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The writing in the 'mini floods'

The vast and instantaneous inundation of parts of Colombo's highways in the current spell of fierce evening thunder showers, illustrates in both disquieting and dramatic fashion, the glaring inadequacies in the present system of rainwater control and regulation.

The sad reality is that parts of the metropolis are rendered nearly impassable in the shortest of showers - so inefficient are our present systems of rainwater disposal, including parts of the city's network of drains.

Over the past few days, Colombo's working population in particular has been, not surprisingly, finding travelling back home, a most horrifying experience. Besides the inconvenience and hazards posed by the torrential spells of rain, they are compelled to fret it out for long hours in slow-moving public transport, painfully wending their way through water-logged highways.

Instantaneously inundating city streets are, of course, nothing new, but what is thought-provoking this time round is that the problem is of graver magnitude and that nothing seems to have been done about it. We invite our decision-making bigwigs in the State institutions overseeing these subjects to take a trip through the city when it rains in buckets in the evenings, to see for themselves how the problem has been allowed to get out of hand. If they face up to the truth honestly, they would agree with us that the situation is desperate.

We have been fortunate so far to only have relatively short showers - lasting on the average, an hour or an hour and a half. Don't our State functionaries realise that prolonged downpours could produce a June 1992-type deluge, which plunged almost the entirety of Colombo into unprecedented floods and devastation?

Let's not trust to what is called "luck". Prior to the tsunami wave tragedy of December 2004 too, we considered ourselves "lucky" because no earthquake or volcano was seen as capable of touching us.

Today, however, the outlook has changed drastically for Sri Lanka. For, we are no longer immune to the worst furies of "Nature". In fact, a part of Sri Lanka could be said to be within an earthquake prone zone.

Likewise with these so-called mini-floods. In fact that deluge of June 1992, should have been considered a shocker and the relevant precautions taken to ensure that Colombo and other urban centres are not flood-prone. The indications, however, are that "development work" has gone on uninterrupted in Colombo and other major towns, with no thought spared for the harmful consequences.

We call on all the relevant State agencies concerned (and there is a multiplicity of them) to hold a well-coordinated, emergency meeting on these floods hazards in our urban centres and towns and take the necessary corrective action to ward off the impending dangers.

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