Nearly one year after, Sri Lanka’s tsunami survivors are stewing in uncertainty while tsunami recovery stagnates in politics.
One year into recovery, very little has changed.
The duplication, confusion, corruption, political interference, poor communication and lack of consultation that UN agencies and local institutions warned about, are thriving.
Around 250,000 men, women and children, living in cramped transitional shelters and nearly 500,000 crowding it out in relatives’ homes – are not thriving.
A study on Post Tsunami Recovery, by the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS), the Asian Development Bank Institute and the Asian Economics Centre, shows that a major roadblock to recovery is the government’s continuous inability to communicate with relevant stakeholders.
Despite swinging highly effective election campaigns, the government is still not able to communicate its decisions on aid packages, concessionary loans and relocation, to thousands of displaced families and relevant disbursement agencies.
Government circulars, that pass down instructions to various government bodies, are not available to the public and as a result tsunami victims do not know what arrangements are made for them and what they are due to receive.
“So people depend on rumours,” said associate research fellow at IPS, Paul Steel, at a consultation on Post Tsunami Recovery organised by IPS, United Nations Development Programme and the International Labour Organisation, on Thursday.
For instance, 50,000 home owners that were living outside the government’s original 100m and 200m buffer zone, got a Rs 50,000 first instalment to rebuild their houses.
But less than 10,000 have got the second instalment – apparently because of a lack of staff to evaluate applications.
Meanwhile, building costs have increased by around 50 percent from the calculated Rs 400,000 and the cost of a basic two bedroom house is now Rs 600,000 and still going up.
Although the government promised Rs 5,000 per month, for every tsunami affected family for their daily survival needs, the payment was made only for four months.
Meanwhile, micro credit schemes and loans cannot be accessed by many extremely poor tsunami victims because state banks have not relaxed their collateral requirements - despite a government directive to do so.
When it comes to relocation, the shortage of land outside the government's buffer zones and changes to the buffer zones in some areas, is adding to the insecurity of the homeless.
Pre-build houses have not improved the situation because there are no selection criteria on how the houses are awarded – as a result political interference is the deciding factor.
Where state land has been awarded to rebuild, the families are not given a clear title deed.
The stop-start flow of assistance and general uncertainty on relocation means hundreds of thousands of Sri Lanka’s tsunami survivors can’t pick up the pieces and get on with their lives, or plan their future.
To get the recovery process moving, the IPS is once more calling for better consultation and communication, to inform affected families about cash grants, land tenure, loan schemes and relocation.
-Dilshani Samaraweera: firstname.lastname@example.org