SOURCE: CH2M HILL

November 11, 2008 17:18 ET

Four Years Later, CH2M HILL "Builds Back Better" to Support Successful, Sustainable Future for Tsunami-Torn Sri Lanka and Maldives

DENVER, CO--(Marketwire - November 11, 2008) - Nearly four years ago, an earthquake off the Sumatra coastline measured 9.2 on the Richter scale. The massive tsunami that resulted and came to shore on December 26 completely devastated the lives, land, and infrastructure of the people of Sri Lanka and Maldives.

With funding from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the work of global engineering, construction, and operations firm CH2M HILL, a healthy and sustainable future is being created for these citizens.

"USAID's Tsunami Reconstruction Program consists of projects specially targeted to spur economic growth in Sri Lanka and assist local communities to grow their economies and recover from the devastating 2004 tsunami," says USAID Mission Director Rebecca Cohn. "These projects include construction of a new bridge over Arugam Bay, reconstruction or rehabilitation of nine vocational schools, installation of improved water supply systems, and reconstruction and upgrades of three damaged fishing harbors."

Building bridges

The Arugam Bay Bridge -- linking the nearly 45,000 residents of Pottuvil, Panama, Arugam Bay, and Ulla in eastern Sri Lanka -- is not just a bridge. It is a pivotal lifeline to the reconstruction of tsunami-torn Sri Lanka.

"Some of the first projects completed involved rebuilding critical bridges and access roads in East Sri Lanka, which made a huge difference to the spirits and lives of those living in the remote eastern area. People can now cross the large Arugam Bay Lagoon safely to be with family, seek out resources, move their rice and agricultural products, and be part of the rebuilding of their country in this previously devastated tsunami- and conflict-prone area," says Rick Robertson, CH2M HILL's program manager for the Sri Lanka Tsunami Reconstruction Project.

Expanding education opportunities

In October 2008, CH2M HILL with USAID successfully launched the seventh of nine Vocational Education Training Centers to be opened in Sri Lanka, which will teach 40 different skill trades for 2,000 students a year, enabling the country to become both completely self-sufficient and successful. The training centers focus on trades that are in high demand in Sri Lanka -- apparel, masonry, plumbing, welding, engine repair, carpentry, and IT.

"Of all the initiatives by the United States to help Sri Lanka recover from the tsunami, promoting vocational training is in many ways our most important project," says U.S. Ambassador of Sri Lanka and Maldives Robert O. Blake. "Training young people in vocational trades will help to provide good paying jobs in the near future, and will help boost both family income and the economic health of the districts and of Sri Lanka as a whole."

Ensuring future water supplies

In Arugam Bay, CH2M HILL managed the design and construction of a new water supply, treatment, and distribution system. It serves 40,000 people who have never had clean, potable water.

CH2M HILL's reconstruction efforts in Maldives included designing, constructing, and providing operations training for two seawater reverse osmosis facilities. The plants provided the first-ever treated water supply for the 8,000 island residents, as well as a business plan and instructions so the facility will become a viable business for the citizens of Maldives well into the future.

"An extension of our work included creating a health network TV system; sustainability, water, sanitation, and health workshops; and school health awareness training programs for all community members to participate in," says Robertson.

Restoring livelihoods

Three fishing harbors were renovated and expanded to meet the needs of more than 22,000 fishermen who lost their livelihoods after the tsunami. Fishermen committees were established, facilitating internal governance within the harbors and increasing the fishermen's ability to manage and sustain their rehabilitated and newly built facilities. This will result in economic growth opportunities long after CH2M HILL and USAID complete their work.

Focusing on sustainability, safety

Under CH2M HILL's direction, new construction in both areas was built with high standards of environmental compliance and an emphasis on "green" building practices. Two of the buildings, including the Ahangama Vocational Training Center, were the area's first to achieve Silver LEED® certification of sustainability under the U.S. Green Building Council.

"All over the world, including in Sri Lanka, there is a growing demand for 'green' energy and building services," says Ambassador Blake. "The Ahangama center will provide a venue for technology transfer and capacity building in 'green building' design and construction for Sri Lankan architects, engineers, contractors, and vendors. I expect that in the coming years, this center will set a precedent for environmentally sound design both in Sri Lanka and beyond."

Also, after seeing CH2M HILL's strict standards for making safety a No. 1 priority at all work sites, local people have embraced a strong safety culture for the first time. For example, workers achieved more than 380,000 hours without an accident on the bridge project thanks to extensive training, placing safety officers on each site, proactive safety planning, and providing hardhats, gloves, safety harnesses, and other safety gear to all workers. Over the past six months, with the construction at its peak, more than 1.5 million hours without a lost-time accident have been accumulated by the entire program.

Rebuilding structures, restoring hope

With less than two months of the Sri Lanka Tsunami Reconstruction Program remaining, the work in Maldives already complete, and a workforce prepared to make the most out of their new facilities, schools, and businesses, the promise of a secure and sustainable future in Sri Lanka and Maldives has become a reality. Under the program motto "build back better," the communities are now ready to help people rebuild their personal lives after the tsunami tore them apart.

Headquartered near Denver, Colo., employee-owned CH2M HILL is a global leader in engineering, procurement, construction, management and operations for government, civil, industrial and energy clients. With $5.8 billion in revenue and more than 25,000 employees, CH2M HILL has long been recognized as a most-admired company and leading employer, including being named by FORTUNE as one of the 100 Best Companies to Work For and one of America's Most Admired Companies (2008). Visit www.ch2mhill.com.

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