Devastation from floods, landslides: Questions asked about Early Warning System despite aid from Japan

Devastation from floods, landslides: Questions asked about Early Warning System despite aid from Japan

By Keshala Dias

01 Jun, 2017 | 10:02 pm

The recent floods and landslides caused devastating losses to life and property. Why was there no early warning system to prevent such massive losses?

News1st digs deeper into the situation.

Rs. 50 million was spent to establish a Doppler weather radar system which can scientifically provide early weather forecasts, on the Gongala mountain in 2011.

The weather radar system had been purchased from Enterprise Electronics Corporation based in the United States of America via the World Meteorological Organisation.

However, the system has never been in operation.

In 2014, a committee comprising then Deputy Minister Dulip Wijesekera, S. Wirithamulla, E. Wijepala. L.S.B. Karunaratne and U.Wilson carried out an investigation and uncovered the reasons why the system was never made use of.

The process of setting up the system atop the Gongala mountain had not been done in a proper manner and a daily log book had not been maintained.

Met officials had informed the investigating committee that when a crane was lifting part of the system, several pieces had fallen off, damaging the equipment.

As there was a delay to put the system i to operation, the equipment had corroded and rusted.

Though  parts have been sent to the US for repairs, they are yet to return.

The investigation revealed that there was no discussion with the Sri Lanka Air Force or other authorities to use an alternative method to install the system atop the mountain.

Cabinet approval was granted to purchase a Doppler weather radar system on May 11, in a backdrop where parts of a Doppler system installed on the Gongala mountain continues to corrode.

Nevertheless, the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) has agreed to grant 2.503 billion Japanese Yen to establish a Doppler radar network for the Met Department.

Yet, for the past six years, government delayed the installation of the Doppler weather radar system.

If such a process is followed yet again, the loss of life in future natural disasters could be even higher.

It is imperative that authorities keep this fact in mind.