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Tuesday, June 27, 2017
Now that the flood waters appear to be receding, it is time take stock of how the flooding and landslides unfolded and develop measures that would mitigate these impacts in the future. Unfortunately, we do not seem to learn from prior catastrophic floodsand plan better for future events. Past responses to floods may be compared to the fictitious act of "monkeys building houses." The story goes like this:when the heavy rain comes, the monkeys call a meeting to discuss plans to build houses for themselves and when the rains are over, they abandon the planning and resume their normal behavior of roaming around by jumping from one tree to another. Unfortunately, this analogy lays out exactly what happens after a disaster but the citizens wish that it would be different next time. The recent floods and landslides have caused an unbearable toll on human lives and extensive damage to property and disruption to a large region of Sri Lanka. Floods and landslides have happened many times,not only in the southwest like the May 2017 event but also in other areas. Unfortunately, the follow-up actions to the past extreme events, if any, have not produced significant changes on the ground. There is an opportunity, once again, to learn from this disaster and take steps to develop and implement plans that will alleviate impacts in extreme storms in the future. The writer of this article has a few thoughts that will be discussed below.