Thursday, September 18, 2014


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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Tsunami response – stepping into the fifth year Lessons and review from Sri Lanka

Eng. Aslam Saja
26 January 2010

The December 2004 tsunami was the largest natural disaster in Sri Lanka in living memory with over 35,000 dead, almost a million displaced around the north, east and south coasts of the island. Given the fact that most of the tsunami affected areas were also conflict- affected, there have always been peaks and falls in terms of long term tsunami recovery.

In October 2005, more than 60 institutions and more than 100 experts and practitioners in the tsunami response which consisted of representatives of government, civil society and international development partners met and reviewed the progress, identified the interventions and recommended the way forward for 2006. During this review it was felt that the first year of tsunami relief, recovery and reconstruction efforts have recorded quite significant successes. However there were shortcomings and the challenges for the future which all actors were aware. The report was prepared on “Post tsunami recovery and reconstruction – Progress, Challenges and the way forward” which summarized all the activities under seven thematic areas which are emergency response and relief, emergency shelter to permanent housing, restoring livelihoods, health, education and protection, upgrading national infrastructure, capacity building, environment and gender and the implementation of the guiding principles.

Since then it is the hope that in the completion of the second year all actors are committed to record a dramatic progress in this ‘build back better’ concept and to complete the enormous tasks overriding the identified challenges so that the affected communities by tsunami will be able to look forward a better future. In order to achieve the set targets, the agenda was defined by all the actors by taking into account the lessons learnt from the past year’s achievements, difficulties and setbacks to move the progress forward.

However, the political and security context of the country put this progress further down and there was a need arised to incorporate the conflict issues in the tsunami response programme in the north and east part of the country in the early part of this year. In this context of deteriorating security situation and the uncertain political environment has resulted in the slow pace of the development projects in the country. This has brought more stress on people and they are now bound to focus on their life at different angle with all these immense of human sufferings. This leads the actors in the tsunami response programmes and other key stakeholders in humanitarian action to reformulate their strategy in order to respond real community needs in the forthcoming year collectively towards alleviating the human sufferings.

In these scenarios, to address the issues in the conflict areas consolidated appeals process in Sri Lanka in which strategic planning leading to Common Humanitarian Action Plan can possibly be expected as a timely co-ordinated action in the humanitarian platform at least to respond this humanitarian crisis in the next few years.

The demise of the Eng.Thasthakeer – A great loss to the young bloods!

Engineer A.R.M. Thasthakeer, 33 an outstanding personality in the field of Civil Engineering has passed away in the Kandy General hospital on 23rd May 2010.

School – Kalmunai Zahira College
BSc Engineering – Civil Engineering, University of Peradeniya, 2003
MSc Engineering – University of Moratuwa, 2009
Charted Engineer – 2010

Engineering grand challenge: What do you think?

10 June 2011
You can vote @

In the world today, many of engineering’s gifts to civilization are distributed unevenly. At least a billion people do not have access to adequate supplies of clean water. Countless millions have virtually no medical care available, let alone personalized diagnosis and treatment. Solving computer security problems has little meaning for the majority of the world’s population on the wrong side of the digital divide. Sustainable supplies of food, water, and energy; protection from human violence, natural disaster, and disease; full access to the joys of learning, exploration, communication, and entertainment — these are goals for all of the world’s people.

So in pursuing the century's great challenges, engineers must frame their work with the ultimate goal of universal accessibility in mind. Just as Abraham Lincoln noted that a house divided against itself cannot stand, a world divided by wealth and poverty, health and sickness, food and hunger, cannot long remain a stable place for civilization to thrive.

Through the engineering accomplishments of the past, the world has become smaller, more inclusive, and more connected. The challenges facing engineering today are not those of isolated locales, but of the planet as a whole and all the planet’s people. Meeting all those challenges must make the world not only a more technologically advanced and connected place, but also a more sustainable, safe, healthy, and joyous — in other words, better — place.

Here are the Grand Challenges for engineering as determined by a committe of the National Academy of Engineering:
You can vote for these challenges as you think which would be your priority to contribute as an engineering professional.
(Courtesy: ttp://

Contributed by: Eng. Aslam Saja 

Humanitarian Engineering – Not so much talked about in Sri Lanka

Eng. Aslam Saja
05 September 2011

I just thought to write this note just after visiting the Engineers Australia Webpage. Engineers Australia has announced the year 2011 is the Year of Humanitarian Engineering – a year in which it will recognize the role of engineering in improving quality of life and disaster recovery.

What does it mean to us as Engineers in Sri Lanka, who have gone through more than two decades of conflict, recurrent annual floods, importantly 2011 floods and major devastation by 2004 Tsunami?

The humanitarian Engineering page of Engineers Australia webpage defines the interface between humanitarian and engineering like this; “Engineers play a huge role in improving the quality of life of people beset by disadvantage as well as helping communities recover from floods, earthquakes and other disasters as quickly as possible. From the delivery of clean water and power, to the design of sanitation services and infrastructure, engineers’ ingenuity helps solve many problems facing communities. Some of the key areas of focus as a profession include: water supply, sanitation, energy, waste disposal, transportation, communications and support for disabled people”.

We have done so much for the past two decades in this area during the continuous protracted humanitarian crisis aroused due to the natural disasters as well as man-made conflict. Are we taking them stocks from the engineering side for our future learning, not only for this part of the country, but as lessons learnt and will give a way out to tackle the similar type of problems needing engineering solutions in the other parts of the world.

Now, we have a real opportunity to initiate this discussion with the launch of symposium of Social System Design by IESL in Sri Lanka this year. I think this type of forums will enable us to foster the importance of engineering in multi-disciplinary platform.

I further explored about Humanitarian Engineering concept and found some interesting definitions and examples. One such example is that;
In the past, engineers may have asked, "How do I generate electricity most efficiently?" The humanitarian engineer asks, "How can I help to reduce poverty?" The answer to this question may include generating electricity, but more importantly, Humanitarian Engineers will try to balance technical excellence, economic feasibility, ethical maturity and cultural sensitivity.
an artifact, process, system, or practice promoting present and future wellbeing for the direct benefit of underserved populations

Engineering: designing and creating a component, subsystem, or system under physical, political, cultural, ethical, legal, environmental, and economic constraints.

Humanitarian engineering:
Design under constraints to directly improve the wellbeing of underserved populations.

I recorded a statement during an informal chat with one of my engineering colleagues, who worked in the humanitarian response in the North, who noted “the knowledge of engineering is not just limited to designs, BoQs and contracts in large engineering firms, it also gives you a happiest moment in your life of applying it in a small scale community projects. You can sense how small engineering aspects help to provide dignified life for the affected people. Serving humanity always need to take priority over profiting from those deserve help, which makes us satisfied with what we do”.

Engineers can do far better community and social work than anyone else who just alone study social sciences, if they are tuned with the basic principles of community mobilization. But one would argue that it is difficult vice versa.

In order to be capable of being part of any humanitarian response to which the support from an engineer be demanded, it is always better to be prepared with the necessary skills along with our areas of expertise.

Engineers in the public domain - Code of ethics Vs reality!!!!

When I read through all 8 clauses in the codes of ethics for the Engineers, which establishes the good conduct for an Engineer, the clause 3 reads as “Engineers shall build their reputation on merit and shall not compete unfairly” and the rule 3.1 is to ensure that “engineers shall not seek to gain a benefit by improper means. It follows that engineers – shall neither pay nor offer, directly or indirectly, inducements to others”.

I just want to put a simple question? Are we Engineers holding this value – Majority, may be YES and minority may No or worse and some are questionable? The reputation is built on merits of ones own good conduct. Do we have a barometer to measure this in reality…?

I share what I hear from the society – from the person who deals with Engineers, which then extends to other public which in turn is talking point in the public domain, is that some Engineers are often corrupted from the day they come out of the University and just beginning their career paying a bribe to get a job. I don’t want pinpoint here what people are specifically talking about (but few cases - even some engineering colleagues also speculate), which is not the aim of this article, but just to raise questions whether do we have mechanism specifically address these professional issues.

As I pointed out earlier – People think that only few Engineers do that or did that in the past – may be few, but still a point for our concern as professionals, which have a negative impact in the society! I’m not sure who is involved in this bribe – if it is an another superior Engineer – then you have a second layer of problem – not only for the job hunting Engineer – but more importantly with the Engineer involved in getting bribe for recruitment.

Let this pass on and dwell within our professional circle ------, but more for the public – it is the job for an Engineer in an Engineering company or in a Engineering institution, be it state or private – interviewed and offered by an Engineer ---- All are Engineers in the chain and may be some others as well – intermediaries, which is always a complicated picture.

Next, if this trap is successfully climbed– be it through bribe (which may be rare – rather than saying more common for engineering jobs compared to other jobs – No evidence or assessment that I know of so far). But getting a job in a professional way – not bribing anyone – then you are in a biggest trap in the circle of un-professional and un-ethical engineering business world, which is getting bribe in your work for favoring contractors, bids, privileged monitoring and evaluations, signatures etc... which goes through all phases of a project cycle of a project and also in different projects in a programme?

I just would like to highlight one thing through this little story which I here in the recent past. We teach “Engineers in society” – good ethics and professional conduct and evaluated ourselves from our side through discussions, forums and so on to be more proud of – but have we ever evaluated us from the public side – from the people who receive our service, from who have competed for our services and have good and bad experiences of dealing with Engineers responsible and from the end users of our service, to better understand what it means to be an Engineer in the society who holds what is in the code of ethics. We may need to have this monitoring barometer to ensure that the above code of ethics is really worth in practice. This could be a concern for an Engineer who wishes to uphold the real implementation of code of ethics in his professional and personal life.

Eng. Aslam Saja 
May 2012

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

IESL Chapter for Ampara district

Brainstorming to identify the need for establishing IESL Chapter for Ampara district
by Eng Aslam Saja BSc. Eng., MSc Eng, AMIE(Sri Lanka)

I am writing this note to the editor and readers of SLEN in reply to the notice appeared in almost every SLEN paper on the call for active participation of members in IESL activities.
I think this is the right time to brainstorm on the idea of reaching out to districts in order to get the intense participation of IESL members who are residing and (or) working in distance places from Colombo. It is also necessary for IESL to come up with a plan to make the IESL services accessible and reachable to all its members who are far from Colombo and in districts. We have heard about IESL chapter in Australia, Wayamba etc... Which I believe is active to date. I am sure it had gone to the places where there are committed members who want to establish IESL chapter in their places and to actively participating it. So we need to explore the same possibilities in other places.

This leads me to think of an IESL node in Ampara district from where I come from and where I think adequate mass of Engineers are currently working as in other districts. I don’t have exact figures “who works where” in Ampara district but I definitely know there are our colleagues committed and who are willing to spend their time on networking and sharing activities such as happenings in IESL Colombo and in other chapters.
Hence, I would like to leave the floor open from this point onwards to initiate a discussion by the fellow members and to brainstorm on ideas as to how we can move further if there is an interest in my suggestions.
I would be happy to facilitate an online mail exchange if that is acceptable, which is the only feasible option I have at the moment (While welcoming any alternative ideas), in order to track and locate Engineers based in districts (I can support
for Ampara district)so that the idea can contour into a real map and will help us to share our initial thoughts.
The discussion also can be enriched with sharing experiences of other chapters and Engineers who have involved in these kinds of initiatives in the past.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Promoting Sustainable Development

How should we Develop Human Resources and Institutions

Sustainable development is one of the existing mechanisms for channeling development assistance throughout the developing world. However, as a process, sustainable development can be applied to different socio-economic contexts, often as a tool to revitalize democratic governance and participation. In general, sustainable development can be defined as “Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”
Gro Harlem Brundtland (The Brundtland Report: Our Common Future, World Commission on Environment and Development)

Sustainable Development:
Generally sustainable development focuses on mainly the outcomes. This focus on Outcomes refers to focus on positive outcomes for communities relating to health, wellbeing, food security, education and skills, gender equality, empowerment, livelihoods and other aspects of the human life.
Sustainability - Support sustainable livelihoods and development within environmental limits, and without disadvantage to future generations or unacceptable degradation of a community’s supporting environment with the social justice which meet the needs of all, regardless of race, creed, nationality or gender.
The Nature and Process of Delivery of sustainability can be discussed as follows which are the mechanisms for human resource development and institutional capacity building thus contributing to wider picture of sustainable development.
Capability Building in People – It is not possible to achieve without engaging with and developing the skills, talents and knowledge of all sectors of society, including young people, women, end-users and providers.
Capability Building in Society - should support the development of local capability in governance, the skills base and in commerce.
Appropriate Standards and Resources – It should be designed, delivered and maintained using participatory approaches and appropriate standards. Where possible it should employ local labour, and make use of sustainable local resources.
Planning, Procurement and Delivery – This planning should be pro-active and support sustainable livelihoods and should be delivered using appropriate partnerships and appropriate contracts, with inbuilt pro-poor and social goals.

Over the last decade or so there has been increasing public, professional and political interest in international development and poverty reduction, fuelled by the Rio and Johannesburg Sustainable Development. The establishment of the Millennium Project, which set out the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) as measures which progress in development could be made. Alongside the growth in public concern and interest, many actors had a wish to contribute something of value to the development process. It is not necessary to say that the nucleus of the sustainable development is people. Hence it becomes necessary for ever than before to focus not only on the development of human resources but on the institutions where there is reliable system in place for self sustained in the community it self.

For example: Any demand-driven/community-defined project that meets certain set of community needs some times refers to Micro-Projects. This expresses the demand of the majority of community members while ensuring representation of a cross-section of the population including all ages, social/economic status, and gender. The project must be considered as a priority by the community and must include a large number of beneficiaries/participants. Through full participation and priorities defined by the communities sustainability will be ensured. Hence, as a guide for successful projects, a good Micro-Project must: Have a Large Base of Beneficiaries; Be Participatory; Be Sustainable; Be Affordable and Realistic; Have a Maintenance Plan; Incorporate Accountability; and be Cost Effective.

These all issues address the need of the skilled and unskilled labour force development, transforming the full authority to the community ensuring that the initiatives of the communities are sustainable.

Civil society Participation

There is no doubt that civil society participatory approaches to sustainable development over the past years has effectively demonstrated the capacity of the community to participate actively in their own development initiatives in south asian countries particularly in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and India where the traditional values are given priority as opposed to the western development concepts. As for example in Sri Lanka, this has already been applied in several community development works and even though it has some setbacks, the impact evaluations showed that it was almost positive due to the fact that human suffering owing to the conflict brought more stress on people which resulted in setbacks in the development. So drawing from these experiences, several possible alternative mechanisms can be suggested to work this out effectively in terms of human development.

It also has become important than ever that the local people should be empowered in order to manage and sustain their development activities. This outlines the need of using the participatory, enabling ways of working that strengthen people’s resilience, self-reliance and self-determination so that people should feel that the activities around them are part and parcel of their life. The initiatives have already been launched in Sri Lanka which challenged the development workers because of the lack of understanding about the strengths within the community. This demonstrated the need to mobilize and capacitate the community to sustain its future.

Considering Sri Lanka as a developing country in Asia and Pacific region, its rural communities make up 70 per cent of the country's population. Several organizations working to demonstrate sustainable micro level interventions in these rural communities. But in these work lot of challenges are being faced by the development agencies and worker as more focus is given in working in a relief oriented context. So there is a strong need has been realized over the past few years that working in partnership with the community based organizations concentrated on building the capacity of field level workers, training on and disseminating information based on our past experiences.

“Fostering sustainable development can be seen as a way of improving the social, economic and cultural well being of people living in our region”

Human resource development will establish a basis for designing new policies and starting new practices that will improve the efforts toward sustainable development. Twinning the scientific analysis with the local community knowledge will bring the fuller understanding of the system in which people live and work and this enhances the power of decision making. In this way the people feel the ownership and high value on their contribution to move the development activities sustainably.

Hence for example “Principles of Engineering for Development and Poverty Reduction“was launched in February 2005 by “Engineers without Frontiers” focussed on: Positive and sustainable outcomes, Nature and process of delivery, Funding, value and context. The following are established under the nature and process of delivery.

Develop the talents and knowledge of all – including young people, women, end-users and providers
Support development of local capacity in governance, skills, and local business
Employing where possible local labour, materials resources and methods
Should use appropriate partnerships and contracts and with in-built, social goals to alleviate poverty

Considering the above underlying principles, it is obvious that to achieve the positive and sustainable outcomes, the recognition of the capacity of the community including the youth, women and the human resource development aspects are top priorities on the list.
People with a job to do cannot do that job to satisfaction unless they have the right skills and tools. In today’s world of change – changes in the environment in which we live, changes in family life and community structure, changes in the economy and business world, changes in the government and policies – it is hard to keep up with the skills and tools needed to make a decent living and to live in harmony with our neighbours and our surroundings.

Hence one of the main thematic areas in promoting the sustainable development is to develop the human resources and institutions by means of helping governments and people in Asia and pacific gain the skills and tools they need to live and work sustainably in these region of the world. This involves many different things in the context of the Asian region. This equips national governments to govern with the interests of the people in mind, to share management with local communities, and to recognize the great variety of cultural traditions.

It informs the people about the social, political, cultural and economic events taking place around the world and shows how these events affect us and vice versa.

Developing human resources and institutions (Rather it can collectively be called as “capacity building”) places a high value on information which include gathering, interpreting and sharing it with the right users and finally turning it into action towards positive changes. Turning knowledge into action often requires new ways of thinking and doing things. The first step of any action towards a positive sustainable change is the need of reliable information. In order to make the reliable information available for further action, new skills are needed in several areas as described above such as collection, organization, and storage of information, analysis, assessment, research, and technology.

These areas can be further looked into the following three main thematic areas with regard to human resource and institutional development. They are;

New communication skills - getting information our in an understandable way.
New organizational, management and operational methods – To recognize and take full benefit of the community partnership as opposed to the top – down approach.
New methods of education and training – helping to bring up people and organizations to speed on the skills needed to operate sustainably.

In Asia- Pacific region the human resource and institutional development can be discussed in the following specific categories and some recommendation can be drawn.

1. Strengthening Primary and Secondary Education

With regard to primary and secondary education provide the basic skills of literacy, numeracy, communication and problem solving skills and develop the required attitudes which are necessary for the work. Strengthening primary and secondary education is a main challenge in human resource development in the developing countries of Asia and the Pacific.1Furthermore greater efforts should be made to improve the quality of relevance in secondary education. This already has been launched in Sri Lanka. However there is a need to improve the relationship between the academic and the real work as opposed to be too ideal which mainly focus on the hi technology. In fact, Technology has a role to play, but it needs to be used intelligently. New forms of water resource management technique and the land use planning for example need to be explained simply i.e. to be transformed which can be understood by the community itself. This gap is identified and addressed by the community development practitioners. Hence the efforts need to be taken sooner rather later and dialog should be stirred up between these two poles which possibly have a greater chance for better understanding to work together towards the unique goal in sustainable development.

The school curriculum should be revised to ensure that it not only caters for the academically less inclined but also prepares them for the world of work. It is absolutely pointless in addressing the issues which are not a need of the community and priorities identified (i.e. rather than an urgent need to be addressed, Here we try to define the priority as a solution to the root causes of the problems) within those needs.

2. Expanding and improving the existing work force in the country

Training in the development sector should be linked to its strategic plan and be based on a training needs analysis of that sector. Hence practitioners have good understanding about the changes in the environment, new policy developments and other creative initiatives result in improvement in their competencies. However the challenge particularly in Asian countries is to change in the attitudes of worker who may resist to change due to several reasons including the own policy, biasness in several issues in certain context (Conflict, Party politics).

So the programs are needed to be developed to build the confidence and to recognize the problems associated with them.

3. Research and Development

Decentralizing the research initiatives in different sectors and linking the gaps between research findings and real ground problems. This should be rectified by means of providing good guidance to the researchers in appropriate ways rather for the purpose of the self gain and performance with failing to address the real issues and solutions.

Therefore the need comes up with promoting the good practices and establishing strategies for proper monitoring and follow up actions to direct in a sustainable manner.

In brief, human resource and institutional development is to make sure that the individuals, communities, institutions, government and other stakeholders have the information, knowledge, skills and attitudes they needed to solve today’s problems, to build up on what they have further (By inquiring the strengths and appreciate to build on top of them) and to adapt to change in a way that leads to sustainable development results in healthy future generation.

Thus the human resources and institutional development contributes widely to sustainable development significantly rather directly. Hence focusing on the production capability has become more important than emphasizing on the ultimate production (In sustainable development terms production capability is more relevant which yields sustainable outcomes as opposed to ultimate products which may not be sustainable even though it is important in any action) which is the basic idea behind the sustainable development than ever before.

"When planning for one year, there's nothing better than planting grain, When planning for ten years, there's nothing better than planting trees, When planning for a lifetime, there's nothing better than planting men". The Chinese philosopher, Guanzi (551 - 479 BC)

1. Human Resource Development in Asia and The Pacific In the 21st Century - Issues and challenges for Employers and their organisations, 1996, Paper presented at the ILO Workshop on Employers' Organizations in Asia-Pacific in the Twenty-First Century Turin, Italy, 5-13 May 1997.
2. Capacity building overview of the arctic council, Arctic council Sustainable Development working group.
3. Principles of Engineering for Development and Poverty Reduction, Engineers without Frontiers, February 2005.
4. Millennium Development Goals, New York; United Nations, 2000.
5. Poverty Reduction Partnership Agreement between the Government of Sri Lanka and the Asian Development Bank.
6. Community Participatory Approaches – Tools and Techniques, RedR Training materials, (unpublished), 2006.
7. Sustaining the future – Engineering civilization from the shadows, Professor Paul W Jowitt, Brunel lecturer, ICE, 2006.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Promoting good practices in disaster response – Rights based engineering

The sphere project
Humanitarian charter and minimum standards in disaster response

Eng Aslam Saja
(Published in ENSL, 2007)

We all might wonder what does “Sphere” mean? Is there anything in Sphere to do with engineering? It says “Humanitarian Charter”. So it might not be related to engineering at all. It must be referred by the people like Lawyers or other people who deal with legal issues. It talks about the rights of the people. So as engineers, who supposed to talk about technical standards, design and so on, how this engineering is linked with rights of the people or similar legal issues in disaster response? There may be several unanswered questions like this among the engineering community who are outside the humanitarian arena, sometimes within itself also.

Disasters are not mutually exclusive aspects to the engineering community. It does spread out in all sectors of engineering whether it to be civil, communication, chemical or electrical. This is because of the reason that the definition of the term “disaster management”. It is not also restricted to its so called different phases which are preparedness, mitigation or prevention and spin around in the post disaster phase starting from relief, rescue and immediate response to medium and long term interventions of rehabilitation, reconstruction and development. If we carefully notice the link between these phases of disasters and the whole life cycle of human being, there is hardly any void area in between. Similarly if engineering is seen in relation to the life cycle of human being or with the phases of disasters, anyone can simply recognise the fact that these all are simply strongly linked one or the other cannot be seen in isolation. Because of this, it is being attempted here to raise the awareness of engineers in the right based approach in whole development cycle particularly through this article in the disaster response sector.

Now we will look at the birth of “Sphere”? This is not a new term for most of us as we are curious in maths. But this is Sphere project. This is right based in legal terms. It advocates for the right to life with dignity of the disaster affected people whom with some of our engineering colleagues working with (Whoever works in the post disaster phase, but not limited to). However Sphere talks on immediate post phase of emergency though it can also easily linked with the preparedness phase of disaster. What does it contain?

The corner stone of this project is the humanitarian charter. This humanitarian charter is based on international legal laws such as International humanitarian law, human rights law and refugee law. Three basic principles have derived from these three laws are “the right to life with dignity”, “distinction between combatants and non – combatants” and “non – forced return”.

These are more in legal term which we as engineers are not much familiar with. However it is important for all relief workers to understand this. We know our engineering colleagues are permanently or temporarily working in this sector. Whenever disaster hits in the island, we rush to the field as volunteers, well wishers and play different roles besides engineering. Hence knowing to work with disaster affected community doing no harm in our approach should be clearly internalised.

Roaming back to the sphere project, it has technical chapters which we as engineers deal with. Out of four technical chapters, two sectors on WAter, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) and shelter and site planning are directly relevant to the engineering. However it also talks about the minimum standards common to all sectors in the first chapter. Engineers have a greater role to play in times of disasters as it spreads around different dimension of the human life. It does relate to daily routine of the community.

As we all agree without any disagreement that the engineering plays a major role in all most all the phases of disaster management from the emergency preparedness to post disaster community development. So what can be done to engineer the good practices in what we do as we are professional community of engineers? In the context of the conflict, humanity faces big crisis or great challenges in one hand, on climate change which can trigger out the natural disasters and poverty reduction on the other hand, to vision for the first target for the millennium development goal.

Water, sanitation, hygiene, shelter and settlement are of utmost important sectors to be prioritised in disaster preparedness and response. In this regard Sphere plays a major role in the above mentioned sectors where engineering is the key. As far as engineering is concerned, there is a need to focus on the good practices as it directly relate to the needs of the communities. Sphere talks about the right based approach where every emergency/relief worker should be able to relate their work with the rights of the every human being at risk or any one who is affected by any disaster or whom life is threatened.

Sphere is structured in such a way that every can easily ensure and related the rights of the community with the real need of the disaster affected community or the community which is threatened by any means. It has minimum standards which need to be met (It is applicable globally which is a basic human need in times of disaster to be met), key indicators which ensures that the corresponding minimum standards are met and guidance notes which will help to apply these standards in different contexts with flexibilities.

Let take an example from civil engineer. As a civil engineer who works in water and sanitation sector in disaster response with a disaster affected community should be able to understand basic requirements to be met for a better dignified life of the community. Some of us might have heard about public health engineering which most of the time handled by a civil engineer in this sector. So it is public health related which we may think a medical officer should need to deal with. But it is not so. It is a group of multi disciplinary team effort. So these all different sectors can not be seen in isolation in the community development perspective where all these impacts of the engineering fall in. But no can argue against this different division or sector based approach as it is simply because of the reason for understanding, easy management and for other acceptable reasons to overcome several difficulties in reality. Therefore, discussions should be triggered out to probe among the engineering community to promote the good practices in our working area as it is more than the positive attitude in the management terms that we usually expect from an engineer.

Those who are interested in sphere, can visit, and for further discussion points on this topic can be emailed to