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Serving Sri Lanka

This web log is a news and views blog. The primary aim is to provide an avenue for the expression and collection of ideas on sustainable, fair, and just, grassroot level development. Some of the topics that the blog will specifically address are: poverty reduction, rural development, educational issues, social empowerment, post-Tsunami relief and reconstruction, livelihood development, environmental conservation and bio-diversity. 

Friday, January 21, 2005

Reconstructing with sense and sensibility

Reconstructing with sense and sensibility by Lakmal Welabada: "'The tsunami spelt devastation for the coastal population, many lost their lives, and most their homes and everything else they owned. In a growing tide of compassion, the world rose together as one, to provide immediate relief to the victims, donating food, medicine, clothing and even counselling. Constructing a ‘Slipform’ wall. pix by Kavindra Perera The tsunami rendered nearly 400,000 people destitut forcing them to seek refuge in temporary camps set up mainly in schools, temples and churches. Around 100,000 are staying with relatives and friends. What is the future of these people? Many are still not in a proper mental condition to think of a permanent place to live, as they are still in shock over the loss of loved ones. But these people need to be re-settled in permanent homes that they can call their own, if their lives are to regain any sense of normalcy. But how does one go about re-building? What are the low cost housing options that are available in Sri Lanka at the moment?
The National Engineering Research and Development (NERD) Centre attached to the State Engineering Corporation under the Ministry of Science and Technology, has come forward with several short and long term solutions, using innovative and cost effective construction technology. This method was introduced by Vidya Jothi Dr. A. N. S. Kulasinghe, an eminent engineer and researcher, and it has been developed and perfected by NERD over the past several by local engineers. The Nerd centre has already installed 25 temporary huts using a basic part of their new technology for tsunami destitutes in refugee camps in Wadduwa, Nindana and Boossa. "We did so under the guidance of the Minister of Science and Technology, Prof. Tissa Vitarana. We hope to put up more such huts in other affected areas as well," says Kumar Perera, Head/Department of Techno Marketing, NERD. The attractive feature of this hut is that it can be put up within 45 minutes using minimum materials such as few roofing sheets, galvanised tubes, bolts and pegs and polythene fibre to cover the sides. NERD points out that their second design which is for semi-permanent shelter is by using cement-sand block bricks and asbestos as roofing sheets. Toilets and multiple units can also be built using this method, which the displaced families could occupy separately in a transit camp. As the third step, NERD has introduced a more advanced plan with better infrastructure to re-build permanent settlements or permanent houses for tsunami destitutes. According to M.W. Leelaratna, General Manager NERD, the use of pre-cast and pre-stretched building components is the prominent feature of this technology. Columns, beams, door frames, window frames and many other components are pre-made out of concrete. The iron bars used to strengthen these components are pre-cast and stretched to the maximum length. Hence, iron that is used in this method becomes many times economical than in the traditional method. This also helps to minimise the cost of the foundation of the building, as a strong foundation has to be laid only to erect columns. Strong beams are then placed in between the columns. A 'slipform wall' that is made of granite dust, coir(to get the fibre effect), water and cement is put up with the help of a special shattering mould. These shattering moulds are 8, 10 or 12 feet long (which is of the length of a normal wall of a room) and about 3 feet in height. The construction time of this method is much faster than the traditional methods. Concrete bars are used for roofing. If the building is double or multi-storeyed, a chicken mesh (2x2) is spread on the beams placed across on the walls at a distance of 2 feet in between, and 2-inch concrete is laid on the mesh. A wooden or metal shattering supports the concrete until it gets compacted. "Since window frames, door frames and roofing bars are made of concrete, this method saves on timber and sand," explains Leelaratna. Once these frames are given a coat of paint, none can detect that they are made of concrete.
"We suggest to start pre-cast and pre-stressed concrete yards in the crisis areas as it will easily provide building components to the displaced people. It will also encourage many entrepreneurs, which will gradually provide sustainable employment for hundreds of youth," he points out. NERD has already designed ten low cost permanent housing plans for quick constructions for tsunami victims. The basic cost of these houses range from Rs. 100,000 to Rs. 200,000. The cost per square feet is Rs. 400. The need for skilled and specialised manpower is the other main feature in installing this technology.
NERD has been training 40 masons each in four day training workshops held twice a year. Nearly 400 masons have been trained during the past 15 years. They are the licence holders for the low cost house construction method. Ariyaratne De Silva, Head of the Department of Civil Engineering of NERD suggests that broken building components like Kabok bricks and clay roof tiles among the debris can be re-used when building new, permanent settlements (adopting the NERD technology) in the tsunami affected areas.
"We have been working on a 20,000 houses for the war destitutes in the North and East, before the tsunami struck. It was due to the present crisis, but will be re-started soon. We can implement the similar plan for the tsunami destitutes both in the N-E and Southern areas," he suggests. NERD stresses that they can only do the consulting part by making estimates, designing the plans and also proceeding with the engineering supervision. Anyone who wishes to proceed with the low cost house construction method can contact Kumar Perera, Head/Department of Techno Marketing NERD at Industrial Estate, Ekala, Ja-Ela. Tel. 2234266, 2236284, 2246384.
Houses damaged and destroyed
* Around 88,022 houses have been completely destroyed and about 25,731 houses have been partly damaged. District wise this includes 29,000 in Batticoloa, 19,100 in Ampara, 500 in Gampaha, 3895 in Kalutara, 7500 in Galle, 10,000 in Matara, 3739 in Hambantota, 3400 in Mulaitivu, 100 in Kilinochchi, 4000 in Trincomalee and 20 in Puttalam.
* NBRO and the NHDA have been instructed to plan construction of houses and buildings with the application of scientific redesignings to endure adverse weather conditions and natural calamities.
* A Special Task Force for Housing, comprising the Secretary of the Housing Ministry, Officials of the National Housing Development Authority (NHDA), National Building Research Organisation (NBRO), Centre for National Operations (CNO) and Government Factory will be set up by the Minister of Housing, Construction Industry, Eastern Province Education and Irrigation Development to expedite the urgently required rehabilitation and restoration activities in the affected areas.
* The Housing Ministry in cooperation with the State Engineering Corporation has already commenced a comprehensive survey to reclaim state-owned marshy lands, especially in the Eastern province to set up temporary houses for displaced people.

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