| by Victor Cherubim
( February 13, 2014, London, Sri Lanka Guardian) In south west England this winter, we have seen the wettest, windiest, woefully unprepared climate change in nearly 250 years. The earliest record of floods in London was in 1099. It was matched by the severest hurricane on 15/16 October 1987. However yesterday (12 February ’14), we witnessed a huge Atlantic storm smash into UK’s South West coast at 120 mph.
It took 29 years after the flood of 1953 and public outcry for better flood defences, that the Thames Barrier was erected and completed in 1982 to protect London from going under.
I can well recall my days working in London as a Ship’s Agent, when miles of steel piling were driven into the banks of the Thames to protect not only the numerous wharves within the so called Port of London, from Erith and Woolwich to Gravesend downstream, from virtual collapse in the event of a surge in the tide. It was at this time that many Londoners fearing rising water levels moved upstream of the Thames to towns and places in Berkshire and Buckinghamshire to enjoy the country life setting, in the hope of avoiding the flood.
Today, almost all the Londoners who decided to move out into the country adjoining the Thames valley, as far off as Datchet, Berks and elsewhere in search of environmentally friendly riverside cottages and residences, are all flood victims. Within a period of 30 years the wheel of fortune has turned full circle.
With over 1000 properties flooded in just the past week, including 800 along David Cameron’s hometown of Oxfordshire, there is a fear that Cameron’s Conservative country vote is being washed away.
An Englishman’s home has always been considered his castle. “The Home is a haven, a refugee, I’ve worked with many people who have been flooded,” complained victim to a flood defence Regimental soldier. This resident went on to say, “it doesn’t feel like home any more, it has been invaded.”
Winston Churchill said, “We’ll fight them in the marshes, we’ll fight them in our valleys,” but today David Cameron, Britain’s Prime Minister, is an embodiment of the “Spirit of Britain,”
as he wades through these towns fighting back the floods. Then the enemy was man, today it is the weather. With £30,000 to £40,000 required for each property to be put right and months to reclaim the way of life, it is like “fighting fate.” Worst of all, the residents have been ruled out aid for flood victims, as UK is too rich, but may be able to claim from their insurance, with anticipated increase in premiums in the future.
Prime Minister Cameron would hardly have imagined after a few months since his challenge at the Commonwealth Conference in Colombo, he would have to work a miracle, in galoshes
day and night, to stay in control with climate change in his back garden.
We in Sri Lanka cannot take much comfort from this calamity. Perhaps, our President, Mahinda Rajapaksa as Chairman of the CHGOM could assist David Cameron in his hour of need.
Of course, money and the military, is no object to help flooded communities. What is seen in these towns is the sodden streets and flooded homes. In Cornwall, fishermen have not gone out to sea since December 2013, railway lines have been washed away, it all appears too much. As the cartoon in the Times depicted,” If it is any consolation, my Duck House, is under water.”
We in Sri Lanka cannot be complacent of the weather in London either. Like Britain, we too are an island-nation. We do not need 250 years to think of flood defences around our coasts, particularly after our experience with the Tsunami in December 2004.
We can do and should prepare for floods and climate change to occur, without notice. We could make a move to dredge our coastline around our nation. We could build tanks all around the country to collect rain water. We could stop building homes and houses and railway lines besides our coastline. We can stop sea erosion of our coastline by planned
Most of all, whilst the world is debating our Human Rights at Geneva during March’14, our Buddhist Temples in England, can offer a haven for meditation and advocacy of interfaith understanding and dialogue, for the many in and around the Thames Valley, who have lost much of their valued possessions due to the flood and who are needing some solace through meditation. Perhaps, it won’t be too much for our High Commission in London to arrange with our Maha Sangha in our Temples in and around London and the South West.