Thursday, August 31, 2006

PEI group helping Sri Lanka rebuild

Source: August 31, 2006 - The Guardian by Caitlin McIntyre

Doug MacArthur has a master plan to help rebuilding efforts in tsunami-stricken Sri Lanka. MacArthur is president of the PEI-based group Canadian Agro Sustainability Partnership Inc., which in June completed a preliminary master plan report for a reconstruction project in Ampara District, Sri Lanka.

Last year, the Sri Lankan government chose CASP to create a 25-year plan to reconstruct the devastated area. Ampara District was the area hardest hit by the December 2004 tsunami, which caused the death of over 10,000 people and $600-million in property damage.

Sri Lankan Minister Ferial Ashraff met with MacArthur in PEI this week to discuss the plan and to negotiate an additional role for CASP in housing and community development in the country. Ashraff is the Minister of Housing and Construction Industries as well as the minister responsible for tsunami reconstruction in Ampara District.

The master plan, which CASP developed through partnerships with the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and more than 100 donors and non-governmental organizations, is designed to improve all sectors in Ampara District, MacArthur said in an interview. He said the long-term plan will upgrade such sectors as housing, agriculture, health systems and education. With a total of $13.5-billion (US) donated for tsunami recovery efforts, the funds are available to implement an impact reconstruction plan.

“What makes this situation rather unique is that although Sri Lanka is rather a poor country, there was so much money donated (after) the tsunami that there’s not a scarcity of money for good projects,” MacArthur said.

Now it’s CASP’s responsibility to help the Sri Lankan government spend that money wisely. Currently, the company has 40 staff and four offices in Sri Lanka, and MacArthur said he hopes to send about 50 people to the country to help in relief efforts over the next several months.

Ashraff, who was the first Sri Lankan minister to visit this province, traveled the Island, making stops at Future Tech in O’Leary, North Cape wind project, and West Prince Ventures. Considering the similarities – economic bases in agriculture, fisheries, and tourism, as well as many small communities – shared by Prince Edward Island and Sri Lanka, it seemed appropriate for CASP to play a major role in rebuilding efforts, she said.

Over the next couple of years, MacArthur wants to expand the project to include 100-200 full-time staff members in the county and an additional two offices. Meanwhile, Ashraff spent the last day of her trip meeting with Premier Pat Binns, MacArthur said, adding that she asked him to support a stronger relationship between PEI and Sri Lanka now and in the future.