|Friday, 11 July 2003|
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Last week while on the road I was caught in a downpour which is quite common in the monsoon season. In fact I quite welcome the rain. It reduces the heat and promises a year without water cuts. But to my dismay ten minutes of sustained rain transformed the Colombo roads I was driving on into rivulets or more like stagnant canals reducing the vehicles to a walking pace.
It was obvious that our roads are so poorly designed that there is no allowance for drainage. One can imagine the chaos that would have ensued. A trip that would normally take twenty minutes took me more than twice that time. Multiply that by the thousands who were stranded on the road that morning and we will have an idea of the loss to the economy.
Colombo is the heart of our country's economy and it goes without saying needs an efficient and modern road system. With all the money that we pour into our roads and the engineers our universities annually produce surely we now have the capability to maintain a decent road system in our capital city. We need not be helpless victims of every downpour. We definitely need a better performance from our town planners and engineers.
On the same subject, what steps are our town planners taking to create convenient parking for our harassed motorist? We fully recognize that in a busy, over-crowded city like Colombo parking must be strictly regularized. Having said that, the planners must not completely ignore the need for parking. Today a person wanting to do business with any institution along our main roads will have to drive hopelessly for hours looking for a place to park his vehicle. Oftentimes I have given up doing business with certain companies mainly because there is no parking space close to them.
Our city planners must remember that these businesses are the lifeblood of our economy. It is their taxes that pay for all our services including the wages of public servants. They provide employment and help develop the country. So whenever possible our city planners must make provision for parking so that our business houses can operate with minimum inconvenience. The other day I was down Nawam Mawatha which is one of the most commercially important streets in Colombo.Absolutly no parking!
The city planners, please get out of your offices and move around the city and provide practical solutions to these problems. We have too many desk bound planners and too much reactive action.
The above is perhaps another title to the article by Fathima Razik Cader in the Daily News (2nd July). She was absolutely right about the all-pervasive noise pollution of our environment. As usual nobody in authority in politics cares. It is very creditable that in Colombo Dr. Kariyawasam and his PHDs have taken upon themselves this onerous task of mitigating this menace. Three cheers to them. I wish other MCs and Police authorities in the county would follow suit.
When the authorities were appointed I did write to them suggesting a virtually cost-free method of reducing noise in our cities and homes. Both Ministers ignored my suggestion; at least to-date, they have done nothing to abate the noise pollution. Had I been living next-door to them, I would have hired a Public Address system and directed Wager's Overtures at 100 decibels into their homes/offices.
I suggested to the authorities that the TVs should carry an oft-repeated message in the three languages advising their customers to reduce the volume and so reduce the noise. The message could be aired via floaters without interruption of the programmes being screened. This should be supplemented by an occasional spoken message lasting no more than a few seconds at prime time. In the case of the Radio the same or a similar message to be introduced as and when a new programme comes on the air. If adopted this suggestion will have a profound effect on all those persons who want loud noise in and outside their premises. Imagine the effect on cafe owner who has turned his radio on at top volume, when the same radio yells at him to reduce the volume! As they say the effect will be electric, and he will shamefacedly comply.
The authorities have only to issue notice to the relevant TV and Radio networks to execute my suggestion or something similar. But would they lift their fingers?
I hope somebody will follow through and inform the public of the successes of the valiant efforts of the Public Health Dept. of Colombo Municipal Council.
During my school days in mid 80s I remember the prices of film tickets were around Rs. 5-10, first class was Rs. 5, O.D.C. Rs. 8, Balcony Rs. 10-12. These are the prices of theatres like Liberty, Majestic, Empire, Savoy, Regal. In those days a lunch packet would be around Rs. 6-8 as same as the ticket price. Still now we can get a lunch packet in universities around Rs. 15-20 in government canteens Rs. 20-25 and in public hotels around Rs. 35-45.
But in film halls like Majestic, Savoy the price of tickets have gone up to Rs. 140-160 and this will rise higher. During the last decade I have noticed that the high increase of prices of film tickets have greatly reduced the spectators. During weekly shows many theatres were empty and not even 25% of the seats are occupied. Halls get more than 75% of the spectators only on Saturdays and on holidays.
In early 80s all the film halls within Colombo get almost 100% spectators for good English movies. Specially the 10.30 shows were houseful with school boys. These days good movies are not frequently brought to the country and people have to pay prices for admission. To overcome this I have noted many halls are showing X-rated old third class movies in many cinemas and at tickets priced not more than Rs. 50-60.
I strongly believe that we should have a good policy regarding the films brought to our country. The Government should allow only the family movies, science fictions and other good films from USA, UK, India as well as from other countries. We should not depend only on US films. Those films should not include horror, crime and war films, terrorist activities, x-rated movies as they will adversely affect the minds of people in every age. The tag 'adults only' should not have to put unless they are brought to country.
The prices of film hall tickets should also be reasonably priced for example Rs. 50-75 at halls like Savoy, Majestic and other halls can issue tickets at Rs. 30-50. I can assure if the cinema halls reduced the prices of tickets they can get more spectators. Now they are showing films to almost empty seats at higher prices.
S. H. PERERA,
The picture on page one of the Sunday Observer of June 29 attracted my attention. It depicted a small and innocent boy in pensive mood reflecting about his future. He was deprived of schooling because the school he attended is now in shambles due to the recent floods that affected not only life and livelihood but also displaced thousands of students as over 300 schools were destroyed in the districts of Galle, Matara, Hambantota, Kalutara and Ratnapura.
The boy's school, Lankagama Junior School in Deniyaya was completely washed away by the angry flood waters and now the children are being taught in makeshift classrooms. However, there is going to be a silver lining in the dark clouds of this school, thanks to the ANCL.
Lankagama Junior school will soon rise again like the Phoenix from its ashes through the benevolence and generosity of the ANCL who has ungrudgingly donated Rs. 10 million to convert the school to a modern model school. Indeed a fine gesture which should be admired, appreciated, applauded and emulated because the poor children in this school are going to be the leaders of tomorrow.
The helping hand of the ANCL to build the school from scratch is a charitable act and a noble gesture. This shining example should be followed by other philanthropists who in this country and many institutions located in all parts of Sri Lanka to build the devastated schools which run into hundreds.
There are multi national companies, industrial giants, renowned business enterprises, formidable mercantile firms, high flying garment factories, local and foreign commercial banks which rake in the shekels. Why not siphon off some part of the thumping profits to build the other schools that have suffered the same fate as that of Lankagama Junior School.
Such noble acts of charity as shown by the ANCL should and must be emulated by the privileged sectors of the society to earn the blessing of all and at the same time lessen the burden of the State which is fighting an economic crisis besides being busy grappling with the peace process which is in a state of deadlock.
M. AZHAR DAWOOD,
Produced by Lake House