Sri Lanka – After Tsunami, Most of the Country is Not Damaged
Sri Lanka has been the focus of the world’s attention since the tsunami hit our shores on December 26, 2004.
And while we will never forget the enormous impact on our coastline and the sadness caused by the deaths of 107 tourists and 30,618 Sri Lankans, our people have shown a remarkable resilience, an amazing determination to rebuild our lives and our nation, to emerge even stronger than we were before.
Tourism is key to that rebuilding process. A healthy tourist industry will provide jobs and in turn the dignity that will put the world-famous smile back on Sri Lankan faces.
In urging visitors to return to our shores, it is important to present the real facts about Sri Lanka, a true picture of the situation on a daily basis. The following information seeks to put some perspective on the situation, provide a succinct, unembellished view of our island so that those who wish to visit us can draw their own conclusions with complete confidence.
Sri Lanka Tourist Board
Area: The affected coastline represents less than fifteen percent of the entire land mass of the country.
• The island of Sri Lanka covers a total area of 65,610 square kilometres (25,332 sq miles).
• From north to south it is 430 kilometres (267 miles) and at its widest is 225 kilometres (140 miles).
• The Sri Lankan coastline covers 1,330 kilometres (826 miles) of which 1126 kilometres (700 miles) was affected.
Airport: Sri Lanka ’s International Airport, the Bandaranaike International Airport is situated in Katunayake, 34km north of Colombo.
• The airport has been fully operational throughout and is coping efficiently with additional flights carrying medical aid and supplies from the other countries.
• On average, there are 35 flights into and out of Sri Lanka daily.
• 34 international carriers operate out of the airport.
Of the 246 hotels islandwide, 194 were operational as of 12th January 2004.
• Only five hotels suffered structural damage and have been permanently closed.
• We are expecting most of the remaining hotels to be operational again in the next few months.
The status of the Island ‘s hotels is constantly updated on the website established the day after the tsunami.
National Wildlife Parks
Of the 15 national parks in the country only Yala National Park was affected by the tsunami.
• Yala National Park reopened to the public on January 5, 2005.
• The accommodation at Tissamaharama, (Hambantota District) which houses the Park’s visitors, is operational once more.
• Sri Lanka ’s national parks cover 5,102 square kilometers or eight percent of the islands total land area.
Sri Lanka has 1,449 km of railway tracks.
• According to the Ministry of Transport only 160 km (11% of railway tracks) have been affected or damaged.
• The railway track to Kalutara (43kms south of Colombo ) is operational but remains impassable beyond that in the south.
• It is estimated that rehabilitation of the tracks will cost Rs 6,550 million (US$6.55 million).
According to the Ministry of Highways, of Sri Lanka ’s 96,695km roads, just 500 km (or 0.5%) was damaged by the tsunami.
• The damage to the highways was greater in the East than in the South along the road from Batticaloa – Ampara – Trincomalee.
• All roads are now passable and the debris has been cleared. The main southern highway from Colombo to Hambantota (250 kms) has been restored and traffic is moving freely.
Sri Lanka Telecom worked around the clock to restore the country’s national telecommunications network.
• Of the 29 towns where phone services were disrupted, 20 have been restored.
• On 2 January 2005, services had been partially restored in Ambalantota, Hungama, Kataragama, Tanamalwila and Tissamaharama.
• On 12 January 2005, of the 59,000 phone lines damaged by the tsunami, Sri Lanka Telecom (SLT) has restored 39,000 phonelines.
• The day after the tsunami hit, telephones were made available free of charge from the local offices for the public to urgently keep in touch with friends and relatives.
There are four mobile phone networks operating in Sri Lanka – Celtel, Mobitel, Dialog and Hutch.
• Celtel and Mobitel experienced no disruption to service, except for jamming problems immediately after the tsunami struck.
• The largest mobile service provider, Dialog, experienced service disruption in some areas but within 72 hours, 66 per cent of the damage had been repaired. They were back to 100 per cent capacity within four days.
• Hutch experienced some disruption but service was fully restored within a week.
• Mobile phone usage has reached 7 per cent penetration in Sri Lanka ; India and Vietnam have a penetration rate of 4 percent. This translates to 350 out of every 5,000 Sri Lankans who own a mobile phone.
Tourism is the fourth largest contributor of Sri Lanka ’s GDP.
• When the tsunami struck, there were 17,000 tourists on the island with 6,000 holidaying along the affected coastal areas.
• There are numerous leisure destinations in the country’s interior which remained totally unaffected by the tsunami.
• The hill country, tea plantations and the cultural triangle, located in the heart of Sri Lanka, are fully operational.
Sri Lanka ’s wildlife survived the tsunami unscathed. This was due in part to a sixth sense – or more likely to ultra sensitive hearing which allowed them to pick up wavelengths humans did not hear.
The major animal groups to be found in Sri Lanka include:
• The leopard – the highest density of leopards anywhere in the world is found in Sri Lanka – in an area of 14,000 hectares, (Yala National Park) there are 1.1 leopards per square kilometer
• Elephants – which are visible any time of year, in national parks, sanctuaries and even by the roadside
• Birdlife – a huge variety of exotic birds inhabit Sri Lanka
• The sloth bear can be spotted even in daylight in Sri Lankan national parks.
World Heritage Sites
Sri Lanka has seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites; Sigiriya, Polonnaruwa, Dambulla, Kandy, Anuradhapura, Sinharaja Forest Reserve and the Dutch Fort in Galle.
• The only coastal site – Galle Fort – was left undamaged by the tsunami. Although the surrounding area of Galle was affected, the fort remained protected by the ramparts.
• All other sites, which are located in the cultural triangle, in the centre of Sri Lanka and in the Ratnapura district, are fully operational.
Reports on the dangers of landmines reports unearthed by the tsunami have been greatly exaggerated.
• The Relief, Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Ministry reported that not more than five to ten landmines have shifted from their original positions, which were immediately located and destroyed.
The Ministry stressed that the shift of these mines had not endangered the lives of locals and tourists.
• An official statement from the National Steering Committee on Mine Action in Sri Lanka (NSCMA) clearly states that landmines are not an obstacle to ongoing relief efforts.
• Reports of post-tsunami mine victims in Kilinochchi, Jaffna and Mullaitivu are incorrect; no incidences have been reported.
Health: According to the National health services, there have been no reported incidents of disease or sign of any epidemic.
• The World Health Organisation’s Director Dr Lee Jong-wook commended the health services being carried out in Sri Lanka after his visit on Jan 8.
• WHO is very active in Sri Lanka, with its health strategy targeting approx. 1 million affected people across 13 districts along the northern, eastern and southern coastline.
• Rumors of cholera and measles were immediately investigated and proven to be false.
• There are reported cases of chicken pox and viral diarrhoea. The prevention of these ailments is improving with routine immunization conducted through weekly clinics.
Water: A World Health Organisation Report (WHO) released on January 8, 2005, stated:
• The Ministry of Health announced there are sufficient supplies of chlorine and water purification tablets in all areas.
• Tablets, testing kits and materials to eradicate mosquitoes and reduce the number of flies at relief camps have also been supplied.
Sanitation: According to a Water and Sanitation Situation Report released by WHO ( 10 January 2005 )
• Water supply has been restored in the districts of Ampara, Batticaloa, Trincomalee (except Kiniya), Jaffna, Mullaitivu, Killinochi, Matara, Hambantota and Kalutra.
• More than 1,201 contaminated wells have been cleaned and the cleaning of wells continues.
• Several packaged water treatment plants have been established, to supplement existing water supply.
• According to a UNICEF Report ( 15 January 2005 ) of the 13 districts affected by the tsunami, UNICEF is working in 9 of these districts to restore water and sanitation levels.
• Adequate water supply has been restored in all of the 457 temporary camps set up to house displaced Sri Lankans.
International Aid: As of January 17, the financial aid pledged to Sri Lanka topped US$107 million. This does not include the pledges received which have no monetary value, for example relief items and special assistance teams.
• As of January 12, there are 129 organizations registered with the Centre for National Operations (http://www.cnosrilanka.org/).
• According to the Ministry of Health, as of January 10, there were over 500 registered volunteer health workers in the affected regions of Sri Lanka.
• The top four countries providing aid workers to Sri Lanka are Germany, Austria, Russia, and Bangladesh.
• The International Federation of Red Cross has 350 staff currently working out of Sri Lanka.
Source : SLTB – 18 January 2005
We encourage all of our readers to take a trip to South Asia and spend tourism dollars….this is how we can help these countries and learn about fascinating cultures at the same time.
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