water vapour supplied by the are of moderate intensity, important element of rain in intensity of thunderstorm
easterly waves of the tropical convergence. but some of them can be the intermediate zone. They rain has increased as a
deep and rise to a height of provide a valuable component result of global warming.
The wave disturbances form the pre-monsoon rains, 6 to 10 kilometres and of heavy rain to these areas.
which sometime resemble a mini-monsoon. These produce heavy lightning However they can activate The global warming has
generally travel across Sri Lanka either from the south and torrential rain. heavy erosion and landslides. not much affected this
west to north east (riding the front of the south- wave disturbances type
westerlies) or enter Sri Lanka from the east riding the Wave disturbances bring activity.
equatorial easterlies. These last for a maximum of 2 to 3 moderate rain.
days and bring considerable rain.
Drought cannot be fully controlled, but its damages can be minimised
through strict conservation practises and application of local recycling
methods supported by strict regulations.
The occurrence of drought in Sri Lanka is a well-researched topic, but
most calculations of damages have not taken into account of the social
cost, loss to community and cost of livelihoods lost. Information on the
effect of drought is presented in the Tables CST/1 to CST 4 and CS P 1
to CSP 5. More information is available under management of drought
in Chapter 5.

Flood and Flash Floods

Flood is the state of water overflowing the river or stream channel

causing damages to human lives and property. It is estimated about 35
percent of the population of the world and 89 percent of all the big cities
(over one million people) are located on riverbanks. It is possible to
control normal flooding which is an overflow of about 1 meter above
bank level. However any flood with more than 1meter flood level is
extremely difficult to control, unless heavy concrete protection systems
are placed. ( Refer to CSP 1 to 5).

Flash floods occur due to high intensity rainfall (over 60mm/hr) or

failure of dams and drainage systems. Rising temperatures originating
from climatic change lead to construction of more powerful cumulus
clouds, which produces flash floods. In addition, unplanned settlements
and road construction without proper drainage can also divert water flow
from high intensity rainfall to form flash floods.

Floods and flash floods are common in the developing world including
Sri Lanka, where there is low level of environmental planning in the
construction of settlements and roads.


Landslide is the commonly given name for many types of slope failure
in many locations under many types of climatological and geological
conditions. Landslides are triggered either by heavy rainfall, water
logging and earthquakes. Landslides of various sizes from a rock fall to
massive landslide are the second most damaging environmental hazard
in Sri Lanka after drought. Daily on the average about 200 cubic meters
of material fall into road surfaces from the cuttings and average of about
a billion rupees are spent annually on clearing this debris by various
government authorities. This is a result of constant contest between
society and nature in Sri Lanka, where the standards of road construction
are forgotten and roadside drainage is normally blocked by filling of the
drain to gain access to home, parking vehicles, construction of a sub
road, storing building material etc. In an intensive survey conducted
A9 from Kandy to Palapathwela the roadside drain was blocked in 631
places and three minor landslides, which blocked the free flow of traffic
was recorded.
In addition, large scale landslides in Sri Lanka occur in the areas where
abandoned plantations or deep weathered regoliths are present.

Table 2/3 Major types of activities identified commonly as landslides

Type Material Activated by Most recent best example

in Sri Lanka
Landslide A mixture of rock, soil Heavy rain, water logging and earthquakes. Naketiya/ Beragala-
Mass regolith and vegetation Societal factor - Deforestation and cultivation of steep slopes, mining Koslanda road –activated
Movement – by water logging and
rapid heavy rain
60 to 80
Mud slide Primarily a fluid mixture of Heavy rain, water logging and earthquakes Puwakgahawela /
rock, soil, regolith and Societal factor – Belihuloya-Badulla road –
vegetation Deforestation and cultivation of steep slopes, mining activated by heavy rain and
rock fall
Gravel slide Primarily a fluid mixture of Heavy rain in desert and thawing of snow in nival (snow) areas
Slump Collapse of a block of earth Heavy rain or undercut by a stream or river
Societal factor - Deforestation and cultivation of steep slopes, mining
Creep Slow sliding of a block of Water logging, saturation of weak underlying rock
earth Societal factor - Deforestation and cultivation of steep slopes, mining
Rock fall Instantaneous fall of rock Rock weathering –
Societal factor - Deforestation and cultivation of steep slopes, mining


Cyclone is the occurrence of heavy rain and high velocity winds over
100 kilometres per hour together in an area. This type of activity cause
heavy to disastrous damage to life and property. Cyclone cannot be
avoided, but early warning systems can be utilised to minimise damage.
Typhoons, tropical storm, tornadoes, thunderstorms, line squalls (more
than one thunderstorm) and lightning storms are also in this category of
environmental hazards.

Regionally the names used for these windy and rainy occurrences

 "hurricane" (the North Atlantic Ocean, the Northeast Pacific

Ocean east of the dateline, or the South Pacific Ocean east of
 "typhoon" (the Northwest Pacific Ocean west of the dateline)
 "severe tropical cyclone" (the Southwest Pacific Ocean west of
160E or Southeast Indian Ocean east of 90E)
 "severe cyclonic storm" (the North Indian Ocean)
 "tropical cyclone" (the Southwest Indian Ocean) (Neumann

Wind is the major damaging factor in a cyclone or any other related

activity mentioned above. Wind pushes any standing object at or over
100 km/hr velocities and when it reaches 200 km/hr most of the brick
buildings are destroyed.
Normally cyclones originate in the ocean and flow towards land. When
the cyclone approaches land it pushes seawater towards the coast and
form high waves. This process is called storm surge. The storm surge
enters the low-lying areas and floods the area in around beaches and
coasts. All the constructions built without proper construction
technology are destroyed. The worst damage from a cyclone was
reported from Hurrican Katrina.

Hurricane Katrina was the costliest and one of the deadliest hurricanes
in the history of the United States. It was the eleventh named storm, fifth
hurricane, third major hurricane, and second Category 5 hurricane of the
2005 Atlantic hurricane season, and was the sixth-strongest Atlantic
hurricane ever recorded (

The damage was reported to be about 75 billion dollars (2005 US
dollars), making it the costliest hurricane in U.S. history. The storm has
killed at least 1,836 people, making it the deadliest U.S. hurricane since
the 1928 Okeechobee Hurricane.

In Sri Lanka Cyclones occur in the eastern, north central and northern
provinces. The intensity of the cyclones varies with the strength of low
pressure in the Bay of Bengal. Premathilake (2004) has found a
recurrence interval of 14 to 15 for a major cyclone in Sri Lanka since
1964. Since 1964, a major cyclone occurred in 1978 and 1992 and the
next one is expected to occur in 2006. In addition cyclonic wind is
common in eastern and north central province where incidents related to
extreme wind damage is reported about 3 times a year.


Blizzard is a snowstorm. A blizzard is a severe winter storm condition

characterized by low temperatures, strong winds, and heavy snow. They
are caused when a high pressure area meets a low pressure area. To be a
blizzard the storm must decrease visibility to a quarter of a mile or 400
meters for three consecutive hours, including snow or ice as
precipitation, and have wind speeds of at least 35 miles per hour or 56
kilometres per hour , seven in the Beaufort scale). Another standard,
according to Environment Canada, is that the winter storm must have
winds of 40 km/h (25 mph) or more, have snow or blowing snow,
visibility less than 1 km (about 5⁄8 mile), a wind chill of less than −25 °C
(−13 °F), and all of these conditions must last for 4 hours or more,
before the storm can be properly called a blizzard.When all of these
conditions persist after snow has stopped falling, meteorologists refer to
the storm as a ground blizzard.
An extreme form of blizzard is a whiteout, when downdrafts coupled
with snowfall become so severe that it is impossible to distinguish the
ground from the air. People caught in a whiteout can quickly become
disoriented, losing their sense of direction (


Although tornadoes occur in many parts of the world, these destructive

forces of nature are found most frequently in the United States east of
the Rocky Mountains during the spring and summer months. In an
average year, 800 tornadoes are reported nationwide, resulting in 80
deaths and over 1,500 injuries. A tornado is defined as a violently
rotating column of air extending from a thunderstorm to the ground. The
most violent tornadoes are capable of tremendous destruction with wind
speeds of 250 mph or more. Damage paths can be in excess of one mile
wide and 50 miles long. Once a tornado in Broken Bow, Oklahoma,
carried a motel sign 30 miles and dropped it in Arkansas

Dust storm and sand storm

Dust storm and sand storm are the storms with dust (fine clay and silt
particles) and sand ( sand, silt and clay) particles in the air flow at
speeds above 60 km/hr.
Dust storms are common in arid and semi-arid regions, but they are now
drifting and travelling to marginally dry areas. It is formed by speedy
convection currents through rapid heating of the ground. If there is
enough heat to produce a vortex of rising hot air over fine sand or caly
then a dust devil is formed. Large vortices and areas of high pressure
deserts in the world produce massive dust storms. Sahel is noted for a
place common with dust stroms, but these are present in all semi-arid
areas. These can cause fog like low visibiltiy situations and lead to
traffic accidents and plane crashes. The simoom or simoon (sîmūm,
sîmūn) is the dust- and sand-laden desert wind of N Africa and Arabia
that contributes largely to the atmospheric dust over Europe; evidence of
the dust from simoon winds has also been found on the seafloor at
considerable distances from shore. The haboob is a sandstorm prevalent
in the region of Sudan around Khartoum. Sandstorms, the leading edges
of which often appear as solid walls of dust as much as 5,050 ft (1,525
m) high, also occur, although less frequently, in the SW United States.
The largest single dust strom in the world occurs in the Sahel between
November and February, which is known as Harmattan.

Galewela Tornado, 21042006, studied by the field class 2006,
Rajarata University of Sri Lanka.

To Dambulla

Residual hill (rocky)

Averiyapathaha Temple

From Galewela

Scale 1: 100 – direct distance from the sighting of the cloud


Key :

Main streak of the tornado

Sub- streaks of the tornado

Main road


Fallen trees

Roof and house damage

Electricity line damage

Phone line damage

Billboard damage

Biological evolution

Biological evolution is also an ever evolving geological entity, but with

the technological mastery achieved by society in the last 50 years the
natural evolution of the biosphere is seriously threatened and subjected
to destruction. Humans now have the capacity to destroy thousands of
years of biological evolution, in minutes or hours. However currently,
environmental groups and some governments are concerned with the
extinction of species due to human intervention, and are attempting to
combat further extinctions. Humans can cause extinction of a species
through overharvesting, pollution, destruction of habitat, introduction of
new predators and food competitors, and other influences. According to
the World Conservation Union (WCU, also known as IUCN), about 784
extinctions have been recorded since the year 1500, the arbitrary date
selected to define "modern" extinctions, with many more likely to have
gone unnoticed. Most of these modern extinctions can be attributed
directly or indirectly to human effects. Endangered species are species
that are in danger of becoming extinct, which can be saved from quick
action. (

Use of biotic resources is essential for modern development. The

methods used by society are not yet totally environment friendly and
cause serious damage to biotic environment. The developed world has
shifted agricultural production to marginal areas outside their domains
and rapidly repairing damage done to their environments in the
mechanisation of agriculture. The developing world, which has no
proper planning on use of biotic resources suffer mainly from corruption
and gluttony, and rapidly loosing their valuable forests, wetlands and
grass lands, without reducing poverty.

The damage to forests and wetlands has reached a critical stage by year
2000 in Sri Lanka primarily due to corruption and non-adherence to
scientific advice. The capacity to use organic fertiliser is withheld due to
corruption involved in chemical fertiliser importation. The use of forest
harvesting, introduction of environment and water conservation friendly
plants are also not adhered to as a result of dependence on foreign
planned programmes in place of use of participatory systems and local
expertise. Sri Lanka is expected to loose much of its biodiversity in the
next 20 to 30 years.

Man Induced

Man Induced environment hazards originate from the interaction

between society and environment. In here the society attempts to utilise
environment for its betterment and when the behaviour of the
environment is not properly understood, a crisis and a hazards situation
is formed.


Cultivation or farming is the process of use of land for the production of

food or industrial raw materials by planting variety of plants. Soil
erosion loss of fertility and finally land degradation will result from
careless cultivation. In addition accumulation of salts, chemical
compounds from chemical fertiliser is expected at sites of over
fertilisation. It is estimated that about 60 to 70 percent of the arable land
area of the earth is faced with some form of land degradation by year
Unscientific cultivation affects forest and grassland destruction. Today
the world’s forests and grasslands are destroyed at an accelerated rate.
Though many attempts are made to prevent this activity, all over the
developing world the destruction continues. The developed world has
severely altered their landscapes and has highly reduced biodiversity.
Many international protocols and agreements have been signed in the
last 10 years than in any other previous period, but the slow and steady
destruction of habitats are continuing. This is because the sustainability
is not taken serious by either the developed or developing countries of
the world.
Wearing away and redistribution of the Earth's soil layer. It is caused by
the action of water, wind, and ice, and also by improper methods of
agriculture. If unchecked, soil erosion results in desertification or
desertisation. . It has been estimated that 25% of the world's cultivated
topsoil was lost between 1950 and 2000.

Land will become infertile when the rate of erosion exceed the rate of
soil formation (from rock and decomposing organic matter), The
removal of forests or other vegetation often leads to serious soil erosion,
because plant roots bind soil, and without them the soil is free to wash or
blow away, as in the American dry areas and in Sri lanka during the dry
season. Improved agricultural practices such as contour ploughing are
needed to combat soil erosion. Windbreaks, such as hedges or strips
planted with coarse grass, are valuable, and organic farming can reduce
soil erosion by as much as 75%.

Soil degradation and erosion are becoming as serious as the loss of the
rainforest. It is estimated that more than 10% of the world's soil lost a
large amount of its natural fertility during the latter half of the 20th
century. Some of the worst losses are in Europe, where 17% of the soil is
damaged by human activity such as mechanized farming and fallout
from acid rain. In Mexico and Central America, 24% of soil is highly
degraded, mostly as a result of deforestation ((

It is estimated that about 60 to 70 percent of the agricultural land in Sri

Lanka is affected by soil erosion and annual loss to the agricultural
production through soil erosion is in the millions of rupees. Further
cultivation of steep slope has increased the risk of landslides and
mudflows in many parts of the country. Effect of landslides and
mudflows is discussed under construction, because they become life
threatening in relation to construction.

Therefore every country, area and locality should select the type of
cultivation methodology best suited to them with the help of available
technology to prevent the construction of hazardous scenario.


Settlements, roads and other communication lines are the major man
made structure affected or destroyed by environmental hazards. It is
estimated that about 20 to 30 billion US dollars worth of settlement
associated constructions are damaged by environmental hazards
annually. There is no possibility of prevention of damage to property, but
the damage can be minimised by adhering to scientific data and
construction, which is available now through the invention of computer

Two major types of hazards are present in the area of construction. They
1. on site
2. in use.
On site hazards vary from physical to biological to chemical depending
on the type of materials used in construction. The control of this type is
the responsibility of the site manager or production manager is it is a
process of manufacturing a product. The safety regulations and
standards have to be applied in this process to guarantee the safety of the
site and the product.
The most important construction in the environment is our settlement,
where we live most parts of our lives. Settlement is composed of
domestic, institutional and commercial buildings and they are arranged
in units of village, town and city. These units require a system of
services to be non-hazardous to the occupants. The natural hazards
occurring in the area determines the type and strength requirements of
buildings, location of trees, open area and industrial areas. The
recreational areas should not be located in the areas close to high-rise
buildings or buildings capable of producing fires. The following
tabulated formats (Tables 2/4/1 to 2/4/4) will give information on
building requirements, hazard present and location of trees and hazard
present and location of open area/ parks/ children play ground/ play
ground and, hazard present and industrial areas.

Technological hazards

Technological hazards originate from the insufficient knowledge on

materials and processes we produce with the aid of technology.
Chemicals and nuclear action are the major elements in the formation of
technological hazards.
The primary chemical hazards are related to use of lead and CFC gases
which destroys atmosphere through destruction of Ozone layer.
Chemical factory explosions, leakage of chemicals into soil and water
and inhaling of chemicals produce the direct environmental hazards. The
chemicals mixing with clouds and producing acid rain is also considered
as a serious hazard today. Acid rain is responsible for the destruction of
forests and historical buildings in the industrialised countries and
affecting biodiversity of the tropical forests.
Explosions and leakages of nuclear radiation occur when reactors blow-
out or shut-down prior to explosion. This type of incidents are rare but
can destroy large areas.
Traffic related production of carbon monoxide gases are considered to
be the most damaging environmental and health hazard today leading to
an increase in respiratory diseases and some types of cancers.

Table 2/4/1, Hazards present and Building requirement
Hazard present Building requirement
Earthquake Earthquake resistant buildings
Landslides Do not build on land prone to sliding
Cyclone, Tornado, Strong roofing and main sidewall. Provide rapid drainage.
Thunderstrom or
other types with
high winds
Flood Avoid building on areas liable to serious flooding. In areas of minor flooding buildings
with strong foundations and main walls are to be built. Provide rapid drainage.
Flash flood Avoid building on path of flash flood. Flash flood can be controlled by proper drainage.
Drought Design the building and the garden to collect as much water as possible using constructed
Heavy Build with the expectation of overloading from snow, sand, dust on walls, roof, windows
rain/snow/blizzard and doors.

Table 2/4/2, Hazard present and Location of trees

Hazard present Location of trees
Earthquake At a distance which will not fall on the construction
Landslides Not applicable
Cyclone, Tornado, Thunderstrom or other types At a distance which will not fall on the construction
with high winds
Flood Allowance should be given to rapid drainage
Flash flood Allowance should be given to rapid drainage
Drought Selective tree growth to control unnecessary loss of soil water
Heavy rain/snow/blizzard At a distance which will not fall on the construction

Table 2/4/3 Hazard present and location of open area/ parks/ children play ground/ play ground
Hazard present Open area/ parks/ children play ground/ play ground
Earthquake Free from falling buildings and trees/ away from possible fires
Landslides Free from falling buildings and trees/ away from possible fires
Cyclone, Tornado, Thunderstrom or Free from falling buildings and trees/ away from possible fires
other types with high winds
Flood Do not construct children’s playground
Flash flood Do not construct children’s playground
Drought Not applicable
Heavy rain/snow/blizzard Not applicable

Table 2/4/4 -Hazard present and industrial areas

Hazard present Industrial areas

Earthquake Construct with all the safety standards
Landslides Do not construct
Cyclone, Tornado, Thunderstorm or Construct with special attention to effect of fire
other types with high winds
Flood Do not construct any factories of chemical products
Flash flood Do not construct any factories of chemical products
Drought Do not construct which require large quantity of water
Heavy rain/snow/blizzard Do not construct which require heating

Man Made

Man Made type of environmental hazards is the categories of hazards,

which are constructed by the behavioural characteristics of human
nature. These constructions include all types of social corruption
(including political and administrative corruption), gluttony (political,
administrative and social) madness arising from corrupt behaviour and
hidden mental sicknesses (like inferiority complex, superiority complex,
sadism) which has a great capacity in formation, accelerating and slow
response to hazards through blockage of proper procedures of economic
and social development.


Corruption is the unethical act performed in the service of the society. It

entails the activities of personal nature to community nature where
resources, space and time of the nation are improperly used for personal
gains only. Types of corruption include: political, official and personal.
Corruption prevents proper social development through improper
settlement planning, urban area planning and road and communication
network planning. Further corruption prevents the proper management
of these facilities through lack of law and order in the process. The
developed world has devised a way through the application of rule of
law to minimise corruption and their societal development is at an
acceptable level of order where the hazards are partially controlled or
some times greatly controlled. However the developing world is still
struggling to achieve an acceptable status in hazard control. The
documents given below highlight the effect of corruption in Sri Lanka.


The ADB/Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development

(OECD) Anti-Corruption Initiative for Asia-Pacific welcomed as 26th
member, Sri Lanka. The Action Plan calls on members to develop
effective and transparent systems for public service, strengthen anti-
bribery actions and promote integrity in business operations, and support
active civil society and private sector involvement.

Launched in 1999 under the joint leadership of ADB and OECD, the
Initiative draws on a unique partnership among all social partners of
Asian and Pacific countries. The Initiative seeks to assist countries from
the region in developing and promoting comprehensive anti-corruption
policies at national and regional levels and provides capacity building in
this area.

Since the Action Plan's adoption in Tokyo in 2001, this inter-
governmental process has been joined by 27 countries and jurisdictions
committed to cooperate and build capacity in the fight against
corruption. They include: Australia; Bangladesh; Cambodia; People's
Republic of China; Cook Islands; Fiji Islands; Hong Kong, China; India;
Indonesia; Japan; Kazakhstan; Republic of Korea; Kyrgyz Republic;
Macao, China; Malaysia; Mongolia; Nepal; Pakistan; Palau; Papua New
Guinea; Philippines; Samoa; Singapore; Sri Lanka; Thailand; Vanuatu;
and Viet Nam (


A Statement by the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) indicates

that The Auditor General’s report on tsunami mismanagement should
not be ignored reference to irregular distribution of funds; in one
divisional secretariat where 599 families had been recorded as being
affected by the tsunami, 15,843 families received assistance.
Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) is looking into the
allegation of massive fraud at the Inland Revenue Department, where
Rs. 3,570,000 (US $ 35,700 ) was reported to be misappropriated. While
the Auditor General’s department has documented this incident as well,
its report has not yet been made public.
The AHRC recently requested that all concerned citizens to take up the
Auditor General’s reports on the mismanagement of tsunami funds as
well as the Inland Revenue Department fraud, and begin to address the
corruption prevailing throughout government agencies and elsewhere

CSP 9, reported a one of the most

common occurrences in Sri Lanka where a public servant is charged
with corruption. The charge related to road repair and it is well known
that most of the roads in Sri Lanka are in damaged condition, because
the Provincial and Pradeshiya Sabha (local council) members utilise the
money allocated to road maintenance for their private uses by making
substandard repairs. Though the person was charged outcome was not
reported by the paper thereafter.

CSP 10

Tendering procedure of the Sri Lanka government is known to be

corrupt according to the report at,


Gluttony can be political, social, security force related, judicial and

administrative, but the ethical application of power indicates that power
is to serve but not to hinder service or development. The society is
always corrupt without the application of rule of law. Rule of law further
states that lack of application of it makes the society a poor and a
disorderly place. This is a global problem, but in Sri Lanka it has
reached the status where economic development is retarded. This is
mainly due to lack of proper taxation and declaration of assets by the
senior members of the public and private sector employees including

CSP 11, discusses the forces, which infiltrate countries like Sri

Lanka and corrupt the public and private sector systems. According to
the article Multi-National Companies sponsor the political leaders into
power. Spy Services and Foreign policymakers of World Superpowers
also contribute to corruption. These organizations hire people by
offering cash, advice, lucrative business opportunities or migration
opportunities to the west. Some state officials, artists and media
personnel, some socialites, some big businessmen and some
politicians are in the trap according to the article. These characteristics
have been identified by more than 600,000 Internet sites and about 150
internationally recognized publications and evidence of corruption are
noted by a minimum of about 3 media reports daily in Sri Lanka.


Madness is a personal type of environment hazard. It is confirmed by

sociological research that some individuals develop anti-social
behaviour in life. These types of behaviour includes physical
molestation of the weak, exercising undue pressure on the subjects under
command, receiving pleasure from bullying and hurting others and even
kill for satisfaction.

Traffic accidents are a socially originating environmental hazard in the

developing world in general and specially in Sri Lanka. Investigations in
to causes of traffic accidents reveal that impatience and influence of
alcohol or hard drugs are responsible for most of the serious and fatal
accidents. Media reports and public records in Sri Lanka indicate that
drivers under the influence of alcohol or hard drugs cause about 56
percent of the fatal accidents. Another 30 percent of the drivers were
under stress from lack of sleep or continuous driving. In total about 76
percent of the fatal accidents occurred in the process of overtaking in a
hurry. Therefore the state of mind is an integral part of driving and
developed countries impose heavy legal control on this activity and their
ratio of accidents to number of trips made are very low compared to any
developing country.


Pure effect of sadism creates or establishes an inefficient group of

people, which affects the growth of free ideas and development. The
brain drain from developing countries is a result of high corruption and
sadism in the administrative and political environment. Use of hearsay
instead of properly calculated efficiency, favouritism and affiliations in
the evaluation for promoting administrators and selecting political
leaders has resulted in political and administrative chaos in all most all
the developing countries.

Conflict, Riot and War

These are the most dangerous types of hazards in the modern world as
between 1900 and 2000 about 200 million people have died from these
three activities making them the most disastrous hazards in the world.
These incidents have arisen due to various reasons like divisive politics,
disinformation, struggle between super powers, corruption, gluttony,
concept of ethnic superiority, religious fanatics, terrorism, which were
constructed by man and therefore classified in this book as man made.
These activities have been associated with societies from the beginning
of man and expected to continue in to future. However the intensity and
level of damage have increased with the rising population and
establishment of nation states. Historical records show that the major
system of control in the past was military action against the terrorist
forces. The major world powers of the present world also use military
power to control terrorism.
In case of poor developing nations terrorism has become a serious
hazard making them poorer and brings suffering to the poorest people.
The majority killed due to terrorism are the poor, who are employed as
soldiers, victims of bomb attacks on civilian targets and lack of medical
care due to non-availability of funding for health. About 92 percent of
the people and soldiers killed in the ethnic war between 1983 and 2005
in Sri Lanka were in the low-income group.


Poverty is created in the modern world due to uneven distribution of

resources and lack of social security to low income earners.
Poverty cannot be totally eradicated but poverty can be
controlled that, it will not affect the economic stability and
progress of a nation is not affected and there will only be a
limited impact on environmental hazards. Poverty increases the
effect of environmental hazards mainly through the immediate
living environment of the poor. Poor cannot afford to live in a
healthy environment due to lack of control of land distribution
and non-provision of healthy living environment. In the socio-
political culture of the developing world poor or poverty is
related to trivial beliefs of fate, karma, anti-social behaviour etc
and they are treated as a group of people, which should depend
on the political and administrative power to live. Thousands of
media reports examined on environmental hazards all over the
world show that about 80 percent of the seriously affected in the
developing world belong to the category of poor. In addition
surveys on health indicate that more than 80 percent of the poor
die from illnesses and diseases, which can be cured with
available medicine or medical procedures.
The most recent research indicates that poverty is a result of lack of
freedom (Sen, 1999) to work and claim the rights of citizenry
(Sen, 1987), in the developing world. Poor is always utilised by
the socio-political authority with extreme thoughts on
nationalism, religious beliefs and ethnicity. This conspiracy
leads to division and anti-social behaviour in poor, which in turn
leads to marginalisation of them.
Poverty results in the increase of effect of many natural hazards and
detailed documentation on the relationship between poverty and
health (Seneviratne, 2002b and 2003b), poverty and climatic
change (Seneviratne, 2005d) poverty and floods and landslides
(2003a), poverty and sandstorms (1988), poverty and resources
(1975, 2002c and 2002e) are presented in this book.

Health Hazards

All types of environmental hazards have the tendency to form the

condition of ill health. Either, individuals or groups of individuals and
some times a whole nation can be exposed to ill health due to change or
destruction of the environmental balance. Environmental balance is
destroyed by either environmental change or change of environment.
Environmental change is the change of environment caused by society
over a period of time through the introduction of cropping systems,
construction of settlement systems and establishment of industries.
These activities change the face of the environment and nature of the
physical and chemical processes in operation in the environment Tables
2/5/1 to 2/5/3)

Table 2/5/1 Pre history to end of Polonnaruwa.

Time period Health environment Disastrous hazards recorded

Pre History Endemic malaria in all the low lands of Sri Lanka. Living Majority of the deaths were from disease,
environment of the majority of the people was poor. High droughts, floods, cyclones and wild
organic decay and wetness resulted in high rates of animal attacks
helminthisis. High death rate/low survivability of
children/low population. Population about 30 to 40000
Anuradhapura and Endemic malaria in all the low lands of Sri Lanka. Living Majority of the deaths were from disease,
Polonnaruwa environment of the majority of the people was healthy. droughts, war, floods, cyclones and wild
periods High organic decay and wetness resulted in high rates of animal attacks
helminthisis. Moderate death rate/moderate survivability
of children/moderate population status was achieved with
the establishment of a strong herbal medicine. Population
about 5 to 8 million
Table 2/5/2 end of Polonnaruwa period to establishment of the Kandyan Kingdom

Table 2/5/3 end of Kandyan kingdom to 2005

Time period Health environment Disastrous

hazards recorded
Intermediate period Endemic malaria Endemic malaria in all the low lands of Sri Lanka. Living Majority of the
between end of environment of the majority of the people was poor. High organic decay and deaths were
Polonnaruwa to wetness resulted in high rates of helminthisis. Very high death rate due to from disease
establishment of change of environment from dry to wet zone and loss of treatment system due (malaria and
Kotte to destruction of civilisation. Very high death rate/very low survivability of diarrhoea). war
children/low population. Population reduced to about 0.5 million and and floods.
stagnated due to high death rates.
End of Kotte to Endemic malaria Endemic malaria in all the low lands of Sri Lanka. Living Majority of the
Time period
establishment ofHealth environment
environment of the majority of the people was poor. High organic decay and deaths Disastrous
were hazards
Kandyan Kingdom wetness resulted in high rates of helminthisis. High death rates continued due from recorded
End of Kandian Endemic malaria
to living in wet Endemic malaria
environment to inwhich
all thethelow lands of Sri
population hadLanka. Living and
no immunity environment
(malariaof Majority
and of the deaths
kingdom to the loss
majority of the people was poor. High organic decay and wetness resulted
of treatment system due to destruction of civilisation. However the diarrhoea) war in high rates of were from disease
Independence helminthisis. High death rates continued due to change of environment
coming of Portuguese and Dutch brought some stability of government and and floods.from dry to wet zone (malaria and diarrhoea)
loss ofwars
treatment system due
have reduced. Hightodeath
rate/ low of survivability
civilisation. of
However the resistance to and floods.
British saw a rise
population. in the death
Population from
rose to war in the
about early part
3 million byoftheBritish rule. High death
establishment of rate and
survivability of children
Kingdom. Therecontinued
is evidenceuntil
to 1940s
the this
introduction of antibiotics
period witnessed a and anti-
malaria drugs. rainfall
rise annual Populationand began to rise
increase from about 1940.
of floods.
Independence to Malaria, helminthisis and diarrhoea under control and population began to rise. Living Disease, traumatic
1960s environment of the majority of the people was poor. Introduction of anti-biotics and injuries. drought,

vaccination lowered the prevalence of childhood diseases. Population was growing at a rate floods, cyclones and
of about 3.0 percent per year. landslides.
End of 1960s to The infectious disease of the 60s continue to be present but at a very low frequency. Living Disease, traumatic
2005 environment of the majority of the people became better, but the poor institutional injuries. Disease,
organisation has turned cities and towns in to smelly and dirty places with high risk for drought, floods,
dengue, cholera, jaundice and diarrhoea. Death from traumatic injuries (war, traffic accidents, cyclones and landslides.
suicides) has become the primary cause of death. Since 1995 the chronic-diseases like cancer
and heart disease has risen sharply. Population growth has slowed down to about 1.3 percent
per year.

Change of environment and health is most visible in migrant populations
of the world. In Sri Lanka the migrants to farmer resettlement schemes
and migrant workers in and around major towns and the capital city face
many health hazards when they migrate to their new destination ( CPA 5,
Page 55).

Effect of environmental hazards on development

Table 2/6 shows the effect of various types of environmental hazards on

development of eleven selected nations. The impact levels were
calculated from data on preparedness, facing the hazard and recovery
capability. Countries like Sri Lanka, Nigeria and Indonesia is affected
more seriously than the other nations in the table, because of their weak
scientific preparedness and corruption in the socio-political system. The
best systems are in countries like Switzerland and Israel where there is
very high level of environmental management on use of environment
and socio-political corruption is very low.

Table 2/6 Effect of environmental hazards on development – a

comparative evaluation
Country Geological Man Induced Man Made Effect on
Sri Lanka High Very high Disastrous Very High
Nigeria High Very high Disastrous Very High
Indonesia High Very high Disastrous Very High
Switzerland Moderate Low Very Low Very low
India Moderate Moderate Moderate Moderate
China Moderate Moderate Low Moderate
Malaysia Moderate Low Low Low
Singapore Moderate Low Very Low Low
USA High Low Very low Very low
UK Moderate Low Very Low Very low
Israel High Low Low Very low

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Farmer, B.H. (1957), Peasant Colonisation in Sri Lanka, Cambridge
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Chapter 3

Nature, Society and hazards

This chapter investigates the relationship between nature, society and

hazards in relation to the struggle for existence of societies on the
surface of the earth. The major conflict between nature, hazard and
societies originate, in the attempt to utilise nature for existence and
construct various types of utilities at the surface of the earth. These
constructions are not natural and nature has no regard for them. Nature
is always more powerful than constructions of man and man himself.
Man is also a product of nature and nature attempts always to remind
man that man cannot progress beyond a certain point without a proper
understanding of the materials and processes of nature on a scientific


The following explanations on nature are applicable to developing

nations where the nature of nature, is not well understood. Generally
corruption is regarded as more important than utilisation of scientific
way in these societies. In this confused situation, these corrupt societies
forget to learn that,
Nature has limit less power,
It works on its own schedules,
Nature is more powerful than society, and
Nature treats society on its own terms and society cannot change terms.


Society has another notion, that it can control nature, but society can
control nature only within the terms given by nature (Plates 2 and 4).
Scientific method is the only way to learn, understand and possibly
control nature and scientific understanding allows society to find the
limits of society and true power of nature. Only when this relationship is
fully understood, the society can find a way to live in harmony with
nature. If we do not live in harmony with nature the destruction will
always be present. However, there are certain acts of nature, like
volcanic eruption, earthquake and tsunami, which are extremely difficult
to understand study and predict, but scientific way can reduce fatalities
to a minimum.

The socio-political organisation of the society is paramount to

understanding, preparation and recovery from hazards. If scientific
method is not followed in these three areas that society is faced with
continuing problem of presence of hazards. For example, landslide and
floods have become major natural hazards primarily due to lack of
understanding of place and time of occurrence of these events. In here
lack of proper national settlement planning has led to individual decision
making on settlement establishment and these individual decision
making results in the constant exposure to flood and landslide.
Corruption is present in all types of human activities in Sri Lanka and it
delays in the understanding, preparation and recovery from hazards
resulting in heavy financial losses. The best example is that all the
governments elected to office since 1965 had no proper plans for the
development of energy sector and buying agricultural products for
storage. These two have contributed to more than 50 percent in the rise
of cost of living in Sri Lanka as toady we have to buy energy at a high
cost from the private producer and the paddy and vegetable harvests are
not supportive of cost of food. Sri Lanka has not only missed its
opportunities for development in the past 40 years the country has
become a more hazardous place to live (Table 3/1).

Table 3/1 Estimated annual damage from a selected group

of societal environmental hazards*

Occurrence Number Deaths Property damage or

year year loss to society (in
Corruption All the time 100 to 200 200 to 300 billion
(not providing rupees
because of
people die
Traffic 7000 4000 200 to 300 billion
Sadism/ All the time 10 to 15 150 to 200 billion
Inefficiency rupees
Drought 31 12 5 to 6 billion
( drought,
suicide from
crop loss, loss

Flood ( flood, 4 to 5 12 3 to 4 billion
tornado and
flash flood)

* Data collected from media reports (on public sector

corruption, private sector bankruptcy reports, investigations by
police, suspected killing or maiming of honest workers). Deaths
from corruption occur for example when an answer to a letter is
not received from a public authority someone should travel to
the office. On their way they can die from a traffic accident.
These incidents were recorded during life history surveys.

Planet control our destinies

“A lot of people died in Sumatra, Thailand, India and Sri Lanka, because
they did not know warning signs, although we cannot bring them back,
if we help the public understand natural rhythms, we will help them
survive and help them live in harmony with the planet. We got to live in
harmony with the planet and Tsunami is a classic example of a clash
between a planet and humanity, and humanity lost. We think we run
our lives and we control our destinies. Planet controls our destinies.”
(2005 February, Unstoppable Wave, Discovery Channel)

Professor Jamie Austin


Floods and Slides

“We in Sri Lanka have to suffer heavy economic damage amounting to

about 30 billion rupees to bring back the areas to operational level and
according to popular news, it may take about one third of our budgetary
allocations this year to fully rehabilitate the damage over a period of five

Will we be able to sustain this programme in case of continuing natural

disasters? The answer is no. We have to follow the scientific evidences
and be ready for the future.

All the developed countries have mega plans to face the impending
natural disasters. They have food, medical supplies and service stocks in
hand with disaster prediction, control and management organizations.
Please begin a long-term restructuring of environment in the
hazardous zones. (Seneviratne, H.M.M.B. and Karunartne, H.K.N;
Saturday 21st June 2003, Daily News)

Nature gives signs and symbols

Nature is alive and gives signs and symbols of its activities to the
surrounding environment though most of these signs cannot be
comprehended by the existing scientific knowledge.

These signs are given in many forms

Dreams – there is a belief that dreams indicate danger

Sense – there is a belief that telepathy and other unexplained super
naturals signal danger
Behaviour of other living beings – have to be taken seriously
Behaviour of underground water, rock strata and the surface is important
Astrological predictions are useful
Personal predictions may be valid
Warnings given by elders have value
Scientific prediction is very reliable.

There is a continuous struggle between science and belief in the modern

world in relation to environmental hazards. Our primary investigation is
based on scientific concepts, but in the study of environmental hazards
and facing hazards in a poor country like Sri Lanka value of the belief
system cannot be forgotten. It is because the information and recovery
systems associated with environmental hazards are extremely weak due
to socio-political corruption and madness in the societal system.

Understanding and living through environmental hazards

The procedure given here is highly generalised and specialised systems

of operation has to be studied at higher levels of training. The procedure
is divided in to easily understood parts and presented with minimum

Stages in the understanding and living through environmental hazards

(Table 3/2)

1. Identification
2. study
3. research
4. monitoring
5. prediction
6. preparation
7. warning
8. arrival
9. search and rescue
10. reahabilitation
11. recovery
12. stabilisation

Table 3/2 Stages of understanding and living through

environmental hazards

Stage Work schedule

Identification Nature of risk, spatial context, time line
Study Nature of risk, spatial context, time line, people in risk,
property in risk, visitors in risk
Research Quantify Nature of risk, spatial context, time line,
people in risk, property in risk, visitors in risk,
organisational frame work needed, financial resources
Monitoring On time line
Prediction On time line
Preparation Education, organisational frame work (specially the
local societal organisations) financial resources,
evacuation, shelter
Search and Education, organisational frame work (specially the
rescue local societal organisations), financial resources,
evacuation, shelter
Rehabilitation Education, organisational frame work (specially the
local societal organisations), financial resources,
evacuation, shelter
Recovery Education, organisational frame work (specially the
local societal organisations), financial resources,
evacuation, shelter
Stabilisation and Education, organisational frame work (specially the
rebuilding local societal organisations), financial resources,
evacuation, shelter

Facing environmental hazard

People at risk should be educated continuously through the use of

local information network, national and regional radio and television
networks. Media system in operation should have a compulsory time
slot at least thrice weekly for the purpose of preparation for the

At the onset of the hazard (Tables 3/3/1, 3/3/2 and 3/3/3)

1. Evacuate at the moment of warning

before evacuating collect essential food items, medicine, water
and clothing for hard wear

Table 3/3/1 During hazard (2 major geological environmental hazards affecting Sri Lanka)

Type Immediate action Secondary Living through

Earthquake Go for cover, if you are When shaking Do not return until all the after shocks are over. Help the
in the house go under stops run out to victims as much as you can. Get the community together.
strong furniture (table, clear area Beware of unknown visitors. Stay with known people.
Flood Do not wait for the last Stay in high Stay in high ground until water recedes. Help the victims as
minute ground much as you can. Get the community together. Beware of
unknown visitors. Stay with known people together

Type Immediate action Secondary Living through
Cyclone Go for cover, if you are Go out when wind Help the victims as much as you can. Get the
and tornado in the house go under a stops community together. Beware of unknown
strong furniture (table, visitors. Stay with known people together
bed) do not go out to see
the wind Table
Landslide Run away form the path Stay away from Help the victims as much as you can. Get the 3/3/2
the path community together. Beware of unknown
visitors. Stay with known people together
During hazard (2 major geological environmental hazards affecting Sri Lanka)

Table 3/3/3 During hazard (four major societal environmental hazards affecting Sri Lanka)

Type Immediat Secondary Living through

e action action
Corruption Try not to Organise Continue campaigning (but take care
support societal as the corrupt may attempt to harm
action you)

Traffic accidents Try help Calm the Continue campaigning for safe driving
victims environment (but take care as the corrupt may
attempt to harm you)
Sadism/ Inefficiency Try not to Organise Continue campaigning for efficiency
support societal and good governance (but take care as
action the corrupt may attempt to harm you)

1. If there is no national, regional or local scientific warning
system people have to depend on the signs given by the
environment as the warning.

Stories of experiencing the hazard and pain of loss

Story 1.
Beragala landslide – 1966 (Seneviratne, 1968)

The area is prone to landslides and the primary reason for instability
is steepness of slope, thin layer of stony soil and blockage of stream
by slope rubble. The activator was heavy rainfall (103 millimetres of
rainfall in 2 days) prior to the slide. Loss of life (12) was result of
bank collapse and tree fall along the side of the slide path. The
location of housing was not investigated in full by the authorities
prior to the slide though there was high probability of sliding in the

Story 2.
Nedola side – 1967 (Seneviratne, 1968)

The area is prone to landslides and the primary cause of the

landslide was indiscriminate gemming in the channel of Nedola. 6
lives were lost, but authorities responsible were not responding to
the damage done to the riverbed. The stream was blocked by
excessive amount of rock and vegetative debris when it was
investigated in April 1967.

Story 3
Naketiya landslide – 1996 (Seneviratne, 2003a)

About two months before the occurrence of Naketiya slide on

Beragal-Koslanda road, the site engineers have informed the
responsible authorities and the people of the area that there is some
shift in the streambed. This helped to face the hazard without any
People of the area were warned of the unstable nature of the ground,
but the authorities did not have a comprehensive plan to help them.
People themselves were not listening to warnings and have bought
land in and around the area continuously. The public authorities
have no plan for the settlement of people in these high-risk areas.

Story 4 61
Puwakgahawela slide – (Jayasundara, 2002 and Seneviratne, 2003a)

One of the largest landslides to occur in Sri Lanka was activated by

heavy rainfall (90 millimetres in 24 hours) and a rock fall. In and
around the upper part of the slide path there were incidences of
forest fires and excessive removal of forest cover about two to three
years before the slide. The stream was blocked by excessive amount
of rock and vegetative debris when it was investigated in July 2002
(Seneviratne, 2003a). The type of slide was identified as a mudflow
on the basis of composition velocity of flow (Seneviratne, 2003a).
The slide reached velocities of 20 to 30 meters per second and had a
load carrying capacity of about 120 to 140 metric tons per cubic
An eye witness story (11 year old girl – student)
“ I was just coming out of the stream (0.5 meters from the slide
channel) after washing, I heard the sound of a low flying aeroplane
(high velocity air blast), then I looked up the valley (she could see
about 100 meters where the bridge was) and saw a thick mist (water
produced from shear failure and atmospheric moisture vaporised by
the air blast) and coming towards me. Then I ran towards the house
(130 meters form the slide channel). My mother was coming out of
the house dragging my sister behind her and shouted run this way
pointing to the hill away from the valley. At that time the ground
shook and sound of road roller (solid load of the slide) was in my
ears (about 150 meters from the slide channel). When I looked back
briefly I saw a huge ball of mud going down the valley. Then there
was a big thud all went quiet (the resting of the large boulder about
15 meter long and 2 meters wide), and a sound of flood in the stream
like when it rains heavily (the back wash coming from the blocked
branch stream segments). I will never forget it, and was afraid to go
to the stream for about a week. Even if I go now I always watch the
upper area of the stream. (I told her not to worry as there is no
possibility of another big slide like that for at least another 20 years
as the debris load in the stream has been cleared).
Jayasundara, (2002) indicates that the landslide at Puwakgahawela is
the type of “Siel” (Russian term after Arabic word “Sail”) means
heavy flow of water with rocks, mud and other material. This flow
exists for a very shorter period, which appears suddenly and a wavy
movement with no periodicity caused by heavy rain.

Story 5
Rathnapura Floods (Seneviratne, 2003a)

Most of the damage, which occurred in the present flood situation,

could have been avoided, if the people who are responsible for
safety of human resources of Sri Lanka watched radar weather maps
and listened to predictions regularly for about four days before the
arrival of the depression.

Information of the WMO reveals that the depression clouds can get
stagnated when they are caught between two mountain ranges and
that is what exactly happened in this situation. Some strands of the
depression clouds were caught in between.

One of the authors was alarmed on a visit to his old village area at
Ratnapura in 1998 after a lapse of about 10 years, when he
witnessed that the floodable area was thickly covered with housing
of all types.

Most of the housing units on the flood plain belong to lower, middle
and poor income groups. This was a disaster in the making as Kalu
Ganga will always come back to its pre-prepared flood plain during
its high flows. The frequency of this return of Kalu Ganga is fairly
regular and repeats around 25, 50 and 100-year floods.

For example a field visit to Ratnapura area made in the immediate

aftermath of the 2003 floods revealed that blocked drains and field
canals have led to formation of turbulent eddies, which led to the
destruction of best built houses and killed many. The most of the
homeless were low income group people who have been living in
unprotected and unstable riverbank area (Seneviratne and
Karunaratne, 2002b). This was a result of no proper policy on
settlement location in this area and the Ratnapura Urban council nor
did the Provincial Council have a master plan for safe areas for
settlement. This is a common practise in Sri Lanka where scientific
advice is not sought on settlement planning and development.

Story 6
Drought in Sri Lanka (Seneviratne, 2002e and 2005c)

Vast amount of literature is available on drought in Sri Lanka, but

we are yet to device a plan to limit the effect of drought on the
populace of Sri Lanka. In the ancient kingdom there were about half
the number of present day population and about the similar number
of domesticated animals.
The mean annual rainfall of the period was slightly higher than
today with about 100 to 150 millimetres above present day averages.
However the major streams Kala Oya, Malwathu Oya, Yan Oya and
Mahaweli Ganga were at higher flow level as their headwaters were
completely covered in forest. If we assume that the basin storage at
100 BC as 1, it dropped to a level of 0.7 by 1000 AD and today it
stands at 0.4. At 1 the basin storage was sufficient enough to supply
the needs of the civilisation for about 95 percent of the time though
about 3 to 4 severe longterm droughts have occurred. Today
therefore there is need for inter-basin water transfer to supply the
extra need as there is a population of about 6 million, 1 million
domesticated animals and 600,000 vehicles, 200 industrial
establishments, large armed forces presence and annually 1 to 1.5
million tourists in the region. Therefore the present water need is
almost 1 when compared to the ancient civilisation levels and it
cannot be supplied without additional water transfer from outside
the region. There is excess water at Kalu Ganga, which can be
transferred though aqueduct to supplement Mahaweli water in the
northwestern and north central provinces and Nilwala water to
supplement southeastern sector of Sri Lanka. .
At the same time it is essential to begin well water recycling
(specially by household units to communal units), well and spring
rejuvenating and collection and directing standing water to the
nearest tank during the rainy season. With all the above
technological systems in operation we will be able to achieve 0.85
level of dependence with a minimised effect of drought in the dry
zone of Sri Lanka.

Story 7
Tsunami 20041226 (Seneviratne, 2005a and 2005b)

Experience show that urban and rural settled environments in Sri

Lanka have changed from a safe living environment to a hazardous
and dangerous living environment since modernisation began in
early 1970s. This is a result of changing natural environment and
loss of control of environmental change by the institutional and
social structure during this period. This paper is based on an original
presentation made on invitation at the Workshop on Development
Strategies and Related Environmental Issues, Ministry of Housing
and Plantation Infrastructure, CETRAC Auditorium, Pelwatta, 26 th
September, 2002. Since then the vulnerability of settlements to
natural disaster was clearly shown during the disastrous floods in
Kalu, Nilwala and Gin Ganga catchments in 2003 and Tsunami of
26th December 2004.

The evidences for the loss of control of environmental change in the

coastal areas became clear only after the tsunami.

Tsunami survivor

“ in the old days the roads leading to the beach had a curve in them
when they stop. Next road many people survived because it took
little bit longer for water to spill over and they could wade through”

At Thalwaththa, the train was at the worst point possible at the worst
moment when the earth was vibrating from one of the worst
calamities of known history of the world. At the inlet of
Thalwaththa two 10-metre crests of the Tsunami wave converged
and collided with a force of about 100 D5 size bulldozers, creating
possibly a 15-meter wave crest running inland at a speed of 60 to 70
kilometres per hour. The young coconut trees, which stood between
the beach and the railroad, were used by this wave as razors to cut
though the train. The backwash was travelling at about 40 to 50
kilometers/per hour and there was no escape.

Investigating what happened at Galle it was the construction of the

cricket grounds and the wide road to the town made a funnel
through which wave could travel at high speed. A similar occurrence
was recorded during hurrican Katrina in New Orleans and it led to
massive damage in the ninth ward area of the city where the highest
level of damage was reported. (Warning - when you plan, look at
the master design of the finished product spatially, because what
is beautiful on the ground may help the wind, flood water or
wave to travel faster than normal)

Story 8
Tornado at Galewela (Seneviratne, 2006)

A prediction was made by author at 06.00 hrs in the morning of the

20th April, 2006 at Madatugama about an impending tornado in the
afternoon of the 20th in and around Dam bulla – Galewela area. Mr.
Thusitha Wickramasinghe, confirmed the occurrence of a tornado at
Thalakiriygama – Averiaypathaha temple site and the
surrounding area at 20.30 when he met with the field class at
Millawana, Mathale.

Site time Temperature Feeling Cloud
Dambulla 545 23 Cool An anvil and a
cloud are seen
over low hills
of the east. A
prediction was
made that a
tornado will
hit Dambulla-
Galewela area
in the

Table 3.4 Damage estimate as quoted by people affected and weighted to

present day prices (April 21st 2006) – (Plate 3)

Type Expenditure Income

Total cost Rupees Compensation
(nearest 1000) (nearest 1000)
Loss of timber 450,000
Damaged trees 300,000
Loss of crops/ banana. Vegetable, 300,000
fruit trees
Damaged billboard 125,000
Cost of clearance 100,000
Cost of house repair 300,000
Cost to Electricity Board 500,000
Cost to Sri Lanka Telecom 200,000
Replacement cost 250,000
Draw on savings expected 500,000
Loss of interest on savings 100,000
Total environment cost 3,125,000
Value of help govt 150,000
Personal material help in kind during 200,000
the hazard/ accommodation/ lending
the saw/ help to clean-up/
Total loss 2,775,000 350,000

1 child refused to live in the parent’s house and lived with grandmother
for three weeks and still fears wind.
13 others (8 females and 5 females are worried about recurrence) 66
Only a house wife who listens to Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation
“Rajarata Sevaya” knew what to do as she learned from the environment
programme conducted by the author. She saw the dark black cloud
coming rapidly towards the village and she got all her family members
in to the centre of the house and waited near the strong dinner table,
ready to go under it if the wind began any destruction of her house. Only
the banana plants in her garden were damaged.

23 families have incurred heavy damage and none of them have listened
to the environment programmes on hazards, as they prefer to listen
always to music on other channels. After being informed of the service
they promised to listen to programmes on environment more carefully.

Societies of the poor countries of the world suffer from many types of
environmental hazards, due to non-adherence to scientific information
on hazard management, lack of coordination between agencies of hazard
management and socio-political corruption. Further the belief systems of
the people exposed to hazards play a vital role in the delay of acceptance
of warnings given by the scientific community. Any programme on
hazards response has to be placed on a scientific data and supported by
any other data relevant sociological or even unexplained sources of
information and the response should be quick and efficient.


Jayasundara, J.M.S.B (2002), Is the Puwakgahawela Phenomenon a

Landslide? Field Report / RJFR/SS/2006/, Department of Social
Sabaragamuwa University of Sri Lanka, Belihuloya, RJFR/SS/002

Seneviratne, H.M.M.B. (2006) Ramboda –Mathale – System C and

System H field class report, 20 th to 23rd April 2006Report Number
SSCFR / HMMBS/ 2006 / 01/, Department of Social Sciences,
Rajarata University of Sri Lanka, Mihinthale. RJFR/SS/ 003

Chapter 4

Environmental Hazard Management

Hazard management is one of the rapidly developing sciences in

academia and business today. This is because it is clearly understood
now that a meaningful development cannot be achieved without a proper
hazard control system in place. The developed countries have put in a
massive hazard management programme in the past 10 years and they
are stabilising their programmes and are reducing time of prediction,
increasing the accuracy of prediction, increasing the success rate of
search and rescue, finding new ways of reconstruction and even research
is at an advanced stage to control massive hazards like earthquakes and
cyclones through human intervention in the basic geological process.
However the situation in the developing world is not promising with
increasing corruption and gluttony taking over from science and
systematic hazard management.

Management of hazards

Management provides the best possible way of reducing the loss of life
and property from a hazard. However, most of the management
practises recommended by the hazard manager will not be applicable if
the required infrastructure is not provided, education programmes are
not conducted and societal participation is not activated.

The basic steps in hazard management are given in Table 4/1 and 4/2 in summary form.

Table 4/1 Basic steps in hazard management -* risk level – see Appendix

Management step Concurrent activity

Identify the hazard/s Use of scientific method to identify the hazard/ study the nature, recurrence/ risk level */
Research and Long term scientific data collection and monitoring/ listening to local sources/ listening
monitoring some traditional belief systems should not be forgotten/
Taking control and if Control –
possible preventive There are some control measures, which can be taken to minimise the risk of any type of
measures (remember no hazard. Most of the damages resulting from landslides, flood and accelerated erosion can
hazard can be fully be controlled through proper settlement and infrastructure planning. This will reduce the
controlled, but proper risk to less than 10 percent (Eg. All the developed countries have done this through
management techniques education supported by strict adherence to environmental law)
can be used to minimise Accelerated erosion, deforestation, desertification, flood and landslides can be controlled
loss of life and property) with – proper land management and settlement planning
Corruption, gluttony and sadism can be controlled by honest administration
Conflict, riot and war can be controlled by developing proper socio-political
Prevention – Most of the damages resulting from landslides, flood and accelerated erosion
can be prevented through proper settlement and infrastructure planning. This will reduce
the risk to less than 10 percent (Eg. All the developed countries have done this through
education supported by strict adherence to environmental law)

Table 4/2 Basic steps in hazard management

Management step Concurrent activity

Preparation Preparation
Prepare the society to listen to warning system – radio/TV/ and local
organisation mobile telephone link or radio link/ rehearse evacuation plan/ select
local immediate response team. In here local social/ medical, engineering/
security resources must be used

Prepare the emergency supplies in the nearest possible place to the hazard – dry
rations, clean water, clothing, baby food, essential medicine and portable
equipment required for search and rescue ( in bunkers/ high ground shelters)
Security forces for immediate response
Search, rescue and medical aid
Relief supply system
Temporary shelters
Temporary communications
Armed forces on alert
Facing the hazard See pages 122 and 123
Rehabilitation (from Education, organisational frame work (specially the local societal organisations),
regional and national financial resources, evacuation, shelter
Recovery (from regional Education, organisational frame work (specially the local societal organisations),
and national funding) financial resources, evacuation, shelter
Stabilisation and (from Education, organisational frame work (specially the local societal organisations),
regional and national financial resources, evacuation, shelter
funding) rebuilding

The other activities can be controlled from either the regional or national
hazard management organisations after the completion of search and
rescue, because these activities are already with the responsibilities of
existing ministerial system in any country.
The most important factor in geological hazard management is research
and monitoring, which is the only way to reduce loss of life and
property, thus reducing damage. Research and monitoring will give
information on safe areas to live, build settlements and infrastructure
and manage environment.
In the management of societal hazards the application of rule of law and
exercising a free and fair judgement on all citizens has been proven
correct. This is because almost 95 percent of the societal hazards occur
from carelessness, not adhering to the law of the country, gluttony and
sadist behaviour. The developed nations and rapidly developing nations
of the world have shown us that reduction of socio-political corruption
can accelerate development even if the nation is prone to severe
geological hazards. For example China and Japan are two countries hit
by a minimum of one major earthquake every 10 to 20 years and an
average of two destructive cyclones/typhoons every year. But an
efficient hazard management system helps Japan to become the second
largest economy of the world and China to maintain an 8 to 9 percent
growth in the last five years. On an international scale of presence of
corruption Japan indicates about 10 to 12 percent corruption while in
China it is said to be around 15 percent. Sri Lanka is estimated to be
about 60 to 70 percent corrupt and Nigeria is the most corrupt country
with almost 100 percent corruption. In these two poor developing
countries effect of environmental hazards have retarded the economic
development in the past 10 to 20 years.

Environmental Hazard Manager

Environmental hazard manager requires the services of many types of

scientists, human resource managers and security service personal. The
largest environmental hazard management organisation is in U.S.A. The
structure of the hazard management system is given in Figure 4.1
Figure 4.1(next page)

Home Land Security
Cabinet Member
Figure 4.1 THE
National Guard
US Armed Forces

NOAA State
N.W.C Governor
Emergency Services
University Research Centres Volunteers
Technical Research Centres NGO’s
National and State
Spotters Media Warning System


Key : arrow indicates the interrelationship - Thickness of the
arrow indicate the value of the link to people

N.H.C - National Hurricane Centre

PTWC – Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre
U.S.G.S – United States Geological Service
NOAA - North American Atmospheric Authority
N.W.C – National Weather Centre

It indicates the value of basic research, which leads to minimise the loss
of life. In the last 20 years USA (government and people) lost
about 2000 billion dollars worth of property due to natural
environmental and societal environmental hazards and the loss
of life is estimated to be 15200 (excluding traffic accidents).
This is a low damage level for USA and it is achieved due to
continuous research and adhering to a scientific settlement
planning and warning system on environmental hazards

Work schedule of the US environmental hazard control system


The basic research on environmental hazards is conducted by the

University system and technical research centres and these results are
fed into the national research centres and warning centres. University
research scientists and people who head the national research centres
should posses basic and research degrees in their respective fields.


Data for monitoring and warning is gathered by all research

organisations and analysed with the help of specialists in the field who
are University research scientists. When a hazard is predicted the state
authorities take over the warning system through national television,
radio network and Internet. Police will travel around the most
vulnerable areas warning people of the locality. If the hazard is of
national nature (the control of 9/11 World Trade centre Attack) the office
of the president will control it through FEMA and special security
services like FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation), CIA (Central
Intelligence Authority) and NSO (National Security Organisation).

Search, Rescue and Relief

Normally conducted by the state authorities, but federal help is always
available. FEMA keeps a massive storage of food, water and medical
supplies in stock away from hazard zone and deliver when required.

Rehabilitation and Rebuilding

Normally conducted by the state authorities, but federal help is always

available. FEMA keeps a massive storage of food, water and medical
supplies in stock away from hazard zone and deliver when required.

Failure rate

Failure rate in Warning, Search, Rescue and Relief in this organisational

framework is estimated to be 10 to 12 percent. The most devastating and
damaging hazard in the history of USA occurred on the 28 th of August
2005. It destroyed an area of about 123,000 square kilometres (about
twice the size of Sri Lanka), but the death toll was below 2000. The
prediction was 80 percent accurate and most of the deaths occurred
among the people who refused to listen to the warning to evacuate.

Tank Cascade system ( Weva saha Gama Parisara Kalamanakarana

kramaya Wegapakala Kramaya) of environmental
Management : A time tested programme for areas with
seasonal drought.
( the term Weva is used in the following presentation as tank is not
suitable for the reservoir which was constructed not only to
store water, but to fulfil many other requirements of the area
which it is situated)

Cascade system of environmental management is one of the best

sustainable solutions to seasonal drought, which is practised
today in a more modernised form in many developed countries
for irrigation, power generation and urban water supply. This
system is capable of providing a system, which is universally
acceptable in environmental management.

The system practised in Sri Lanka during the period of ancient

civilisation was designed to fulfil the following requirements.
1. Collect high runoff from the catchments where rocky ridges and
hardpan latosols resulted in high rate of runoff during
thunderstorms and depressional rain. Both rocky ridges and
hardpan latosols have low infiltration and very low percolation
capacity. An experiment conducted in Mihinthale area between
October 2005 and May 2006 revealed that between 80 to 90
percent of the runoff from the two 2 sample sites (forest cover
and cultivated) were released into the streams or interfluve clay
2. Stabilise the surface ground water flow in the catchment to
support a system composed of forest, shrub, grassland, village,
tank and cultivated areas. The experiment indicates that the
stabilisation is present in the areas with more than 60 percent
forest cover.
3. Direct runoff as soon as possible to the storage system of tanks,
where evaporation is efficiently controlled.

Weva is not the central point in this management system, because its
success was determined not by the size of the weva or amount
of water collected in it, but by the environmental management
installed to make the weva to be filled during the rainy season
and prevent water wastage by the users. The weva was
designed on the basis of available quantity of water, where
stream order and discharge was calculated with precision
( Paranavitane, 1959). The first order weva (Kulu Weva) were
followed by the second order weva (Kuda weva) and the third
order weva (Maha Weva) were the last in the system though
many complex patterns are present within the weva hierarchy.
There may be a relationship between the weva order and
stream order as the experiment indicated. The first order weva
were constructed on the 4th or higher order (Strahler, 1967)
streams at the field mapping level. Most of these appear as 1 st
or 2nd order streams in Aerial Photos and mostly as 1 st order in
1:50,000 topographic sheets. The 1st and 2nd order streams in
this identification are truly ephemeral unless fed by an
artificial source like wastewater from a settlement or cultivated
land. The 3rd and 4th order streams flow between 1 to 3 days
after rain from middle of November to mid January.

The system is not always simple and there were complex construction
systems to handle local situations, which demanded special
techniques. These local situations arose from the variations of
rock type, soil cover, slope and land use. The experiment
showed that micro-slopes were responsible for loss of water to
the stream and to weva. The average slope in most of the
cascades is in the region of 1:10,000 to 1:25,000, where a
slight variation in slope will result in accumulation of water in
the micro-basin type formations on latosols. During the
experiment it was clear that a rise of slope by 4 to 6
centimetres locally would lead to heavy blockage of water
flow to the stream.

Then it was paramount that the settlement, cropland, shrub land and
forest were kept in pristine condition as the most damaging
disturbance to the regular flow of water into the stream system
generally originates from human activities.

Firstly, the settlement in this system was located in a high ground

besides the weva or cultivated area. This prevented
wastewater, seepage of sewage residue and animal waste and
other types of solid and liquid waste entering weva. Further
the location allowed the settlement to direct its wastewater into
some type of wastewater pond, which was used as a recycling
unit. Non-existence of chemical waste may have allowed these
ponds to be non-toxic and some types of plants and fish may
have been used in this organic recycling or cleaning system.
There is evidence that craft industries like iron, silver and
paint production was situated in special locations where their
waste was not allowed to enter weva.

Secondly, though it is not very clear, inscriptions and designs of the

sacred and built up areas of the ancient civilisation support an
existence of a highly developed hydrological management
system. Wastage of water was controlled with heavy legal
and communal commands and user-friendly system was
maintained. Rocky ridges were not utilised for settlements and
they were either fully conserved or kept in the custody of
monks, who managed the area in pristine condition. The
experiment conducted on these areas indicate that the rock
ridges under the care of monks had about 4 to 6 times more
springs than the areas closer to settlement. The specific
purpose of the shrub, forest and the upper catchment of weva
were defined by law and tradition and the law breakers were

This system was capable of maintaining a population of about 5 million

8 million between the period of 100 and 1100 AD, when the
civilisation was in full bloom. National plan for the civilisation
was in operation with periods of rapid and slow phases of
weva building, resettlement in the peripheries and inter-basin
water transfer (Paranavitane, 1959).

Today the total disregard for the weva cascade system originate from the
public sector planning of settlements (including Resettlement
programme since 1930), construction of roads and railways,
establishment of forest plantations, construction of large
government and private sector institutions, waste dumping and
land fill. These activities have increased the regular blockage
of 1st, 2nd and 3rd order streams in the area, destroyed some of
them totally and redirected water to local depressions where
they accumulate and evaporate, thus seriously starving the 1 st
order weva system. It is clear that the present civilisation of
the wet zone has never managed to understand the principle of
environmental management of the ancient civilisation though
rhetoric is evident in all types of utterances and unscientific
publications. It is time that we attempt to understand that it is
not only the existence of the cascade system which made
possible for the development of the dry zone civilisation, but
the hydrological management system in operation through
various royal instructions and laws, which defined the terms of
water conservation and water use. Existence of officials like
dolos-maha-vatan, va-vajarama, vel-kami and compensation
paid for loss due to royal order clearly indicate this existence
of an efficient management system. If the orders of the palace
were not conducted properly the officials responsible were
punished. Then it is clear that this system of management was
user friendly, community oriented, but strictly legal and
orderly (Paranvitane, 1959). The king himself was well
educated on his duties and was under the guidance of council
of ministers and high dignitaries.

We must understand the value of drainage and hydrological management

if we are to solve the major problem in Sri Lanka and prevent
the destruction caused to regular flow of streams in the dry
zone during the wet season. The present planning system or
the legal system is not built on this type of regularisation and
today we are forced to depend on inter-basin water transfer.
However, it is clear that we are even unable to maintain a well
operational inter-basin water transfer system at present due to
poor upper watershed management. There is chaos in the
drought control system and it is high time we understand that
this problem can be solved only through a well-managed
scientific system and not by just feeding the area with water
from somewhere as we do today.

The management of environmental hazards require a holistic approach,

where the physical hazards are controlled through technical
expertise and the societal organisation required for the
stabilisation of environment is to be conducted through the
implementation of laws and regulations and development of
positive attitudes. Therefore, environmental hazards
management programme requires the support of an
organisational framework with knowledge and authority if it is
to support the survival of humanity.
A proposal for a environment management plan for present linear
settlement system (Seneviratne, H.M.M.B. and Siddhisena, K.A.P.,
Control of Sedimentation of waterways through a household based
programme, Relating environment to Regional Development,
Programme and Abstracts, USJ-Sida/SAREC Research Cooperation
Project and Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources Joint
International Conference , 15 to 16 th September, 2002, Trans Asia,

The primary objective of this paper is to present the available

information on the value of household empowerment in the regional
development, with special reference to the problem of sedimentation and
its effect on regional and national development of Sri Lanka. The
secondary objective is to present the experiences gained in this area of
research and forms a strategy in the control of sedimentation, at the
household level. The alternative development as presented succinctly by
Friedmann (1992), indicates the importance of household in the modern
development process.

The household and the farmland are identified as the major sediment
supplier to the sedimentation system. Home gardens of Sri Lanka are
poorly organized to prevent the flow of sediments to the local network
of drains. In turn the authorities poorly maintain the local network of
drains responsible for the prevention of soil erosion.

The rapid increase in the population of the farming areas of Sri Lanka
has increased the housing density of these two villages by an average of
30 to 40 percent in the last decade, but the removal of excess water
produced by pavementation has not been considered important.
The paper will attempt to forward a long term program, which is aimed
at reducing the maintenance cost of regional authorities on roads, minor
irrigation works and increase the environment value through improved
water situation which is hoped to be achieved through household based
sedimentation control program.

Two special case studies from Sri Lanka

Drinking water supply

One of the major physical and health hazard in Sri Lanka is drinking
water supply. There is no safe drinking water in the public supply system
as people are forced to boil or filter water before drinking. The detailed
survey conducted in 7 provinces of Sri Lanka (3400 cases) is given in
Table 4/3.
Table 4/3 Drinking water supply

Source Percentage
All the time Direct from supply 20
All the time Boiled 16
All the time Filtered 11
All the time Buy bottled water 02
All the time Boiled and filtered 05
Sometimes direct from supply 11
Sometimes boiled 08
Sometimes filtered 13
Sometimes Buy bottled water (on 02
Rarely from direct supply 04
Rarely boiled 02
Rarely filtered 01
Rarely Buy bottled water (on journey) 03
Not answered 02

The unsafe nature of water arises from leakages, breaks and

contamination at the receiving point, as most of the public taps and their
surroundings are not kept clean. Well water in the rural areas is fairly
safe but locally farm chemicals contaminate them. Streams and rivers
are contaminated by heavy use of farm chemicals, sedimentation and
urban waste and sewage.
The largest single group of diseases in hospital registers is intestinal
infectious and malaria (Department of Health, 2000), which has a clear
relationship to drinking water supply. In addition the presence of Renal
failure in the North Central province of Sri Lanka and diarrhoea in
Mathale district are also linked to poor quality drinking water by many
researchers (Seneviratne, 2003b).


Roads are the major arteries of flow of people and goods in any modern
economy anywhere in the world. There is chaos on roads of Sri Lanka,
with extremely high congestion, road surface breakages and damaging
effect on property and life. This situation is a result of non-application of
rules of construction and maintenance and highway code in the road
system of Sri Lanka, which makes them the most hazardous place in the
country. Table 4/4 shows the results obtained in a field traverse of 1754
kilometers through seven provinces of Sri Lanka.
The total number of road accidents in which the people involved
required hospital treatment in Sri Lanka in 2000 was about 320,000 and

fatality was 2150. Vehicles in the category of vans, lorries and buses
caused 70 percent of these accidents.
The primary cause of road accidents in Sri Lanka can be identified as
poor road literacy and anti-social behaviour of big sized vehicle
operators. In an analysis of 250 accidents in a selected police district it
was clear that 64 percent of the accidents were caused by drivers of big
sized vehicles (van, bus, lorry and trailer lorry). Further it is clear that
impatience and drunkenness of these drivers have caused the accidents.
According to Police parking on A and B category

Table 4/4 Road condition

Status Roadside parking is a

Road type problem/serious
Good Bad Very
A – 423 kilometres 23 42 35 Serious problem
B - 819 kilometres 17 65 18 Serious problem
C – 4 12 08 65 27 Problem

Good – minimum loss of time due to road surface condition
Bad - some loss of time due to road surface condition
Very bad – significant loss of time due to road surface condition
Parking – Serious problem – journey is delayed and hazardous
to pedestrians
Problem - journey is delayed
Slight problem - hazardous to pedestrians

roads also contribute to accidents and they require stiffer punishments.

According to information received from police sources the increase of
fines for speeding and drunk driving in 2006 is reaping results as fatal
accidents have decreased by about 2 percent since the beginning of
Lack of application of road laws and regulations, corruption in the
political and social elite, who receive favours and the corruption of the
officers of law are cited as the major reasons for most of these accidents
by media and peoples organisations. Therefore this is a very good
example of a serious man made environmental hazard in Sri Lanka
though Sri Lanka boasts of 91 percent literacy.

“ We got to live in harmony with the planet and Tsunami is a classic
example of a clash between a planet and humanity, and humanity
lost. We think we run our lives and we control our destinies. Planet
controls our destinies.” (2005 February, Unstoppable Wave, Discovery


Paranavitane, S. (1959) Civilisation of the period: Economic, Social and

Political conditions, in History of Ceylon, Ed Ray, H.C.,
Ceylon University Press, Colombo.

Chapter 5


The impact of environmental hazards is increasing at an alarming rate

due to two major factors. Firstly, the rapid increase in the population of
the world leads to construction of settlements in marginal areas.
Secondly, the value of human life and products used by humans is
increased rapidly with increased amount of consumables in the
possession, which is damaged by environmental hazards.
These two scenarios are to continue during the 21 st century and the loss
of life and property from environmental hazards is expected to increase
about to a maximum of five fold between 2000 and 2050. It is the view
of the scientific community that only through a concerted effort on
understanding and predicting environmental hazards that human society
can avert large-scale destruction.
One group of scientists are of the view that the geological hazards will
increase with climatic change and future is bleak for the mankind. The
other group is of the view that it is the man-induced changes and man-
made sociological hazards, which are more important than the
geological hazards. However the use of scientific method will reduce the
damaging effect of environmental hazards and it has to be followed at all
Sri Lanka will face some geological disturbances, failure of monsoons,
increased incidences of tornadoes and line squalls with high intensity
winds and rain and increase in the number of large landslides. These
geological hazards are expected to erase many achievements made by
people towards economic stability, specially the poor. Annual loss to
low income group will be in the region of one to two billion rupees
annually and the loss of income to the nation may be in the region of 5
to 10 billion rupees. This amount is calculated through the addition of all
the capital and recurrent expenditure on payment of compensation for
loss of life, treatment of injured, repair and replacement of housing,
property damage, loss of livelihoods, crops, damage of public property
like roads, drains, culverts, bridges, embankment failure, continuous
clearing of roads of soil and rock fall and many other damages. Most of
the personal losses are not properly compensated in Sri Lanka and
following data sheet indicate (Table 5/1) the reality of most of the people
subjected to an environmental hazard.

However, the environmental hazard, which creates the most destructive

effect at present in Sri Lanka is corruption. Corruption results in
aggravating and sometimes formation of environmental hazards through
gluttony and political evaluation of natural phenomena. Using data from
investigative reports and judicial records in media, it is clear that a loss
of about 100 to 150 billion rupees occur due to corrupt practises in the
implementation of environmental legislation, not supporting scientific
adaptive measures and not adhering to scientific principles of
environmental planning and control.

Table 5/1 – Story of recovery from an environmental hazard in Sri
Site – Puwakgahawela Landslide (the respondent lost his farmland and
Item Damage –cost in Compensation
Rupees received
Loss of farmland 15,000 annually Food and clothing
10,000 rupees
Loss of livelihood 20,000 can be No compensation . he
–working as a earned by going has to go far to work
farm labourer in far, but about 1/3rd and spent on transport
the fields which will be spent on and be away from his
were destroyed by transport and food family
the landslide when he travel far
Schooling of Some school books
children is were distributed
affected as he has
lost the crop
Continuous help A visit after 6 months
to the family
confirmed that there
is no continuous help
to recover from the
disaster and the
respondent is
suffering from loss of
income and his
children and wife are
Continuous help A visit after 1 year
showed that the
respondent has not
recovered fully from
the effect
Continuous help A visit after 2 years
showed that the
respondent has begun
to recover and very
critical of the public
authorities for not
keeping to the
promises made about
clearing rubble from
the farmland.

Chapter 6

12 years after

The increased damage due to poor management of natural and

societal hazards in the past 12 years has resulted in more loss of
property and lives, than any 12 year period in the history of man.
Even after removing the effect of unverified reporting by smart
devices, social media and fake news, it is clear that the global
living environment has become more hazardous in the last 12 than
ever before.

Regional and local economies of the developing world are

constantly affected by continuing hazards related to flash flood,
droughts of various dimensions and violent wind storms (cyclones
and tornadoes).

Case of Sri Lanka

As in all other developing nations, in Sri Lanka, the environment

has become more hazardous than ever before due to non-
availability of a national management plan of natural and societal
hazards. Still the policy makers are incapable of mobilising its
knowledge systems to reduce the impact of natural and societal
Societal Hazards

The economy of Sri Lanka, however is more affected by societal

hazards like gluttony and corruption which has led to a rapid
increase in air and noise pollution and viral diseases. Latest media
and judicial orders reported in media indicate massive financial
losses originating from political corruption. If these reports are not
fake, about 5to 15 trillion rupees have been wasted (calculated
over a period of 10 years by using amounts quoted in print and
electronic media in Sri Lanka, as state sector fraud) by the policy
making bodies of Sri Lanka in the last 20 year period.

As a respondent to a survey on poverty freely commented

“ Most of the politicians say that they come from humble

beginnings. However, they live in mansions, own more than one
house, minimum 3 to 4 vehicles, sent their children abroad for
education or tution etc etc. They cannot account for this wealth
even if we assume that they receive a salary of Rs. 500,000.00 per
month. The cost of living has doubled over last 10 years. Rupee
has devalued by about 200 percent. Though middle and high
income groups have benefited the low income group still depends
on public sector free ration or subsidy schemes. However people
have elected the same gluttonous and corrupt politicians again and
again. Therefore people have got the government they deserve. ”

The discussions in the press, parliament and stated in warrants

issued by judicial announcements in the last two year (2016 and
2017) alone amount to about 200 to 500 billion rupees.

Therefore, gluttony of the socio-political authority and tax evasion

is the most damaging hazard to people of Sri Lanka, resulting in
rising cost of living and devaluation of the currency.

The case of hard drugs and illicit liquor also a major societal
hazards, which kill average of about 50 people involved in the
mafia organisations linked to above activities and create about
50000 medical cases every year in the past 10 years. About 10000
deaths annually are considered as related to use of hard drugs and
illicit liquor.

As some of the populace has no concept of keeping pets, they rare

them until they are sick or old enough to put out of leash. This
foolish activity results in about 100 to 200 thousand stray animals
(some estimates record about 500,000) on road. These stray
animals are responsible for rabies on which government spend
about 3 billion rupees for treatment annually. There are laws and
regulations governing keeping a pet, but the government
authorities rarely enforce due their illiteracy on the dangers of
rabies. In addition, stray animals are responsible for the recorded
increase in the viral infections, specially in the urban areas.

Public authorities and the political authority have no planned

activity for solid and liquid waste, plastic waste and other types of
chemical wastes. This may be the cause for respiratory diseases
recording the highest prevalence ratios in Sri Lanka as waste is
directly linked air quality.

Natural Hazards

Flash floods and drought have become the two major natural
hazards in Sri Lanka in the last 12 years.

The effect of flash floods is felt heavily due to increased rainfall

intensity, settlement expansion into land liable to flood without
proper storm drainage systems.

The effect of drought is felt deeply due to failure of monsoon

system and inability of the policy makers to re-engineer the water
storage reservoir system (weva system) to cater for the changed
climate and settlement expansion.

Landslides have increased due to expansion of settlements without

proper planning and lack of control of land clearance due
to public sector corruption. Investigations on three major
landslides in the last 12 years indicate that blockade of
stream lines, increased pressure on slopes and illegal
deforestation, gem mining or quarrying may have
contributed to initial weakening of the slope surfaces.

Though climatic elements are the activators of flash floods,

landslides and drought, poor public policy has made their
impact to be felt deeper in the society. Society, itself has
also contributed in creating some aspects of the hazard,
by disregarding scientific information and advice.

Though written in 2005 and 2006, basic information given in

Chapters 1 to 4 in this book remains valid for
management of natural and societal hazards in Sri Lanka.
Future hazard environment – Sri Lanka

Natural Environment

Scientific analysis of present day natural environment of Sri

Lanka indicates that it is in a “chaotic state”.

Predictions and recommendations for the next 30 years ( extension

of prediction based on Seneviratne, 2005, which has
proven true in most cases)



Increase in geological (landslides related) activity with slope

destabilisation due to weathering of basement complex
gneiss and related rock strata.

Establishment of local hazard identification system with locally

placed trained personnel. Universities in the regions can
be used as trainers and supply of man power through
their field work programmes, which have financial
allocations. At present universities and other public and
private research organisations have no priorities related to
hazardous environment and spend their allocations
without any national direction.



General decrease of rainfall from monsoon type and cumulus

activity. However, most of the available water is wasted
due to public sector inefficiency and corruption.


Reengineering the storage system to adjust to new climatic

environment, where probability of sufficient rainfall is
low, but total rainfall is sufficient if the flow systems are
properly managed.


Establishment of proper storm drainage systems

Cleaning and redesign of water ways, weirs, ela (canals), storage

reservoirs and weva (tanks).

Construction of ponds or small storage reservoirs to store rapid

flow from high intensity rainfall in the urban surfaces
(towns and cities).

Heavy forceful control on water wastage

Water Recycling
Artificial rain making

Drinking water quality is serious problem, which require

immediate action. Poor quality drinking water is partially
responsible for present high prevalence of gastro-
intestinal disorders in Sri Lanka. The highest prevalence
is recorded in the low and low-middle income groups of
people as rest, including politicians and administrators
and rich usually consume bottled water. The author spent
12 years at Rajarata University and his water bill for
bottled water was 240,000 rupees. Author has attended 37
conferences and seminars and about 200 other types of
meetings, where he consumed bottled water. Once in a
conference on water quality author challenged the
participants and audience to drink from the tap water
supplied by the NWSDB, which became laughing matter.
The response confirms that though we have 94 percent
general literacy our public authorities and general public
are unable to accept that all have failed as a nation to
establish a good standard of living.

“People get the government they deserve” is confirmed and only

disasters can awaken them.

Forest cover reduction


Present system of forest and wild life management has failed due
to insufficient legal power of the controlling authorities
and public sector corruption

All land areas above 1450 meters above sea level has t be treated
as protected watersheds and any existing settlements and
cultivation has to be phased out in a 50 year plan.

For example all constructions and cultivation in and around

Nuwaraeliya town and surrounding area, Pattipola and
Ambawela areas have to be relocated to lower ground
( below 1400 meters) in a 50 year resettlement plan.
Access to Horton, Moon and Elk plains, Sinharaja forest
reserve, Smanala Range and upper Namunukula range
have to be closed except for research. Income generated
from the above mentioned areas at present is less than
0.02 percent of the GDP, population is about 400,000 but
the cost of environmental damage based on loss of spring
water, soil erosion and sedimentation, landslide and flash
floods is in the region of about 5 percent of GDP.

In general, a management system based on community

responsibility and public sector authority has to be
established to plant, manage and market forest products.

Forest and wild life has to be managed with a view of harvesting

its products

Samples of each forest and wild life type has to be protected with
no public or any administrative access except for
research, which can be monitored by the respective
universities in the region. Illegal entry into these reserves
has to be punished by heavy fines and prison sentences.


All the above recommendations given are based on the principles

of environmental management practised in the Ancient
Rajarata civilisation and present day scientific
environmental management principles (Appendix 1).

However, hazards cannot be fully controlled, but they can be

managed to minimise damage to about 30 percent of
present impact rate. Primary requirement is the National
Strategic Development Planning (NSDP), which
coordinates all sectors of the nation into a single aim of
establishment of a standard of living without poverty.
About 25 highly developed nations have shown that this
act of minimising natural and societal hazards is possible
through scientific NSDP constructed in amalgamation
with rule of law. All the developing nations are without
NSDP’s, though they have Strategic Planning
Programmes (SPP) or Strategic Planning Policy
Documents (SPPD) on a sectorial basis. However, these
sectorial plans cannot succeed as shown by failure of
development process in all developing nations and in Sri

Within a NSDP research, primary identification and information

dissemination and even planning of programmes of
hazard management can be conducted by universities in
the region with the use of student field work and staff
research programmes as organised in most of the
developed nations.

All developing countries and Sri Lanka have shown that their
leadership is incapable in constructing and executing
NSDP’s, thus they continue to live in underdevelopment
and high damage from natural and societal hazards.

The ethnic, religious, mafia and other cult related problems are
also major societal hazards in Sri Lanka. Once economic
stability is achieved and rule of law is established all the
above problems will be automatically managed to a level
which will not destabilise the nation, as shown in nations
with economic stability and higher standard of living.
Therefore it is the non-existence of NSDP which makes
Sri Lanka evades socio-political stability and

This incapability of the leadership makes the general populace to

behave erratically, acquiring inefficient and corrupt
practises, which lead to increase of impact of natural
hazards accelerated by human activity.

For example most of the slide damage (about 80 percent) reported

during heavy rains in Sri Lanka are due to non-existence
of storm drainage on constructed space or steep slopes
covered with cultivation.

Above show the result of a not properly managed ( no storm

drainage at the top of the road cut to divert extra water to
the nearby stream which is about 300 meters away or at
the foot of the slope, therefore water flow over the slope
and undercut the slope resulting in weakening of the
holding capacity of the slope, which allows the boulders
to fall) road side slope cut, resulting in a rock fall, the
road builder has not followed the instructions given in
hazard management and the road was allowed to function
by the political and administrative authority.

Damage by naturally occurring slides are a few and occur
occaisionaly (Puwakgahawela and Samisara). However at
Puwakgahawela, residents reported of illegal gem mining
and forest burning at the upper reaches of
Puwakgahawela ela, which occurred for many years
before the massive landslide. At Siripuraa in Aranayaka
area there were sites of chena cultivation on steep slopes
and some quarrying.

Place of origin of Puwakgahawela landslide 2002

The red circles show where people believed

there was gem mining and forest

The main landslide site near Aranayake [Sulochana Gamage/Al

The upper are was cultivated with Rubber with limited strom
water drainage capacity. Arrow shows a cleared area on the slope
which is probably used as chena or a quarry

The victims indicate that they did not know of the danger.

NBRO has declared the area a hazardous zone and still the public
offices responsible allowed people to establish a settlement in the

People refuse to leave as they are not properly knowledgeable of

the hazard and not properly compensated (even after many years
people at a slide site in Padiyathalawa are not fully compensated
according to a survey conducted by 2006 field class,
Environmental Management students, Rajarata University of Sri
Lanka in 2010).

This is the circle of hazard occurrence in a developing country like

Sri Lanka.

Developing nations and Sri Lanka is in this vicious circle of

inefficiency – corruption- inefficiency and continue to
face the increased effects of natural and societal hazards.
Governance has to be efficient and accountable and must mobilise
its resources including people properly to reduce the
impact of hazards. People will not listen when they notice
that the public officials and politicians are not honest and
efficient in attending to their problems. Investigating the
nations with lowest damage from hazards indicate that
they have very low socio-political corruption and proper
taxation (Norway, Sweden, Finland, Iceland, Switzerland,
Austria, Canada, Australia, Germany, France and UK).

The high damage from hazards is in the developing world where

socio-political corruption is high and no proper taxation.
Sri Lankan polity and people are noted for tax avoidance
and engage is tax avoidance like all other developing
nations. Therefore, increased hazard damage is a factor of
poor governance and individualistic social values.

As one victim indicated “they” (public officials and politicians)

only promise, “they” have no concern for proper rule.
Just come when a calamity happens, promise heaven and
never seen. They misuse funds, media remains active for
a few days and they forget poor easily”. This is because
of non-existence of a scientific national strategic
development plan

The future of hazard management in a country like Sri Lanka

remains a dream due to non-adherence to scientific
advice and high level of public and private sector
corruption. There are more than 30 tertiary organisations
engage in research, which have to be coordinated and use
for management of hazards. Damage from hazards will
increase; occurrence of disaster will increase with
increased number of death and property damage in the
next 3 decades.

Some new societal hazards developing into serious hazards last

10 years

Disease Cause Solution
Rabies Lack of enforcement of law on Employ the existing laws on pets, with
domesticated animals / low registration and ability of the owner to
environment illiteracy of policy keep pets. Some owners in the low
maker and society. All the income group cannot get a decent meal
religions advice that pets have a day, but try to rare pets and when they
to be properly treated. However, acquire disease or have litter they
lack of proper understanding of dispose the pet and litter to the road.
religion by a small minority of
people and the low literacy on
pet care of the policy makers,
administrators, religious bodies
and media in Sri Lanka has
resulted in large number of stray
dogs and cats.
Dengue Poor waste and waste water Polcy makers inability to conduct
disposal system mainly in urban proper policy planning and low
areas environmental literacy of a minority
who have no concern for others.
Traffic Low driving literacy, low Polcy makers inability to conduct
accidents mannerisms, poor road designs proper policy planning and low
and corruption environmental literacy of a minority
who have no concern for others. Most
of the roads have no proper pedestrian
areas which makes people to walk on
road. Poor road designs (unnecessary
curving and improper cambering) and
drainage on roadside leads to
breakages, which affect traffic flow.
Renal Poor quality drinking water and Poor policy on water supply and health
failure poor early detection facility management

Ministry of health sources indicate that above hazards result in

rising health expenditure in the last 10 years.

The presence of disease at disaster level is linked to poverty and

corruption in the developing world. Countries with fair level of
income have the capability of maintaining a better health status
than today, but financial corruption prevents them from utilising
scientific environmental planning to obtain that better status. For
example media reports reveal that the poor health status is related
to poor level of waste and drainage control as long term plans for
cleaner society are not followed in these countries.

Literature survey on the health status of developed world reveal

that they have carried out large scale filling or draining of
wetlands to prevent mosquito borne diseases and use massive
quantities of chemical cleaning fluids to clean the drainage
system. Most of the researchers in health and development agree
(Senevirtane, 2003) that the better health status of the developed is
primarily a result of proper environmental planning and
enforcement of legislation on waste control.

There is a relationship between income and health in both

developed and developing but the infectious diseases and non-
malignant chronic diseases are a mainly a result of unclean


Corruption is one of the most commonly present societal hazards in the

world, but its effect on economic development is widely felt in the
developing world. This is because the rate of corruption in public
services in these countries seriously affects economic growth and
development. Further, corruption rejects the scientific method of
development which is the only stable way of development. Therefore
developing countries suffer continuously from lack of balanced social
development, which leads to continuing damage to both natural and
societal environment.

This continuous damage to natural and societal environment will

increase the effect of disaster in the developing countries, though the
whole world is subjected to an increase in natural and societal hazards in
the next 50 to 100 years. Most recent estimates indicate that most of the
developing countries will suffer serious disasters as they have not
utilised environmental planning in their programmes of development.

Financial corruption retards development and leads to poverty. Poverty

results in all types of social ills. People look for avenues to fight
corruption. They take the paths of religious extremism, ethnic identity or
regional separation and establish protest and terror groups. At the
moment of finishing the second edition of this book ISIS, Al Qaida,
Bokoharam and many other groups in the developing world are at war
with state forces indicating that they have to establish a religious control
over population to solve problems. In total about 100 to 200 people die
and thousands are displaced (internally or externally) due these
activities. These groups have become a threat to the developed world
and there is continuing war. Refugees from war and drought attempt to
migrate to better places. Daily news reports indicate many die on their
way to new destinations. Refugees have become a serious problem to
USA and Europe as they avoid autocratic states of Russia and peoples
Republic of China. Most ther nations like Australia and Japan have very
strict rules on the acceptance of refugees. Corruption has managed to
destabilise the whole developing world.

There is heavy out migration of educated and rich from Sri Lanka as the
nation is becoming more and more inefficient and unable to provide
employment to educated and business opportunities to rich who like to
conduct business. Business related activities suffer from serious
inefficiencies in the state system known as (red tape). Educated suffer
from neglect of ability and talent in state service and state affiliated
services, where political favouritism remains strong. Therefore financial
corruption has become a serious social hazard in Sri Lanka.

Are the public, offices of politicians and administrators are ready to

manage and minimise the occurrence of hazards and disasters?
Are the people ready to manage and minimise the occurrence
of hazards and disasters?

At the time of finishing the 2nd edition of this book in 2018, April the
answer to both questions asked above is NO. Even the general
public which boasts a 94 percent literacy rate rarely follow
hazard avoidance advice. Therefore, disasters emanating from
the present hazardous environment (societal and natural) will
continue in the next 20 years, eroding the nation’s wealth.

Immediately prepare and activate a scientific National Strategic

Development Plan, not sectoral strategic plans by various
public institutions and authorities

Mobilise society and policy makers by employing rule of law

Case of Drought ( Economically and socially mot damaging hazard)

As the effects of climatic change have increased in the last 30 years,

seasonal and agricultural drought has become the most
damaging natural hazard in Sri Lanka. Seneviratne (2005)
estimated that the loss due to climatic change in Sri Lanka will
be in the region of Rs 100 to 200 billion rupees by 2035. The
seasonal drought which began in the rainy season of 2015
continues to 2018. By the time the second edition of this book
is prepared, low income people of the dry zone are still
receiving drought relief and working in drought relief
supporting work as a condition to receive drought relief. As
predicted drought has become the most damaging hazard and
disaster in Sri Lanka.
The following presentation is provides the reader with knowledge on the
system of drought control through environmental engineering
(water storage and water management) in the Rajarata
Kingdom (Appendix 1) and how in a changed climate the
present policy makers have to re-engineer the environment to
minimise damage from drought.

Drought and the “Rajarata Innovative” – Development of Dry Zone

of Sri Lanka (Seneviratne, 2017)

Innovation and development are two very common words in our

vocabulary. Whenever, they are practiced together, a nation will develop
and standard of life will improve. But for them to be together, tradition
and social mobilization have to reach an advanced status within a nation
alongside, National Scientific Strategic Development Planning, because
development is a scientific process and innovation originates from the
understanding of the scientific process.

Best example is the beginning of micronisation of technology, which

began in post war Japan. Japan was fully mobilized for the second world
war, with a fatal dedication to nation, built on the tradition of
“kamikaze” and “bonsai” cultures. “kamikaze” did not succeed and
“bonsai” led to micronisation of technology. Making products small as
possible was conducted within the “bonsai” culture and inefficiency and
corruption was punished by the “suicide culture” orginatng from age old
“kamikaze” belief. Even in the 21 st century, failure in personal or social
life leads to suicide in Japan, which is connected to these age old

Development status of the socio-political organizations (nation state) is a

result of the level of innovativeness of the management organization
(academic, business and political). At present Dry Zone of Sri Lanka,
suffers from increasing incidence of drought and associated poverty, due
to non-availability of a national strategic development plan, which is
required for the proper mobilization of the national socio-political
organization to overcome the effect of drought and manage poverty.
Therefore the development process is associated with inefficiencies and
corruption, which leads to economic and environmental failure resulting
in continuing poverty and high level of wealth inequality.

(in a class discussion on modernization and environmental disasters

(2006 batch – Environmental Management : Disaster Management :
Rajarata University of Sri Lanka
Student (young strategic thinker - treated as a revolutionary by failed
planners) commented “we have not modernized, but have become
MOD” (indicating loss of connectivity between development and
innovation), and a very slight noise from another student was heard
“MODA?” Teacher picked up the argument and asked why “MOD(A)”,
“we have no plan the student replied”, Then teacher indicated that “the
national management organization of Sri Lanka has not presented a
Strategic Plan for National Development covering development over
space and time since 1970”


Drought is a natural occurrence related to oscillations of weather and

climatic regimes?
The effect of the natural occurrence, resulting from poor strategic

For example Israel, which is a desert country, never complains that there
is a drought, though low rainfall years occur within it.

Similarly, USA, Canada and most of the EU nations do not complain of

drought. It is the developing nations with no National Strategic
Planning, which complain of drought. All the failed and countries with
high rates of state inefficiencies always complain of drought.

Further, factors like level of mobilization of the socio-political

organization and level of use of knowledge defines drought.

The Effect of drought is therefore, related to both innovation and

development. And drought effect can be reduced to a level below 30
percent with strategic national planning.

Innovation: Construction

Defining innovation as 'the process by which a new idea is discovered or

created' Tatum (1987), identifies two facets of the concept. One is the
process innovation, which signifies advances in technology that enable a
greater output per unit of input and the other is the product innovation
that results in a qualitatively superior product. Dulaimi (1995) takes the
same stand when he refers to innovation that produces greater volume of
output as process innovation and, one which facilitates a qualitatively
superior output from a given amount of input resources as product
innovation. As such, innovation may be a flash of genius thought and
action or it may be the innovative use of existing technologies or
processes to meet new demands.

According to Tatum (1987) however, innovation stems primarily from

two forces; namely, the market demands and the progress at the
technological and scientific frontiers. Without any question, research and
development play a significant role in initiating innovations leading to
achieving higher levels of efficiency and productivity that have become
pressing demands. The impetus for innovation always stems from the
rigorous constraining factors in a particular field or a situation. In fact,
they in turn become blessings in disguise, facilitating movements
forward and widening the horizons of the respective fields.

Emphasizing this view Ganesan (1996) states that innovation in

construction is a competitive response to the constraints of the
industry and economy to achieve more efficient procurement,
production and completion of projects within the limitations of
resources, particularly labour and materials. He stresses the
inextricable link between the construction industry and the
economy, where the key phases of a construction project such as
procurement, production and completion become essential
resources. However, they may become constraints for innovation
in the context of labour and materials. The dynamic character of
other industries and the economy, client requirements and project
conditions can indeed become additional interrelated factors that
facilitate innovation.
Level of Level of Effect of Socio- Level of Use of
innovativeness development drought ( based political traditional
on expenditure organisation knowledge
on drought
Highly innovative Highly Rarely reported Highly High
developed – mobilised
Israel, Japan,
New Zealand
, Japan
Innovative Developed, Reported mobilised Moderate
all other
nations and
Low innovative Undeveloped Continuously unmobilised Low
– all reported
Table 1. Innovation, development, drought, socio-political organization
and traditional knowledge



Anthropologists view culture as an artifact that is shaped by shared

meanings and symbols resulted from social interaction (Ortner, 2006).
Culture is not a static entity. It is continuously changing, as the
organization and environment changes. If culture is the end product of
the social interaction between organizational members, then
management should try to maneuver organizational symbols, myths and
logos in relation to whole organizational culture with the understanding
that management is just a fraction of the larger culture.

Transformation of space and place

Seneviratne (2001) indicates in relation to the ‘Colony’ to Mahaweli

village’, “The Transformation of a place in the farmer resettlement
programme in the dry zone of Sri Lanka”.

Merrifield (1993) describes the place in relation to space, as “Place is

not merely abstract space: it is the terrain where basic social practices –
consumption, enjoyment, tradition, self-identification, solidarity, social
support and social reproduction etc- is lived out. As a moment of
capitalist space, place is where everyday life is situated”.

As explained in Sack (199) “human projects of changing nature into

culture, and of developing ever more culture requires place”.

This is a realist concept and creating places changes reality and even
expands or contracts the real and creation of places leads to the
formation of the geographical structure with places and their
interconnection in space. Both the ‘colony’ and ‘mahaweli village’
though separated by a time boundary are composed of the migrants of
the complex wet zone cultural system having managed to transform to a
‘unique cultural group’ which survives on irrigated agriculture. Today
the ‘mahaweli village’ is developing ever more culture and makes an
attempt to adjust to the new socio-economic and political realities of Sri
Lanka, without surviving on irrigated agriculture?
The decisions to improve the life of the parents and family through
joining the armed forces at the height of the war (Seneviratne, 2003),
hard work at the plantation and going abroad (Agalakotuwa, 2010),
adjusting to natural hazards (Pallegedrara, 2015) and by self
employment (Weerasinghe, 2016) can be shown as innovative measures
taken by family members who dared the unknown.

Innovation is therefore inbuilt into our culture as in any other culture.

Only difference is it is not properly mobilized.

Weather and climate

Drought is a result of both change in weather and climate and wastage of

water (Bandara, 1985 and Tennakoon,1986). Change in nature of rainfall
and the total amounts of rainfall are positively confirmed by many
researchers and no need to discuss in here (Seneviratne, 2005).

Occurrence of high percentage of line squalls prevents gradual

infiltration and percolation as they bring heavy continuous rain, which is
quickly directed towards streams (Seneviratne, 2007).

Increased intensity of rainfall leads to rapid flow and flash flooding as

constructions have not provided proper drainage and quick over flow
from silted weva and reservoirs.

Flow patterns of streams have been subjected to disruption and

destruction, which results in shallow pond formation. Various types of
constructions without proper drainage facilities leads to accumulation of
water from low to moderate amounts of rain in roadside drains or home
garden, which is mostly evaporated without contributing to soil wetting.
This has resulted in a drastic reduction of flow (about 30 percent) to
small weva.

Small weirs constructed along streams to delay flow are neglected and
silted, which results in not delaying flow to the major stream leading to
rapid flow in streams.

The blockade of roadside drains by improperly built access points,

filling or refuse dumping prevents regular flow to stream or small weva.

Wastage of water

Inscriptions indicate that wastage of water was controlled by proper

management systems and heavy fines within Rajarata Innovative
(Seneviratne, 2007). In real terms since around 1970s, the drainage
system in Sri Lanka was subjected to neglect and the policy makers have
not found a way to provide a drainage system which will prevent
wastage of water (Seneviratne, 2005). General public and the policy
makers therefore have become hydrological illiterates leading to massive
loss of water directed towards streams and weva.

Catchment and surrounding of all major weva and storage reservoirs are
encroached by elite with political support or party members of major
political parties to build hotels, guest houses and sometimes for
specialised farming. For example in the two seats of government of the
ancient kingdom (Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa) large scale
intrusions into weva has resulted in lowering of storage capacity of
weva. Following this unethical example all types of weva is encroached
and sometimes the sluice level lowered to prevent flooding of illegal
constructions. Therefore, though the nation boasts of about 92 percent
literacy, its attitude towards water and water storage indicate our
environmental literacy may be as low as 10 percent.

Neither policy makers nor the general public have presented an

innovative answer to changing nature and amounts of rainfall, though
they know about climatic change and reduction of total amounts of

Rajarata Innvoative

Droughts of short term and long term scale are an essential feature of the
dry zone region of Sri Lanka, since the establishment of settled
agriculture. However, the “Ancient Rajarata Innovative” was capable of
limiting the effect of drought to a minimum with proper strategic
development planning operated by the ancient kingdom.

The traditional “Rajarata innovative” in Hydrology and Water Resource


“In the realm that is subject to me there are, apart from many strips of
country where the harvest flourishes mainly by rain water, but few fields
which are dependent on rivers with permanent flow or on great
reservoirs. Also by many mountains, by thick jungle, and by widespread
swamps my kingdom is much straitened. Truly in such a country not
even a little water that comes from the rain must flow into the ocean
without being made useful to man. Except at the mines where there are
precious stones, gold and in all other places the laying out of fields must
be taken in hand” (Paranavithana,1959: 555)

The value of rain water/ permanent rivers/reservoirs arranged in that

order and understood – innovative thought on the major resource

Then to the sources mountains/thick jungle and swamps – understanding

the value of springs

The way it should flow to the ocean – strategy

Except at the mines – trade and wealth creation

Plan for laying out of fields – major activity of the populace is well

Present day “Rajarata innovative” in Hydrology and Water Resource


Present day “rajarata innovative is based on the rhetoric of “not even a

drop of rain should be allowed to flow to the ocean without being used
for a purpose”, without its traditional management principle.

Here we have reduced the innovation process and strategic importance

of the concepts of hydrology and planning by simplification of the
phrase of King Parakramabahu the Great.

“Rajarata innovative” ( the innovative thinking and constructions within

a properly mobilized society of the Rajarata civilization is here referred
to as - Rajrata innovative- ) has many answers, which can be used to
form the new system, but neither policy makers or general public has
shown any interest in the hydrology of the “Rajarata innovative”.

There is sufficient research evidence to indicate that a combined

innovative technology of “Rajarata innovative and present day “ make,
create innovate” can be amalgamated to solve to control wastage of
available water and increase water capacity of weva (tank is a wrong
term for the multi-purpose reservoir) system.

Weva is the prime rhetoric in the “rajarata innovative” and treated as a

static unit of operation today. Rajarata weva is a micro/macro part of
“mega environmental management innovative of the Rajarata
civilization”, constructed through engineering the landscape. This weva
system was built in a much wetter environment than today (Bryant,
1997). Now this landscape is about 1000-2000 years old. Within this
period, nature and man has changed resulting in coming of another type
of unplanned reengineered landscape. But, we are still trying to keep the
weva in the same form and same place, which is definitely impossible.
We have to change the weva and its engineered landscape to suite the
changed climate ( reduced rainfall) and culture (immobilized socio-
political organization).

Some weva have to be closed/ some enlarged/some deepened/ flow lines

rearranged etc. Author has witnessed in Switzerland, Norway and Israel,
methods of changing the flow patterns, stream characteristics and
storage without environmental damage.

Where to go

We have a good understanding of the nature, intensity and distribution of

the drought effect, as the builders of ancient hydraulic system look to the
future with the support of available and possible technology.

As the leaders of the hydraulic civilization have mobilized the

population and engineering systems, we have to utilize present day
reengineering systems, which are sustainable, if supported by proper
policy and mobilization. Since the beginning of modernization process
in 1960’s, leadership of Sri Lanka has failed to understand that
development is a scientific process and political process can only
provide guidance. Since 1960’s leadership has failed to understand that
development can only be achieved, only through proper mobilization
(efficient and accountable) of societal forces.

As the leaders of the hydraulic civilization manage to properly mobilize

their population and build the system to suit the ancient requirements,
we have to properly mobilize present day population (efficient and
accountable) and redesign the hydrological and reservoir system to suit
the present and future day requirements

We can utilize the modern concept of innovation, “make create

innovate” – as the resurgence of “Rajarata innovative”

Mean annual rainfall has reduced, temperature and evaporation has

increased leading to a new weather and climate in Sri Lanka. Rainfall
pattern and intensity is rapidly changing and cycle of dry periods and
heavy rain periods a norm of weather and climate. This change will
intensify in the next 30 to 50 years.

If we conduct environmental management exercise properly utilising
new techniques and methodologies, the effect of environmental hazards
including drought can be reduced by 70 percent. This is because modern
hazard and disaster models can reduce effect by about 70 percent, as
explained by Federal Emergency Management Authority (now
Homeland Security Organisation), USA. (Seneviratne (2010).


Agalakotuwa, H.M.M.S.R.K.S. (2010) The Implementation of Corporate

Social Responsibility and Its Contribution to the Long Term
Sustainability of the Sri Lankan Tea Industry, unpublished MA
dissertation, London Metropolitan University, London, UK.

Bandara, C.M.M (1985) Village Tank Cascade Systems of Sri Lanka A

Traditional Technology of Water and Drought Management, ),

Bryant, E. (1997) Climate: Process and Change, Cambridge University

Press, Cambridge.

Dulaimi, M (1995) "The Challenge of Innovation In Construction ",

Building Research and Information, Vol 23, pp 106-109.

Ganesan, S. et al (1996) Construction in Hong Kong, Avebury Ashgate

Publishing Ltd., Hong Kong

Kemp, R. and Rotmans, J., 2001. The management of the co evolution

of technical, Environmental and Social Systems. Proc. Int. Conf. on
“Towards Environmental Innovation System”. GarmischPartenkirchen,
Netherlands. P.1-22.

Merrifield, A. (1993) Place and Space, A lefebvrian creconcilliation,

Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 18,4, 536-551.

Pallegedara, K. (2015) Hazard Status of the Dry Zone of Sri Lanka,

unpublished PhD, University of Honalulu, USA.

Paranavithana, S. (1959( Civilisation of the early period: economic,

Political and Social conditions in History of Ceylon, Ed. H.C. Ray,
University of Ceylon press Board, Colombo, Vol1, Part II.

Sack, , R.D. (1999) A sketch of a geographic theory of morality, Annals

of the Association of Geographers, 9.1, 26-44
Seneviratne, H.M.M.B. (2003) Resettlement and Health, PhD,
Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Norway, ISBN 82-

Seneviratne, H.M.M.B. (2001) ‘Colony’ to ‘Mahaweli village’: the

Transformation of Place in the Farmer Resettlement Programme in the
Dry Zone of Sri Lanka, Contemporary Debates in the Discipline of
Geography: Space and Place, Landscape and Environment, Norwegian
University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway, ISSN 0809-

Seneviratne, H.M.M.B. (2005) Climatic Change and Development: the

effect of climatic change on population and development in Sri Lanka,
Sri Lanka Journal of Population Studies, 8

Seneviratne, H.M.M.B. (2005) Climate Change and Development, PED,

Anuradhapura, ISBN 955-98808-0-2. In Sinhala.

Seneviratne, H.M.M.B. (2005) Disaster management, Mathale, ISBN


Seneviratne, H.M.M.B. (2017) Drought and the “Rajarata Innovative” –

Development of Dry Zone of Sri Lanka, NCUMUD , Rajarata
University of Sri Lanka, Abstracts, 33-43

Tatum, C B. (1987) The Process of Innovation in the Construction Firm,

Journal of Construction Engineering and Management, ASCE, Vol. 113,
No. 4, Paper No. 22045, pp. 648-663.

Tennakoon, M.U.A. (1986) Drought hazard and rural development: a

study in perception of and ..., › Political
Science › Public Policy › Regional Planning.

Weerasinghe, S. (2016) Firm Competency in Export Promotion of

Manufacturing type Small and Medium scale Enterprises (SME’s),
Unpublished PhD, University of Honalulu, USA.

Environmental Management in the time of Smart Technology and

Artificial Intelligence

Smart technology (ST) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) has begun to

facilitate the maintenance of low hazard and disaster levels from natural
and societal hazards and disasters. The ST and AI enables the planner in
study, research, predict and manage natural and societal hazards and
disasters more efficiently and scientifically.
High powered sensors have successfully predicted tornadoes, cyclones,
tsunamis, landslides and flash floods in the developed world since the
utilization of ST and AI. They have managed to reduce risk to human
lives and enabled correct evacuations. Further, they have supported
better construction systems for settlements, making settlements safer to
live. However, most of the advantages of ST and AI are yet to reach the
developing nations.
Mainstream and social media networks with ST and AI have helped to
uncover risks emanating from violation of morality, financial corruption,
human rights violations and gender related abuses. Political and social
elite of the developed world are under observation for above mentioned
violations and there is a rise in the number of convictions leading to
resignations, fines and prison sentences. Some very powerful financial
institutions, multinational companies and societal organizations have
been subjected to heavy fines, with removal of their chief executive
The process is still slow in the developing world where inefficiency and
corruption is still high, but social media is initiating some deep inquiries.
Some serious cases have been taken to International Courts of Justice
through these reports with good results. However, the true strength of ST
and AI is yet to be realized in the developing nations.

Final Note

Over population and poor governance are the two major factors
responsible for increased threat from environmental hazards. Sri Lanka
is over populated by about 10 million people at the end of 2017 and
population planning is required to stabilise the economic development of
the nation. Governance has not reached the required efficiency levels as
scientific environmental planning is neglected. Therefore, environmental
hazards will increase in the next decade resulting in many social

Appendix 1

The following information extracted from Lagamuwa, (2007), as

depicted on inscriptions of the Rajarata kingdom indicates the existence
of a highly developed environmental management system, which
supported a well organised economy.

Total environment: with reference to the environment in and around the


“In every settlement it is prohibited to cut timber, kill animals,

erect new construction and pollute water within a circumference
of 60 feet.”

The value of above imposition was to keep a stable organic

environment with a balance of living beings (which is not kept
today). This was possible as the settlement of the kingdom was
designed and structured in association with the environment.
Similar environmental laws are in force in the highly developed
western world and in countries like Malaysia and Singapore
where all human acts including planning of settlement is also
conducted according to strict environmental requirements.

“ in the 3rd century BC, it was prohibited to slaughter animals

within a circumference of 25 miles of Anuradhapura city ”

“In 12 the century AD, it was prohibited to slaughter animals,

fishing and cut timber within a circumference of 35 kilometers
of Polonnaruwa city ”

the above two edicts were aimed at preventing water pollution,

spread of disease and securing a religious environment.

The following of above edicts were possible because there was

an advanced level of environmental planning in the system of
governance, where honest leader guided the populace.

The breaking of environmental law and edicts demanded heavy

The illegal felling of trees was punished by hard labour related
to tank building and restoration. These actions were punishable
by a fine or manual work.

“ illegal cutting of trees were punished by a fine or cutting and

repairing an area equal to about 48 cubic meters of weva”.
Mihinthale Pillar Inscription, King Mihindu IV.

“ the palm, coconut, tamarind and Mee trees on Mihinthala hill

should not be cut or removed. The persons including the royal
servants who break this law should be punished by a fine and
the income collected should be given to the temple” Mihinthale
Pillar Inscription, King Sena II, AD 853-887.

The technology of water management was the core of the

success of the kingdom.

“ The sluice of Tissa weva should be closed nine days after

harvest in the fields of Isurumuniya and allow it to fill again.
Then the remaining water can be released first to the temple and
surrounding area and any excess water should be released to
Malwathu Ela. In addition the land belonging to the temple
should not be taken over by anyone.”
Wessagiriya Inscription, Mihindu IV, 956-973.

“ 2 Aka (an older currency) was fined for flooding of paddy

fields (over use of water), before ploughing (there was a set
standard for ploughing). If ploughing was not done correctly the
person at fault was fined with one Kalang of gold. If the
ploughing was not done as prescribed the person at fault was
fined 5 kalangs of gold.”

None of the above type management practices are followed

today and we use only the rhetoric of a developed ancient
kingdom where ever we talk of environmental management.
Present day rulers and people are yet to understand the value of
the environmental management system, which constructed a
developed world country in the ancient times.

Appendix 2

Risk: risk is present in all activities we pursue in our daily lives. Risk of
environmental hazards cannot be fully calculated because the nature of
occurrence varies from one incident to another. Further, the level of risk
of an occurrence changes from one society to another. For example
people living in coastal areas are generally not fearful of the sea, but
inland living people fear sea. In addition people do not think about risk
unless there is a threatening situation around and sometimes they think
that though there is a risk, it may not be life threatening. These types of
attitudes make the scientific value of risk not universally applicable.
However the concept behind the scientific notion of risk is to construct a
generally acceptable concept of risk using statistical probabilities.

In relation to environmental hazards, risks can be categorised as

involuntary and voluntary (Smith, 2000).
Involuntary risks are the risks, which are undertaken without knowing
the severity of the hazard. Living in an earthquake zone or landslide area
makes the person to know about the risk, but he cannot fully estimate the
risk. This is because the occurrence of these types of events is not fully
predictable and they do not occur all the time. Most of the geological
risks are in this category.
Voluntary risks are the risks taken with a full knowledge of the hazard.
For example living on the bank of a river which floods every year makes
the resident aware of the risk, but because of lack of land in a safe area
leads him to live in a high risk area. All types of societal hazards can be
put into this category.
Statistical analysis of risk is based on theories of probability and simple
equation of

R= p x L can be used to calculate risk of an event

R is risk
p is the probability of the event
L is the loss
To calculate probability of an event there are many statistical and
mathematical procedures, which can be taken from books on statistics.

Appendix 3

The Ethnic environment

There is a constant struggle between three major ethnic groups in Sri

Lanka emanating from poor governance.