Sri Lanka Mudslides, 2016

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Mudslides hit Sri Lanka in May this year. Mudslides hit three villages in central Kegalle district. The landslide started near the town of Aranayake on the 17th May, 2016, but events leading up to it should have made the outcome predictable from the 15th onward.

Many cities were flooded with more than 100mm of rain on the 15th of May. International airports had to be closed just from the weather, and 35 families had been displaced. Airports would remain closed over the next few days.

Causes

3 days of torrential rain destabilised slope areas, in the heaviest rainfall in 25 years. The rain started on the 14th May.

Before the extreme weather, Sri Lanka had been experiencing a drought, and power cuts as hydroelectric power stations could not function. A rare benefit of the extreme weather which triggered the event was that the dams filled up to 75% capacity, allowing a supply of electricity to rescue workers to help them work effectively.

The main landslide area was very sparsely populated by only a few minor villages. No major work had been undergone on the slopes, as evidenced by footage of the event. Instead it was caused by a sudden huge increase in slope water content combined with susceptible rock type.

Impacts

On the 18th, 134 people remained unaccounted for, and 14 bodies had been recovered, with 37 deaths total. 350,000 people were displaced. 92 deaths have now been confirmed. 220 famlies were reported missing according to the Sri Lankan Red Cross. As of May 25th, the death toll was deemed to be 101 with 100 missing people.

The slide crashed into 3 separate villages; Elangapitiya, Pallebage and Siripura, all of which were obliterated.

60 houses were buried in dirt.

The mud level was up to 30ft deep in some areas.

Many sectors of infrastructure were effected, such as planes. Many major roads were entirely flooded, including the Southern Expressway. There were heavy power failures in some towns. The government warned members of industries such as fishing to not go to work until the situation was sorted- this was of course an attempt to save lives, but there was an economic impact because of this upon fishermen.

Response

The Meteorology Department of the government issued a severe weather warning on the 14th, for 12 hours. 100mm of rainfall was expected, with wind speeds of up to 80kmh in exposed areas.

One of the initial responses to the initial weather, was closing down air traffic.  Closed airports included: Bandaranaike International Airport (flights diverted to Cochin International Airport or Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport), and Ratmalana Airport. The Sri Lanka Airforce had to be called in to rescue stranded fishermen. The Navy had to save 200 people trapped in floods on the 17th, and the mud slides started, killing 21 in just one slide. The Airforce continued rescue work throughout using military grade helicopters. 81 Navy flood relief teams were dispatched.

Rescue teams were sent out to the area specifically, so that 156 people had been rescued by the 18th May, along with 1,550 people already sheltered in seven different evacuation sites. Soldiers were active in rescue efforts for weeks afterwards. Military spokesman Brigadier Jayanath Jayaweera said that the situation was being constantly assesed and that more troops would be deployed as needed, but that he doubted they would find many survivors.

More than 185,000 people who lost their homes were housed in temporary emergency shelters. The rain hindered the effectiveness of rescue efforts, in addition to causing the initial event. Many roads were underwater, and impassible, and national parks were completely closed off, and rescuers struggled to bring in their equipment. The Ceylon Electricity Board imposed emergency power cuts as a precautionary measure. In one night, the Army and Navy evacuated 26,000 people from Colombo (the capital). 1,500 armed personal were rallied,  including 71 officers.

All schools were closed on the 20th.

International efforts from other countries included:

  • Australia contributing $500,000 to UNICEF for humanitarian assistance
  • India pledging to provide assistance, and then bringing in Navy ships full of supplies.
  • Japan sent planes carrying emergency items, such as generators, blankets, and water purifiers.
  • Nepal offered $100,000
  • Pakistan gave a 30-bed field hospital
  • Singapore Red Cross donated $150,000 in relief items
  • United Nations- in collaboration with other NGOs- offered people to help administer aid
  • USofA provided $50,000 in immediate aid and a further $1 million in providing water for populations vulnerable to floods.

(Image Source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-36328863)

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India and Childbirth

Childbirth as employment

Indian women are on average paid US$11,000 to surrogate a Western child. There are huge queues to become a surrogate mother, as it’s worth up to 7 years’ wages per child. Some have chosen to do this, but others are forced to by relatives. Normally a US baby is born every 14 days in each maternity ward.

Some women are paid 3 times as much to donate twice as many eggs as usual (which is also done in Spain and Cyprus. In the UK it’s illegal to sell human sex cells for more than about £1,000.). Huge hormone increases are needed to develop all these eggs, which can cause early menopause and increased risks of cancer. Some dosages done in LICs can be so high that they risk death just from that.

Attitudes to women

When Gandhi protested, he said he wanted to see an India where men
and women were treated as equals. Nehru on Independence Day said that “An India freed from Imperialism would built up a prosperous, democratic and progressive nation, and ensure justice to every man and woman”. This has yet to be achieved.

India has high dowries and a strong desire to marry women to richer men, which only increases the dowry further. Girls are basically seen as useless (unless they can produce lots of surrogate babies, or marry off to a wealthy man).

50 years after independence, women compared to men are:

  • Less economically involved
  • Less literate
  • Expected to live a shorter life

It is an Indian “tradition” to murder girls. Rajputs, Sikhs and other warrior castes prefer daughters to marry to a higher ranked man, leading to an expensive dowry… or a rapid disposal of the child.

In 1981, only the rural North-West had much of an excess of boys. In 1991 child killing had spread. For the first time in history, all of the Indian cities had an excess of boys.

Under British rule

The British were concerned at a census in 1871, where there were 972 women for every 1,000 men (The 1991 figure was 929 women per 1,000 men). In some villages in the census, there were no young girls. A female infanticide act was brought in with heavy penalties for child murder and policemen stationed in prone areas. Still, in 1891, some areas had twice as many boys as girls.

Modern day

Dowries are now often 50% of a family’s disposable income; killing girls has become more common with India’s quickly developing economy. The treatment of girls varies based on the region; in Kerala, girls are educated and a more liberal mindset is taken- daughters are unharmed; meanwhile in the North and Northwest, many daughters are murdered.

Wives play little role in the fields and their value there is reduced further by farm machinery, so girls pay the price for this. The untouchable castes are, interestingly, untouched, as their families need all the income they can get from their children.

Some villages have a 3:1 ratio of boys to girls. Often the births and deaths of women go unreported. If the deaths of girls are admitted to, excuses are given such as the following:

  • “Pneumonia”
  • “Baby just went stiff”

The boys are saved from this because apparently “The correct gifts were given to the gods”.

The Dowry Prohibition Act was introduced in 1961, but has had little effect as the husband’s relatives will ask for commodities such as TVs- and also because people have just ignored the law.

Dowry murder is now a common issue. If a bride’s family doesn’t pay, she has an “accident” with a kerosene stove. At least 2,000 are killed per year by this, and it wasn’t common until the 1970’s.

Childbirth

For a boy, mothers are in hospital for several days. For a girl, they will leave very soon after the birth.

Traditional midwives (dais) will often kill a girl for a fee of 150 rupees (roughly £2). They claim they can assess the sex before birth; in some places each dais admits to a murder every week.

Relatives will often kill the child themselves, or force the mother to feed the baby tobacco, which is highly poisonous to an infant; if she refuses, she is kicked out or murdered herself. These sorts of killings were once only practiced by the higher castes, but trying to copy their “betters” has meant people through all aspects of society could be practicing it. As the economy has improved, the rates of murders have risen.

Kaller– Southern India

Kaller was a criminal area while India was ruled by a Raj. Many were imprisoned for banditry; women were assertive, worked hard and supported their families, especially while the men were jailed. They were poverty stricken, but there were no dowries or infanticides.

In 1958, a dam was built in the area. Some communities could grow cash crops but most stayed poor. Straight away, dowries were introduced in the area. Parents were desperate to marry off their daughters to richer families. It now has among the highest rates of infanticide in India.

In fact it is the place where, for the first time, someone was found guilty of infanticide in India. The mother was imprisoned, but the chances are that her husband forced her to.

Medical science and India’s infanticide

The World Health Organisation insists that sex is not a disease, so termination of a baby by sex is supposedly against international law. Many think prenatal diagnosis was invented to check the sex of the fetus, not to check for disease.

A herbal remedy called “Select” meant to turn girls into boys has been banned by the government.

Prenatal sex tests were banned in 1996, with a 3 year sentence and a heavy fine, but this doesn’t apply to private clinics. “Better 500 rupees today than 500,000 tomorrow” was the (now banned) slogan of one clinic. Bombay has 200 sex-screening clinics alone, with all most all female babies being aborted if found.

This process of rooting out girls is even easier with a portable system taken between villages. Up to a million girls are killed each year. The scanner costs an unskilled worker 2 months’ wages, but for them, this is financially worthwhile.

For the middle classes, private clinics have in vitro fertilisation followed by the selection of a desired sex, and of 12 clinics asked, not a single girl was requested.

(Image sources: http://designobserver.com/feature/gendered-arrangements-india/37993/ http://www.cghr.org/2011/05/selective-abortion-may-account-for-up-to-12-million-missing-girls-in-india-new-lancet-study/ https://ethicsalarms.com/2015/09/14/npr-was-going-on-today-about-the-terrible-scourge-of-sex-specific-abortion-in-india-and-how-girls-in-india-have-to-fight-for-their-rights-before-theyre-even-born-wait-what/  http://pmindia.gov.in/en/former_pm/shri-jawaharlal-nehru/  http://history1900s.about.com/od/people/a/gandhi.htm http://archive.indianexpress.com/news/sexselection-abortions-cause-of-missing-girls-in-india/1168185/

It should be noted I have not source 1 image here; that is for the home gender selection kit picture. Although it is reasonable to show the material that would be used’s advertising, I don’t want to facilitate anybody using it themselves.)

India- Energy Mix

1973 Energy Mix

  • 61% renewables, including fuelwood
  • 22% coal
  • 15% oil
  • 2% HEP
  • 0% Gas
  • 0% Nuclear

2005 Energy Mix

  • 30% renewables, including fuelwood
  • 39% coal
  • 24% oil
  • 1% HEP
  • 5% Gas
  • 1% Nuclear

India’s energy consumption has increased by 300% since 1973. Population and demand for fuel have increased greatly, which has meant that India now has to rely on imports for its energy needs; particularly for more volatile regions of the world.

India’s own oil reserves are limited even as the country is becoming more oil reliant. India is training many engineers and is investing a lot of money in research and development of renewable fuels. With limited native resources, India is turning to nuclear power, and is reliant on Russian expertise to help manage its energy gap until technology, finances and infrastructure improve enough to support the use of renewable energy.

India is committed to researching and developing solar power sources. In March 2010, the World Bank invested US$20 million into developing further solar power stations such as the 2MW plant by India’s Azure Group. India plans to generate 20MW of solar power by 2020.

India has also built several dams:

Narmada Mega Dam Scheme

The scheme consists of 3,200 major, 135 medium and more than 3,000 smaller dams. The largest is the Sardar Saravar dam. The dam supplies water for agriculture, HEP and drinking water for 20 million people. Howver, it is mostly a vanity project; the same result could have been achieved with far smaller projects.

New Delhi pollution

There are 8 x 10^6 cars in New Delhi. It is the most polluted city in the world.

The air has 16x the safe concentration for PM2 (a pollutant). New Delhi has 300-400 mgcm^-3; a safe concentration would be 25.

Suggestions to improve this include alternating days for driving, or limiting the number of big deisel vehicles. 700,000 more people are in public transport, but pollution can still be 20x the safe levels.