Close by, another family shares this experience. Ajantha and her husband have three children. They support the family of five by renting out their tractor and selling goods in their small shop. Ajantha is an active member of the community and is the President of the Women Rural Development Society in Mannar.
All too familiar with the flooding problem, she said: "Flood waters would come inside my house and rise to at least 50 cm above the ground. It damaged my property and furniture. Often, we could not move to safe and dry places nearby because common halls and schools were fully occupied by other affected people. It becomes more complicated as I also need to do my part to assist people."
Local workers construct a drainage canal. Photo: UNOPS/Simonetta Siligato
Over the past few years, UNOPS has helped improve the drainage systems in Mannar. As promised, Ajantha helped: "I gave my assistance to UNOPS for the drainage network design, because I know the natural path of drainage in my area. I have organized our villagers for awareness programmes conducted by UNOPS. I am now assisting the Urban Council to address the encroachment issues that obstruct drainage paths."
Community workshop raises awareness about flood control. Photo: UNOPS/Simonetta Siligato
Mr. M.A.J Thuram, Assistant Commissioner, Local Government, already sees happy changes: "People now live in a more aesthetic environment. Children go to school regularly because most roads are not flooded anymore. Their inconveniences and risks have reduced. Our emergency relief costs as well as clean-up and maintenance costs have also gone down."
Mrs. Tharani agrees: "We weren't affected by the floods this year because the storm water flowed out through a newly constructed drain in one night."
Development of a drainage network. Photo: UNOPS/Simonetta Siligato
Under the European Union funded Support to District Development Programme, UNOPS is constructing and rehabilitating social infrastructure in the Batticaloa, Mannar and Vavuniya districts of Sri Lanka. Targeted capacity-building activities will benefit more than 600,000 people.
In Mannar, UNOPS is helping increase the resilience of local communities through better flood-control infrastructure and training. The project is being implemented in collaboration with the Mannar District Secretariat and the Mannar Urban council. It includes the rehabilitation of water-retention ponds and the construction of drainage canal networks.
Local authorities and communities play a key role in supporting UNOPS implement the project. In turn, UNOPS carries out trainings to develop local capacity that will help improve operations and also ensure the maintenance of the new facilities. UNOPS also works with the community to raise their awareness on the role each community member plays in flood prevention and related emergency situations.