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Long term help needed

Letters

I was particularly struck by the statistics and images following the Asian tsunami, perhaps because I have worked in Sri Lanka and the Coromandel Indian coast. Harnessing this goodwill for long term development is crucial.

However, as a member of the development charity called Engineers Without Borders, I am aware of the complexities and difficulties.

I was saddened by warnings that consultants' 'offers would soon lapse' (NCE last week).

Frustration at the 'slowness' of response shows a distance from the situation. Targeted development is crucial with thorough planning yet commercial interests and local politics often intervene.

This is highlighted by Mark Hansford's article on Sri Lanka's Matara highway. It is funded by the Asian Development Bank and constructed by a Japanese contractor.

A swiftly conceived scheme to expand the coastal road to increase current capacity by five times is clearly absurd for the host country but possibly highly lucrative for the civil engineering firms involved.

Engineers have the skills to solve the majority of the world's problems and this should result in higher status. But when companies give aid solely for commercial interests one can understand society's current perception.

Following initial disaster relief, infrastructure rebuilding projects will follow for years.

The senior UK consultant, frustrated at being asked to wait, should remember that ownership is critical for successful development. For the majority of tasks a route through local collaboration, education and employment is considerably more beneficial.

All involved should be given our full support and patience.

Robin Campbell, 67 Bedford Street, Cardiff.

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