KALMUNAI - Houses built for fishermen were flattened to the ground when the tsunami hit Marudamunai in Ampara district on December 26 last year. The 34 houses had been constructed under a government fisherfolk development program, but today they are in a shambles.
Frustrated yet with a glint of hope, this fishing community continues to live in temporary camps at the same site since the tsunami made them homeless and jobless. Currently, they largely live on relief provided by the government and other organisations.
Even after six months, this community has not been able to restart its livelihood - fishing - due to two reasons.
Firstly, they do not have any fishing equipment as they got washed away and secondly, the sea where they had been doing 'madel' fishing is filled with debris. And it is not possible to restart fishing until the debris is cleared.
While this community is idling, swinging between despair and hope, ITDG, an institution promoting small technologies has come forward to assist them by rebuilding their houses.
ITDG plans to rebuild 34 houses, each house costing about five to six lakhs of rupees.
Mohammed Shackeel of the ITDG office in Ampara who is in-charge of this project told the Daily News that the proposed houses are essentially low-cost houses and not cheaply-built houses.
"We are using a special, improved technology called 'rat-trap' to build these houses. This technology is widely used in countries such as India," he said.
The advantage in this technology is that its cost is about 28 per cent lower than building a house in the normal way. However, this needs skilled masons. "To meet that requirement we have a group of trained 'basses' in Nikeweratiya whom we trained under a pilot project."
In this method the use of raw materials such as cement, sand, brick is quite low. No plaster is needed which is another saving.
The roof also will be a combination of cement slabs and tiles. These houses can resist earthquakes up to 6.5 on the Richter Scale.
"We have done such houses in Nikeweratiya as a pilot project and the University of Moratuwa has certified this method as a safe and economically profitable house building technique," Shackeel added.
Shackeel said they have many different housing designs. "We have taken gender sensitiveness into consideration and each house will be constructed according to the requirements of the main female member of the household.
There are instances where the female member would like to have the kitchen or the lavatory at a certain area so we have to listen to their preferences when designing each house. There are also specially designed houses which are disabled-friendly," he said.
ITDG officials have already given an idea of these houses to the local community through a presentation and it responded quite appreciatively.
V. Adam Bawa (50) was an owner of a house in the NHDA scheme in Marudamunai for fishermen.
When the tsunami came in its full strength, on December 26th, Bawa's house and the rest of the houses got washed away.
"We lost everything, the house, the fishing equipment and all our belongings. Now we have nothing, except relief given by the Government and other organisations," he said.
"We haven't got any fishing equipment as yet, even if we have the equipment, we can't go fishing immediately because the sea is full of rubbish and it is difficult for us to restart fishing under this condition," Bawa said. Many other villagers also expressed similar ideas.
M. Jasmy who is the ITDG coordinator in the village said, the villagers were really happy to learn about this housing project and they are eagerly waiting for construction work to start.
Work has already been started in many tsunami affected areas. According to a recent United Nations report it will take as long as 10 years to rebuild what was destroyed.
And Sri Lanka alone will have to build more than 90,000 homes for its half-million displaced people.