REBUILDING SRI LANKA
Some of the flood waters from the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami traveled up to 2 miles inland. Elephants, monkeys, and dogs alike ran to higher ground. People marveled at the fact that very few animals were found dead. Somehow these animals sensed the disaster right before it happened. They were able to avoid the devastation that destroyed thousands of human lives, buildings and natural habitats. With a magnitude of 9.0, it is not surprising that this catastrophic event also rearranged the coastline.
Monitor Lizard Photograph by Guy Dobson
In an effort to rebuild the coast, the government of Sri Lanka facilitated the planting of several mangrove forests. Mangroves are tropical evergreens that have stilt-like intertwining aerial roots. Once regarded as a development "wasteland", these mangroves now serve as a bio-shield for its inhabitants. This includes the magnificent array of colorful birds, broad-snouted crocodiles, and water monitor lizards that I saw during a mangrove-lagoon boat tour.
The on-going restoration of Sri Lanka has not been a small feat. The country has undergone a violent sifting both from he 2004 tsunami and the 26 year-long civil war (ended 2009). And yet, the people that I met seemed to maintain a sense of true hope. Humanitarian groups like Rebuilding Sri Lanka have helped to make this happen. RSL routinely provides educational, medical and building supplies, in addition to general support. RSL empowers people by helping them get on their feet and earn their own living. Unemployed carpenters, mechanics, boat repair men, seamstresses and many others have been able to secure jobs through their livlihood program. School children have also benefitted from Rebuilding Sri Lanka's provision of uniforms, shoes, books, and basic nutrition.