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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. 

Saturday, January 07, 2006

How politics disrupts tsunami aid

BBC: 28/12/2005" By Sanjoy Majumder

Maria Lucia surveys the tin shed that is her temporary home and then shrugs her shoulders in despair.

For the past three hours she's been bailing out floodwater from inside the basic single-room structure using a pot normally used to cook rice.

But three days of heavy rain has brought knee-deep water in and around the temporary camp where she and 20 other families now live in north-eastern Sri Lanka.

"You should see what's happened to the toilets behind," she says.

"They are completely flooded and raw sewage is flowing out. It's unbearable."

Maria and the inmates of the camp were brought here in May, moved from the school where they were housed after the tsunami washed away their homes last December.

"We were relieved to be brought here mainly because we expected to be inside a permanent home by now," explains Vincent Theorts, 38.

They have all been promised homes in a settlement nearby. But the houses are far from ready and it could be months before they move in.

Aid politics

Part of the problem is geographical - mostly it is political.

The camp lies in Vadamaradchi East - a narrow sliver of land extending from the Jaffna peninsula and linked to the mainland.

It was one of the worst hit areas by the tsunami along with Mullaitivu, further south.

Its remoteness means that aid is slow to reach, and the soil makes building difficult.

But Vadamaradchi East is also divided between the government and the Tamil Tiger rebels, with the latter controlling the southern half.

"Transporting material [to build homes] is very difficult," says K Ganesh, the government agent in Jaffna.

"It has to pass through both government and rebel checkpoints - this holds things up."

Transporting material by sea is simply too expensive.

Slow pace

It is doubly difficult for the aid agencies who have to walk the tightrope between two opposing parties - the government and the Tigers.

With a tsunami-aid sharing deal between the two groups held up by the courts, the pace of rehabilitation and reconstruction has been much slower than in the south.

Tens of thousands of people are still living in transitional camps, and the first permanent homes are only expected to be ready by the end of January.

Aid agencies say it is unlikely that the entire rehabilitation process will be over before the end of 2006.

Working in a conflict zone brings its added share of problems.

Some parts of Vadamaradchi East have still to be cleared of landmines, planted by the Sri Lankan army and the rebels during the civil war.

It means that there is limited land available to build new settlements.

"Since most of the people affected by the tsunami are fishermen, they prefer to live close to the sea," says Anandar Srikanthan of World Vision.

But the Tamil Tigers have prohibited any construction within 300 metres of the sea - in the rest of Sri Lanka the buffer zone is only 100 metres.

"It's something which needs a rethink," says Martin Linders, programme manager of the UK charity Oxfam.

"Many areas inland are simply not suitable. They lack proper road access for instance," he says.

No boats

The problem was illustrated during the monsoons in November, when the area received particularly heavy rains leaving large swathes of land flooded.

Frustrated aid workers say the matter could have been eased somewhat if the sites had been properly surveyed.

"Instead, we've gone back to providing relief when we should be focusing on the rehabilitation efforts," said one German aid worker privately.

For its part, the government complains that not enough NGOs have shown interest in getting involved in the north.

"The initial NGO reaction was very encouraging but subsequently I find interest flagging," says K Ganesh.

A number of aid agencies are slowly winding up their programmes and there are fears that this will only delay the rehabilitation process even more.

In the south, the focus has already shifted from providing shelters to ensuring the revival of people's livelihoods, particularly for those employed in the fishing industry.

But the situation here in the rebel-controlled north, things are quite different.

"Very few of us have been given boats," says Antony Selveneyatam, the head of the fishing cooperative in Vadamaradchi East.

The fishing community along the coast is anxious to get back to work and the few boats that have been distributed are put to good use.

"I want to go back to sea," mutters fisherman V Sahaya, as he patiently untangles a fishing net.

But with increased tension between the Tamil Tigers and the government in recent weeks, it could take a while for that to happen.

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Value of economic development thru’ industry nurturing and consultative process

Daily Mirror: 28/12/2005" Redefining the role of banking by Lalith Perera

Mr. John started his career at the Ceylon Tobacco Company (CTC) – Kandy Leaf Division in the early 70’s as a Field Overseer. After working as a trainee Field Overseer in very remote villages like Villachchiya (25 miles off Anuradhapura) and Kahatagasigiliya), he was sent to Hanwella CTC Training Centre – Madugoda for an advanced comprehensive residential training programme on tobacco nursery stage to land preparation, soil conservation and protection of vegetation, replanting, fertilizing, spraying of insecticides, harvesting, curing, grading of tobacco and selling back to the company (CTC buy-back operation) spanning about 9 months. John passed out and was posted first as a Field Instructor.

His responsibilities were to manage tobacco cultivators (called tobacco out growers) about 50-75 numbers of whom were already registered with the company depots in respective areas. About 50% roughly, owned mini and/or large tobacco curing barns. The ultimate purpose of producing tobacco cured leaves was for the manufacture of cigarettes of different varieties by the Ceylon Tobacco Company Production Division in Colombo.

It was a condition that the company called CTC depot was to issue the registered tobacco growers with tobacco seeds; where CTC had their own tobacco nurseries and produced quality varieties of seeds or imported, fertilizer, and offered advice and arranged bank loans through the area local bank. The amount loaned was determined by the extent they cultivated and the forecast extent.

The field instructor’s job functions and responsibilities were to inspect cultivable lands extent, approve suitable sites, plan for soil protection/conservation of land from soil erosion, re-forestation (lands where trees were cut, were re-planted with ipil –ipil) and af-forestation.

Before the tobacco cultivation season starts, field instructors have to draw a comprehensive area cultivation plan which consists of nursery stage, transplanting, weeding, fertilizing and pruning, topping and green leaf harvesting & quantity, planned cured leaf quantity, grading, leaf marketing stage (company buy- back agreement and procedure), soil conservation, reforesting and af-foresting stages.

Under the company agreement (between the CTC and grower-barn owner) is concerned, there were very important stages such as provision of tobacco seeds to start his nursery, fertilizers, and chemicals: insecticides and pesticides, and a tie-up with a local bank to provide cultivation loans to growers who opt for / need such loans. The company – grower agreement and another agreement with the bank were also signed.

This arrangement was done by the company and all CTC registered growers didn’t obtain loans. The provision of all materials were carried out on a planned basis and the bank loans were released purely on condition that grower followed a strict tobacco cultivation procedure.

The field instructors were responsible for each sector/area; to name a few Villachchiya, Kahatagasdegiliya, Madatugama, Mailapane, Rikillagakada and Galkulama, where tobacco plantations were carried out, had to issue a company chit where at each stage the farmer used to go to the CTC depot with a stores facility and collect their materials.

After harvesting green leaf curing stage starts and goes for about 4-5 days. Once the barn is set fire the field staff and the barn owners worked around the clock as if anything goes wrong the entire leaf stock will get burnt. The cured leaf is unloaded and left for cooling sorting/grading starts.

The company guarantees to buy-back cured leaf and recover the cost of fertilizer, seeds and the bank loans. Most upcountry cultivation was carried out on hilly terrain and harvesting, stacking green leaves in the barns in a systematic manner (there were no electrified barns then) and curing by maintaining the different and right temperature levels to ensure golden colour leaves – a quality standard of tobacco being produced by the barn owners which is the No 1 grade.

There were then about 7-8 grades: grade 1,2,3 basically had good pricing and the last grade was sweepings-called THOOL and used in manufacturing of cigars. The difficulty faced by the field officer was that some of the registered tobacco growers obtaining all materials and loans used to sell their cured leaf to outsiders (third parties).

There is one essential part in nurturing and consultative process where cross-selling (in banking). Tobacco operation crop cultivation also use cross-selling by way of ideas, advise, instructions, assistance and further more after the crop is finished when grower makes profits we advise them to open bank accounts, fixed deposits, buy a truck for tobacco transportation, put up an additional mini barn, re-built there tobacco sheds etc and repair there old barns.

This kind well managed and controlled operation the company used achieve 100% crop targets, 100% recovery settlement of loans and growers used to making good profits of their during tobacco cultivation season.

John calls this is a solid example of any banker to familiarize micro, small, medium and large scale (MSM&L) business planning, monitoring and controlling. Also in terms banking terminology this is exactly the right example of Business Nurturing and Consultative Process of Micro, Small, Medium and Large Industries in Sri Lanka.

There is one very important aspect in nurturing and consultative process where cross-selling (in banking). Tobacco crop cultivation also use cross-selling by way of ideas, advise, instructions, assistance and further more after the crop is finished when grower made profits we used advise them to open bank accounts, fixed deposits, buy a truck for tobacco for transportation, put up an additional mini barn, re-built there tobacco sheds etc and repair there old barns.

Mind you, as far back 35 years ago, the Ceylon Tobacco Company (Large Multinational) initiated this nature of excellent MSM&L Agri-based, industry-partnership related, forward integrated and market-economy development program in this country.

The writer could be reached for an open invitation to any bank or financial institution to respond this article attention: Lalith Perera, shalindrip@stlnet.lk

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Friday, January 06, 2006

Recovering one year down the track: tsunami

Daily Mirror: 28/12/2005"

The day that will be remembered by all in Asia, and many around the world. It was also that same day in history that brought the international tourism community together to begin the process of rebuilding and reconstructing the Tsunami-affected destinations, including Thailand, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and the Maldives.

Many livelihoods and businesses were directly affected by the Boxing Day incident, with millions suffering great financial and personal loss. Reconstruction and revival work began almost immediately, with assistance and support being provided from all round the world. One year on from the Indian Ocean Tsunami, recovery is well underway.

According to the latest World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) Market Intelligence report, around 80% of existing hotel capacity in the Maldives and Sri Lanka is fully operational. In Thailand, close to full capacity is available – with a quick recovery of infrastructure resulting in 80% of the hotels now functioning normally.

Abacus International President and CEO Don Birch says overall bookings on the Abacus system showed that any dip in travel following the Tsunami was short term. Latest figures indicate that Intra-Asia travel bookings showed a slight dip from February to May but began recovering steadily from June onwards.

“This is proof positive of the resilience of Asian travel,” said Don Birch.

He says the rapid response of affected communities was a critical factor in their recovery. At the earliest opportunity, affected areas were working hard to repair the damage so that they could get back to their primary business of providing quality holiday options for travellers.

Although the recovery suffered a few set-backs with the aftershocks in February and March, bookings gradually began increasing in the following six months. As early as March, travel bookings to the affected areas were indicating positive signs of recovery. Net bookings for Phuket on the Abacus system are a testament with figures for the week 7-13 March were up 369% on the previous month. In Krabi, bookings were up 50% over the same period, while Penang was up 600% and Langkawi 545%. Other Tsunami-affected areas saw a similar rebound. Madras saw a 91% increase and Medan followed closely with a 86% rise and Colombo’s bookings bounced back by 70%.

Although the recovery has been swift, there is still a need for ongoing efforts to rebuild tourism and support the economies of these destinations. Security measures, such as early warning systems and training drills for the hotels were quickly established, helping to rebuild tourists’ confidence in these markets as soon as possible.

Don Birch explained, “For those destinations hit the hardest in terms of tourism visitors – such as Phuket, Krabi and Sri Lanka - the true test of their recovery will be the upcoming traditional tourism peak period - the Christmas holiday season”.

That’s why the entire tourism sector is working hard to provide as much assistance and expertise as possible to help rebuild the tourism industry in Tsunami-affected destinations.

The Phuket Action Plan – established initially by the World Travel Organization to support the Thai holiday destination – has now been rolled out for Sri Lanka, the Maldives, Indonesia as well as the rest of Thailand.

The action plan is focused on saving tourism jobs, relaunching small tourism-related businesses and assisting in whatever it can to recover the visitor flow in the Tsunami-affected regions.

“The programme recognizes that for many places the aftermath of the disaster can have a devastating effect on the economy and wellbeing of many more people,” said Don Birch.

Countries in review – a snapshot

Countries including Thailand, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and the Maldives have adopted the Phuket Action Plan as part of the recovery process to reinstate traveller confidence, in turn to generating more tourism revenue for the local community.

UNWTO Secretary-General, Francesco Frangialli says that the UNWTO is confident that the Phuket Action Plan that focuses on tourism employment, small businesses and return of tourists will contribute decisively to the rapid restoration of tourism business in the affected destinations.

The following countries in review contain statistics from the UNWTO report Tsunami Relief for the Tourism Sector Phuket Action plan.


Several international tourism resorts in Thailand’s west coast were brutally destroyed by the Tsunami, resulting in more than 5,000 people killed (2,510 tourists), close to 5,500 still missing (over 1,000 tourists) and about 8,500 left homeless. Damage to Khao Lak and Phi Phi was the most severe. Occupancy rates slipped as low as 10% and several air carriers suspended or reduced services to Phuket due to lack of demand. However, Thailand did not take a long time to recover. The latest World Tourism Organisation market intelligence report concurs that the tourist confidence is returning rapidly and arrivals will be back to normal – or better – by the end of the year.

On top of that, Phuket ranked second for the “Travel + Leisure World’s Best Awards 2005” Asian Islands category.

Travel + Leisure magazine Managing Editor, Mark Orwoll said, "the Tsunami, of course, took place in December and we did our poll in the spring. While certainly there was damage, it wasn't the type of catastrophic damage that would shut down the island. The island had been very popular among the travel circuit and had a great reputation, and this wasn't enough to change that."

During the recovery phase, the top priorities for Thailand as stated in the Phuket Action Plan are:
• Assistance to small tourism-related businesses
• Diversification of tourism offer of southern Thailand beyond sun and sand, to include more nature and cultural-based products
• Training of new staff and retraining of existing staff
• Communication of current operational status of most tourism destinations and complementary offer – such as restaurants, shops and excursions.


In contrast to other destinations, the tourism resorts in Indonesia suffered no damage. But there has been a significant plunge in tourists due to the Tsunami and media coverage of relief operations. Bali is most affected which has experienced a huge drop off in Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions (MICE) and cruise tourism since the 2002 terrorist bombings.

Unfortunately, Bali suffered another bomb blast this October. The good news is that the damage caused is considerably lesser than the 2002 attacks. The medical and enforcement authorities were better prepared and the numbers of dead and injured were not as high. And unlike 2002, which saw droves of tourists rushing off the island, there have been relatively fewer departures immediately after the incident.

The Phuket Action Plan announced that the most effective way to liven up Indonesia is to develop its communications strategy, such as:
• Communication of current operational status of most resorts
• Building the communications capacity of tourism organizations

Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka was one of the worst damaged country's – 30,725 people dead (107 tourists), 6,000 missing (65 tourists) and 422,000 homeless. Tourism, the fourth largest contributor to Sri Lanka’s GDP, was brought to a halt immediately. Most of the 14,500 visitors on the island at the time of the disaster left. Restoration of the tourism resorts is estimated to cost about US$195 million.

Even as tourist arrivals into Sri Lanka dropped sharply in the initial months following the disaster, the travel industry was already implementing initiatives to help the region get back on its feet as quickly as possible.

Formulated by the Phuket Action Plan, Sri Lanka will remake itself by:
• Adhering to the principles of sustainable development in reconstruction
• Training new staff
• Providing assistance to small tourism-related businesses

The Maldives

Out of 87 resorts in the islands, 24 were damaged and six have said they will never reopen. The Tsunami caused 81 deaths, 26 missing and 100,000 homeless. Occupancy rates have dropped to between 20 and 30% at a time of the year when they are usually operting at 100% capacity.

According to the Post-Tsunami Global Travel Intentions Research conducted by Visa Asia Pacific for the WTO Emergency Task Force this February, among those travellers no longer considering Asia for their 2005 holiday, Thailand, the Maldives and Singapore saw the greatest shift in consideration. A third of Asia considerers felt the Maldives had been severely affected by the Tsunami and will not be considered for 2005.

But all is not bleak. The report concluded that most of the barriers to travel seem to be based on inadequate perceptions about the infrastructural readiness and safety of the destinations. And these issues can be addressed with targeted information and communications strategies that highlight the recovery of these places.

For the Maldives, the Phuket Action Plan’s solutions to revive tourism are:
• Communication of current operational status of most resorts
• Increasing visitor numbers
• Disaster management

Tourists are returning

The post-Tsunami tourism recovery progress seems to be rather encouraging. According to the UNWTO World Tourism Barometer, most regions and sub-regions have enjoyed sustained growth in tourism demand during the first seven months of 2005. Asia Pacific is the best performing region of the world to date this year with a growth of 9%.

Don Birch added that the Tsunami had not had a major impact on travel growth within Asia Pacific as a whole.

Figures from Abacus International, show bookings to countries affected have steadily recovered.

A separate UNWTO report found that tourists charged 14% more to their Visa credit cards in Tsunami-hit countries in February, compared to the same period last year.

“This is a good indication that tourists are not only returning but are willing to spend more to assist in reviving the livelihoods of the locals. Tourism is the biggest industry in coastal towns such as Phuket. The best way my wife and I could have helped the people of Phuket then was to go there for a holiday, stay at the hotel, eat at the restaurants, enjoy the entertainment and buy souvenirs, all in a bid to stimulate the economy again,” said Don Birch about when he visited Phuket shortly after the historic day.

Lessons to learn

It is quite impossible to guard against such acts of nature, but getting travellers to return to these tourism-dependant economies is absolutely essential to their long-term survival. It takes a joint effort by the governments of the country and the assistance of neighbouring regions to help rebuild the confidence and support of the travellers.

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Post-tsunami survey reveals social disparities

Daily Mirror: 27/12/2005"

"The Tsunami has shattered the life of the community. Having overcome the initial emotional and physical difficulties without much time to think, they have reached a state of frustration. Not having an income source and courage to restart life has led communities worrying about not being able to achieve expectations they had before the Tsunami. These expectations relate to aspects like educating the children, achieving occupational targets, building a house and developing their property."

This has been revealed in a post-tsunami survey just concluded by the professional research organization, the Research Consultancy Bureau (RCB) on behalf of Sarvodaya supported by the World Bank. The survey was conducted among community leaders representing the tsunami affected communities in the South and the East. Six Focus Groups of community leaders with direct experience with the tsunami devastation at the relief and reconstruction stage participated in the survey. In the South, the survey was conducted at Koggala, Unawatuna and Hikkaduwa while in the East, the interviews were done at Vakrai, Kathankudy and Kaluwachikudy.

"Communities have started losing self-confidence and are displaying characteristics of insecurity", the report states. "Their frustration has been further aggravated when some communities realized that they are now no different to the poorest families in their community before the Tsunami."

The reaction to this change in the mindset and behaviour of the people has been identified in numerous changes in society. More pregnancies, an interest in sex and marriages, and deterioration in the religious values and/or relationships with the temple and the church have been noticed.

There has also been a tendency for people to move over to stronger or what they consider "better" brands of alcohol and cigarettes and to indulge themselves in various vices. With more money getting into their hands, they are more into alcohol, claiming that it helps them to forget their worries and overcome sadness.

The tendency to get married is primarily to obtain goodies which are given per household. There is even the possibility of getting a new house.

Meanwhile, some of the community members have shown keenness to share their resources to develop the community, as they believe that collectively they will have more bargaining power where they will be able to reach better standards of life in post-tsunami. "They were appreciative of assistance provided and repeatedly commented about harmony, unity, protection and importance of caring", the Report says.

However, several negative qualities have developed among the communities over the months after the tsunami. Among the characteristics identified by the community leaders as being prevalent in their communities, are animosity, laziness, dishonesty, jealousy, greediness and ungratefulness.

The Report states that occupation and employment was a major concern among the community leaders as communities represented by these leaders have displayed somewhat lower interest towards securing occupation and employment.

While the communities have received varied assistance to get back to their means of livelihood like fishing boats and other equipment, self-employment programmes conducted by the NGOs, and financial assistance from the State, these activities have not reached to a level of satisfaction of the community leaders as a larger proportion of the community are still idling in camps or new settlement areas.

Referring to the 100/200m rule, the Report says that there was a visible division in the community regarding the rule. While community leaders of the East believe that the 200metre rule was imposed by the Government for the goodness of the people for the protection of life and property, this view was not strongly seen by the leaders of the South.

“However, in both East and South some were of the view that there is an ulterior motive with regard to the implementation of the rule", it says. The Report has spelt out the perceptions both for and against the rule as well as the misconceptions.

The 100/200metre rule and its implications on the community also raise a concern about the post-Tsunami housing, especially among the communities within 100/ 200metre rule and beyond. Housing is seen as one of the most criticised areas of post-tsunami activities. Reasons for such criticism are due to the degree to which assistance is received, degree to which the problem of housing is understood by the provider, and concerns with the process of construction.

"Almost all community leaders were thankful to non-governmental organisations, individuals and, to some extent, to the State for their generosity in providing housing needs. Yet they questioned the prevalence of temporary houses even after seven months of tsunami. They have commented that the work completed so far was less than 50%.

This has led to substantial displeasure among the communities. The situation has worsened when communities found out that some families who were registered as a single family before the tsunami were now eligible to obtain two separate houses having registered as two families. Further, those who had wattle and daub or temporary houses have obtained brick and mortar houses. The concern is on the disparity of provision of assistance and transparency, integrity and fairness," the Report states.

It adds: " Tsunami has devastated communities regardless of individual status, but subsequent relief and reconstruction programmes have created visible discrimination with some communities receiving less than others or less than what they used to have, while there are also visible benefits for those who had less earlier now having more. Both seem to have created social disharmony leading to un-satisfactoriness."

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Thursday, January 05, 2006

One Year On – RecoverlLanka/GeoLanka Editorial

Manoharan Philips, Neil Devadasan, D.H.S. Maithripala, Vidhura Ralapanawe, and Lareef Zubair
RecoverLanka/GeoLanka Adminstrators

The Government of Sri Lanka and the UN Agencies have reported satisfactory progress in the recovery process. The ground reality may not be so rosy. Other tsunami affected countries seem to have fared better. In Indonesia, the Government and the Free Aceh movement signed a historic peace pact on the anniversary of the tsunami giving a boost to the recovery efforts. The failure of the aid-sharing deal, combined with elections, has heightened the bitterness between the communities in Sri Lanka. Recent events point to a collapse of the fragile ceasefire

The biggest issue seems to be the accountability of the tsunami fund utilization and how the relief and reconstruction efforts are being coordinated. The Auditor-General has referred to glaring deficiencies in the management of Tsunami funds. The Institute of Policy Studies of Sri Lanka says in its report “poor coordination among domestic and external agencies has emerged as a serious problem, together with the sensitive issues of balancing political considerations and humanitarian assistance to the needy”. The Report emphasized the need for the Government to rein in the private charities which often worked at cross purposes and competed with each other for media attention and pushed wages artificially high.

The Tsunami Evaluation Coalition (a collaborative set-up of Donor Governments, Aid Departments, UN agencies and the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movements), in their recent report said “International Agencies focus too much on promoting their brand and not enough on the needs of the affected populations. Agencies are still not transparent enough to the people they are trying to assist. In some cases Agencies are also not sufficiently accountable to those providing fund.”

The U.N. Flash Appeal Web site (http://ocha.unog.ch/fts) reportedly tracking expenditure and the Sri Lanka TAFREN/ UNDP development assistance database (http://dad.tafren.gov.lk/) that is supposed to track spending on specific projects, although fancy with chart/ map/ report capabilities, fall far short of the U.N.’s reported plans to track and account for the tsunami billions.

Even the International Federation of the Red Cross (IFRC), the recipient of a huge amount of tsunami funds, is being queried. A request to give a figure for the ‘administrative costs’ of the IFRC in Sri Lanka was reportedly turned down by Tony Maryon, Head of the IFRC Delegation to Sri Lanka.

Some local NGOs show more transparency and accountability. The Sarvodaya web site gives details of expenditure district by district. The TRO has published detailed audited statement of accounts for Tsunami projects completed in the North and East up to June 2005. Interestingly, TRO’s statement of accounts puts the administrative costs at 3.5%.

How much of each tsunami fund dollar reaches those affected? Are the funds utilized in the best interests of the victims of the tsunami? Citizens, taxpayers and donors around the world must seek answers for these questions from the Donor and Recipient Governments, UN Agencies, International and Local NGOs who are the direct recipients of the tsunami funds.

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Master plan for fisheries infrastructure development ready

Daily Mirror: 28/12/2005"

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and Ministry of Fisheries and Aquatic resources (MFAR) presented a Master plan for the reconstruction and development of fisheries anchorages and associated facilities along the coast of Sri Lanka at their monthly joint FAO/MFAR coordination meeting last week.

The master plan, financed through FAO’s Italian Civil Protection Department funded project, lays out a comprehensive program for the rebuilding and rehabilitation of tsunami damaged fisheries infrastructure.

The tsunami killed over 35 000 people, displaced 1,000,000 and affected over two thirds of the island’s coastline. Besides the tremendous loss of life and injuries, the tsunami caused extensive damage to property including fisheries infrastructure, disrupting fisheries based livelihoods.

According to joint FAO-MFAR assessments, 10 fishing harbours out of twelve, 37 anchorages, and 700 fishing landing centres were damaged and destroyed and need various degrees of rehabilitation or rebuilding.

“This master plan is a tool for investors, donors, government agencies and NGOs ensuring better coordination, avoiding gaps and overlaps and maximizing the utility of financial resources” said Sigurd Sigurdurson, FAO Infrastructure specialist.

The plan is designed to ensure that assistance to infrastructure development is carried out in a planned and orderly way, preventing ad hoc development. It also provides expert designs for the various structures needed at each site.

“As many fishers have moved away from the coast, it is especially important to have improved facilities for them to use to store their equipment” said Piyasena, the Director General of the Department of Fisheries.

The master plan improves on the existing damaged infrastructure. Sri Lankan fishers will benefit from better storage facilities, improved amenities and facilities and better conditions for marketing their produce. Incomes should be increased due to improvement of quality of fish due to improved, more hygienic conditions, reduction of waste and decreased post-harvest losses.

FAO’s Italian Civil Protection funded project is rebuilding and rehabilitation of 5 sets of facilities, two in Matara at Badewatta and Kotegoda, and three in Trincomalee district at Eachchlampattu, Pallanthoddam and Samuthiragama.

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Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Lanka’s post-tsunami reconstruction shows mixed results

HT: 26/12/2005" by PK Balachandran

At the end of the first year of post tsunami reconstruction in Sri Lanka, the results are mixed.

In some areas, like the building of temporary dwellings and boat repairs, the achievement is remarkable. But in others, like the building of permanent houses, the results have been poor.

Unlike in India, where the tsunami hit only a few districts and a small part of the vast coastline, in Sri Lanka, it struck two thirds of the coastline spread over 13 districts.

A total of 35,322 people perished in a matter of minutes, 21,441 were injured, 1500 children were orphaned and 516,150 people were displaced.

Over 1 million of the 20 million people in the island were affected by the unprecedented disaster. 98,000 houses, both big and small, were destroyed and 23,449 acres of agricultural land was laid waste, land which cannot be cultivated today because of the high salinity of the soil.

Seventy-five per cent of the fishing fleet was destroyed. 182 schools and 4 university campuses were damaged.

In the beach resort-oriented tourist industry, 53 out of the 242 large hotels were destroyed and 248 small hotels and lodges were in a shambles.

The assets lost were valued at $900 million.

Remarkable initial relief work and global response

The local and international response in the wake of the disaster was phenomenal.

Ordinary citizens, government servants, and local and international aid workers, put their shoulders to the wheel and rendered emergency assistance of all kinds.

Over 600 schools provided shelter and food was reached to 910,000 persons on a daily basis. Even the government and the rebel LTTE, shed their fear and suspicion about each other, and cooperated in the Tamil-speaking North Eastern districts.

The Sri Lankan government asked for international aid to the tune of $2.2 billion, but such was the measure of sympathy in the world, that the international community pledged $2.8 billion.

Out of this, $2.1 billion had been committed by December 2005, and $0.6 billion had been disbursed.

Implementation of reconstruction schemes

As per the Joint Report of the Government of Sri Lanka and its development partners at the end of the year, 54,102 of the required 60,000 transitional shelters had been completed.

But the progress had been very tardy in the construction of permanent houses, especially in the case of those in the so-called "buffer zone" (100 metres from the high water mark on the shoreline in the Southern districts, and 200 metres in the case of the North Eastern districts).

Of the 32, 000 permanent houses required in the buffer zone, only 4299 had been completed. 10,707 were under construction as on December 13.

As an explanation for the slow pace of work, the report said that while the affected people wanted to live within the buffer zone, the government was hamstrung by difficulty in acquiring land for construction outside the buffer zone.

In the case of people living outside the buffer zone, the problem was not so difficult.

By year-end, the government had given loans in four installments to 83.5 per cent of the affected 66,525 families. And these families have been building their houses on their own.

But those in the buffer zone are the poorest, and it is among these that the problem of housing is acute.

About 150,000 people had lost their main source of income. Of these, 50 per cent were in fishing and related trades.

According to the year end report, up to 85 per cent of them had regained their livelihoods with the help of cash grants and loans.

About 90 per cent of the damaged boats had been repaired, and lost or badly damaged ones had been replaced.

In the hotel sector, 41 of the 53 big hotels had been rebuilt with loans. But the smaller hotels and lodges were finding it difficult to get loans.

Tourist arrivals had increased in Sri Lanka in 2005, despite the tsunami, but the beach hotels had not gained. There had been a 10 per cent fall in their income.

The tsunami had battered the educational infrastructure, but still, by the end of the year, 95 per cent of the kids were back in school.

There had been no water borne diseases too, which were a major health hazard especially in the immediate aftermath of the tsunami.

UNDP paints a grim picture

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), which conducted peoples' consultations with 800 groups in 1100 villages in the 13 affected districts, said that the recovery work was thought to be lacking in speed and efficiency.

Many people said that there was a mismatch between the international aid received and the money seen at the ground level.

Big commitments, but very little evidence of work on the ground. NGOs, International NGOs (INGOs) and others complained of high centralisation in the government machinery, inadequate needs assessment and consultation, corruption, and lack of transparency and accountability.

The frequent transfer of government officials, a lack of coordination between the various governmental and non-governmental agencies, and power struggles between the various agencies and between officials had hampered rehabilitation and reconstruction work.

The NGOs and the INGOs had done very good work in many places, but in some places, people complained of false promises being made by these agencies.

Also, the government and the NGOs and INGOS had been pointing accusing fingers at each other.

Minority communities like the Tamils and Muslims complained of discrimination.

The Tamils and the Muslims of the North East felt that the Sinhala-majority South was favoured.

The local and international media too kept highlighting the scene in the more accessible and attractive South, which resulted in more aid going there, as compared to the less attractive and remote areas in the North East.

In the fishing industry, while much good had been done, there were mismatches too.

For instance, those who wanted big multi-day boats were given small or single day boats. Some who were not even fishermen were given boats and these had taken to fishing now!

The environment still remains polluted with debris blocking drains and waterways. The drainage is still in disrepair in many places.

While the number of transitional shelters built is impressive, the quality of construction is poor.

Toilet and water facilities are poor. People are desperately waiting for permanent housing for this is necessary for their security.

They fear that social norms might breakdown in the transition camps where strangers have been lumped together and people of different attitudes and social mores are forced to rub shoulders with each other.

Although in the initial days, the un-affected people helped the affected without any reservation, later, they began to feel jealous of them, because the "tsumani people" were getting national and international attention, and were getting financial help and new houses while they were languishing in the same old state.

In the war-ravaged Tamil-speaking North-East, the war-displaced people felt that while they were getting a raw deal, the tsunami affected were getting all the attention and help.

The government to some extent, and the NGOs and INGOs to a much greater extent, are aware of this discrepancy and have been urging a holistic rehabilitation plan which will cover all the deprived, and not just the victims of the tsunami.

(PK Balachandran is Special Correspondent of Hindustan Times in Sri Lanka)

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Sri Lanka admits failing tsunami victims

AFP: 26/12/2005"

Sri Lanka admitted it had failed to deliver aid effectively to a million tsunami survivors as it paid emotional tribute to the victims of last year's catastrophe.

President Mahinda Rajapakse on Monday brushed aside security fears to lead the national remembrance effort with a two-minute silence in memory of an estimated 31,000 Sri Lankans who were killed in the unprecedented disaster a year ago.

Police stepped up security while the military placed anti-aircraft guns to protect the president following reports that Tamil Tiger rebels possessed light aircraft which could be flying bombs used for kamikaze-style attacks.

Rajapakse, 60, stood in silence with his head bowed after an inter-faith service at this village where over 1,000 people perished when their train was hit by giant waves.

Police blocked dozens of protestors trying to reach the ceremony venue at the Jinaratana school in Peraliya, 95 kilometres (60 miles) south of Colombo, which was also submerged by last year's tsunami.

Local residents have been staging regular demonstrations here pressing for faster state aid.

The president admitted that tsunami reconstruction had been slow and the country had failed to ensure relief reached all the victims, estimated at a million homeless.

"Have we been able to do maximum justice to those who sacrificed their lives as victims of this tragedy? Have we been able to carry forward the great strength our people demonstrated just after the tragedy?" Rajapakse asked.

"It is my belief that we are unable to answer both these questions to our satisfaction."

He said he was launching a new initiative known to speed up slow-moving reconstruction and pledged that there would be a "new dynamism" in his administration, which came to power just one month ago.

The project aims to gather all tsunami-relief organisations under one umbrella to improve coordination.

Saffron-robed Buddhist monks conducted a brief ceremony to invoke blessings on those killed by the tsunami before Christian, Hindu and Muslim clerics carried out services for the dead.

Candlelight vigils were to be held after sunset along the island's coastlines. The resorts of Hikkaduwa and Bentota lit coconut oil lamps at 9:30am (0330 GMT), the hour when the biggest waves hit this coastline.

The tsunami initially raised hopes of a peace deal with Tigers but Colombo and the guerrillas, who each control part of the devastated coastline, could not even agree on a mechanism to share 3.2 billion dollars in foreign aid.

Fresh violence in the island's northeast left six more people dead Monday and raised to 70 the number killed this month in the conflict despite a truce that is in place since February 2002, police said.

In the eastern coastal town of Arugam Bay, one of the worst affected areas, residents offered free lunch to people still without homes after the worst natural disaster to hit the island.

The government on Saturday admitted that only one fifth of homes damaged -- 20,000 of 98,525 -- have been rebuilt.

"There have been several constraints. The local capacity constraint. The construction industry capacity... and the lack of labour and materials," said Finance Secretary P.B. Jayasundera.

Sri Lanka is still unable to reconcile death tolls from different state agencies. The numbers vary from 17,500 to 41,000 deaths. More than 220,000 people were killed overall.

The country's loss of infrastructure was estimated at 900 million dollars with total reconstruction and rehabilitation needs placed at 2.2 billion dollars.

The government has said it received 3.2 billion dollars in aid pledges from international donors, but a state audit report recently noted that only 13 percent of external help had actually been used by the country.

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ASU prof finds lessons in Sri Lanka

AR: 26/12/2005" by William Hermann

In the year since Arizona State University Professor Harindra Fernando led a team of scientists to his tsunami-ravaged homeland of Sri Lanka, the island nation has begun to rebuild, but the researchers' findings and recommendations about measures that could help avert another disaster are only partially being heeded.

Ironically, knowledge gained from the tragedy that struck Southeast Asia may prove to be most beneficial to safeguarding United States cities.

The study helped establish the relationship between the magnitude of undersea earthquakes and the size of a tsunami, and helped in predicting where a tsunami would hit after an earthquake. advertisement

Fernando, director of ASU's Environmental Fluid Dynamics Program, remembers only too well how quickly news of the disaster reached him last Christmas. Sri Lanka is 13 hours "ahead" of Arizona, and the waves began slamming ashore about 9 a.m., Dec. 26th, towering as much as 30 feet above hapless villages and carrying millions of tons of water.

"It was our Christmas night and my sister-in-law called and said a tsunami had hit; she didn't have much information and had heard about 100 people died," said Fernando, who lives in Chandler with his family. "By the morning the extent of the devastation was being reported. It was very terrible."

Terrible indeed. It began with an earthquake of a magnitude of about 9.3 in the Indian Ocean off the west coast of northern Sumatra; the quake generated an energy wave that traveled at about 500 mph across the sea.

When the wave reached a shoreline, the rising shelf of land had the effect of lifting the ocean and slamming it down on the beach, sometimes sending a deadly wall of water inland as much as half a mile. The waves killed about 31,000 in Sri Lanka and about 170,000 in Indonesia, Thailand, India and other nations in the area.

Fernando's family in Sri Lanka lives just out of reach of the wave, but they knew many who lost their lives.

As the extent of the damage wrought in Southeast Asia became evident, massive world aid began to mobilize. Teams of researchers also began to mobilize, for they saw an opportunity to examine the effects of a historically gigantic tsunami.

"On the morning of December 27th I got a call from (Cornell University Professor) Philip Liu asking whether I'd be willing to coordinate a visit to Sri Lanka to get measurements so there would be a future record for people doing studies on tsunamis," Fernando said. The National Science Foundation Earthquake Research Institute and the U.S. Geological Survey sponsored the team, which included eight U.S. tsunami specialists and one from New Zealand as well as several from Sri Lanka.

"We all had seen the television images, read the newspaper stories, but until we were in the villages . . . we didn't get the full impact," Fernando said. "Some villages were just knocked down flat, just reduced to broken pieces."

Geologist James Goff, senior tsunami researcher at the National Institute of Water & Atmospheric Research in New Zealand, wrote in an e-mail that he was torn between compassion for the victims of the flood and raw curiosity.

"You don't go on trips such as these and ignore the human tragedy, but as an earth scientist you are there to gather vital clues about the nature of the tsunami," Goff said. "The human tragedy exists all around you-it never leaves, but you just immerse yourself in your work and filter other information as well as you can."

And what Goff and the others wanted to learn was, "how high the waves were, how far inland they traveled and details like whether there was reason for worry before the waves came; that is, was the water going out before the waves hit?"

A visit to the Safari Lodge in the Yala Game Preserve Jan. 11 struck Fernando particularly hard.

"I had taken my family to the lodge in July," he said. "It was a beautiful hotel where people go and enjoy the beach and wildlife sanctuary, seeing elephants, deer, wild boar . . . just a magnificent place."

Fernando and the other scientists were stunned when they found that the entire hotel complex was "smashed; turned to rubbish and rubble," he said.

While Goff too mourned the 175 hotel staff and guests who died, he and fellow sediment geologist Bob Morton saw fresh and fascinating evidence of how far inland a tsunami could carry soil. They found sediment more than half a mile inland. And they learned that the water had receded before the wave hit. The scientists published their findings in several journals, including the June issue of Science, and August issue of EOS, the journal of the American Geophysical Union. "One of the more important things we learned was that removal of natural barriers can have a major effect on inundation," Fernando said. "Sand dunes had been removed from in front of the Yala Safari Lodge because they blocked the view; they also could have blocked much of the force of the tsunami."

The scientists also found that coral-reef mining off the Sri Lankan coast had removed the sort of barrier that could mitigate the force of a wave.

Goff said that among the most important lessons was, "if we are to create tsunami-resilient communities the population must be made familiar with the hazard. Education is vital."

Professor Liu has spent years constructing a computer model that will predict tsunami behavior based upon the relative force and location of an undersea earthquake, and data gathered in Sri Lanka was invaluable, he said.

"The (U.S.) government is committed to set up a warning system for the Pacific Ocean. The type of model we have been developing is useful in any place, and could be used to predict tsunami activity off the U.S. coast."

As for Sri Lanka, government officials say a program of educating the public about tsunami dangers has begun. Rebuilding, however, has had a mixed success.

Fernando returned to Sri Lanka on three subsequent trips, and says that the coastal rail line that seemed irretrievably demolished has largely been repaired. Some public buildings are being rebuilt, but thousands of people still have no homes and live in refugee camps. The rebuilding of the destroyed towns and villages has been difficult.

"In the weeks following the tsunami, as we and others showed the government how far the water had traveled inland, orders were given that no building could be done closer than 500 meters to the shore," he said. "And critical infrastructure, hospitals, schools, had to be even further inland.

"That was not popular, and there was local pressure and political controversy." In the months that followed, the line was moved back to 100 meters and now is as close as 50 meters, he said. "It has to do with the way the government structure works; it is different than we understand here."

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Yield in model coconut gardens improve

Daily Mirror: 28/12/2005" by By Kelum Bandara

The total coconut yield at 11 model gardens in the country had increased from 4,234,226 in 2002 to 5,105,613 in 2003, according to the Annual Report of the Coconut Cultivation Board presented in Parliament last week.

The largest coconut yield of 842,449 had been reported from the Daisy Valley model garden in 2003, and it was against the yield of 734,499 reported the previous year. There had been a yield of 832,811reported from the Nagansola model garden, a drastic increase from the yield of 453,297 reported in 2002.

However, there had been a decline in the yield harvested from 160,348 in 2002 to 106,000 in 2003 at Korai model garden.

The report says the Board found it difficult recover the maintenance const from the income generated from the estates in Korai and Passikuda in the North-East, because proper management could not be carried out.

Among these coconut estates, the largest number of 14511 coconut-bearing palms are found in the Mahayaya estate, and the harvested yield in 2003 had been 806,558.

A number of 14138 such palms had been recorded in the Daisy Valley estate where the largest yield of 842,449 was reported in the same year.

The lowest number of 3077 coconut-bearing palms had been reported in Passikuda.
According to the report, the sheep-rearing project implemented by the Board has been confined to Udugama division in Girtland estate, as the area available for grazing sheep is limited.

According to the report, 16621.5 litres of milk had been produced by cattle reared at the Mahayaya estate.

The report also says poultry farming including layers and broilers are carried out only at Mahayaya. The total egg production was 707,060 in 2003. Besides, 5783 broiler meat production had also been reported.

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Tsunami woes continue

Lanka Academic: 26/12/2005" by TIM JOHNSON, Associated Press, Sun 25th Dec 11.35GMT.
The world opened its heart a year ago to the victims of a calamitous tsunami, and its generosity can be seen everywhere in places like coastal Sri Lanka.
A drive along the south coast of Sri Lanka underscores how widespread the assistance has been. Signboards announce projects from Norway, Austria, Kuwait, Ireland, Switzerland, Taiwan, Italy and the United States, to name only a smattering. New fishing boats, trucks, temporary shelters and bicycles carry stickers and decals identifying the charitable groups that made the donations.

The aid is helping Sri Lanka and other battered nations move beyond the Indian Ocean tsunami, even if the hearts of many victims are slow to heal. According to the United Nations Development Program, the disaster left 231,452 people dead or missing in 12 countries.

Fisherman M.T. Nilamudeen eats his lunch by a new fiberglass boat that an Irish aid group gave him to replace his destroyed vessel.

"The new boat is better than the old boat," he said. "They gave me a motor, nets, everything." He's received a small new house, too, loaded with free furniture.

Yet the tsunami also took what no amount of generosity can ever replace. "I'm always thinking of my wife and children," he said. The tsunami killed them all.

A year later, heartache coincides with new social problems in Sri Lanka. Huge amounts of aid brought relief, but some regions were overcompensated, sparking resentment. Other areas, gripped by ethnic conflict, still await aid. And even though relief arrived, bureaucratic delays still plague reconstruction, and some funds remain corked up.

Dealing with losses
The psychological effects of the disaster are also becoming more evident. More women than men died, leaving widowers suffering from depression and struggling to raise children. Along Sri Lanka's south coast, aid has been so abundant that some victims have grown used to handouts, postponing a return to normalcy.

"We created kind of a begging culture, that everything is free," said Dr. Palitha Abeykoon, a consultant to the World Health Organization. "As a Sri Lankan, I feel badly that we may be creating a dependency syndrome."

The tsunami killed 35,322 people in Sri Lanka, according to the UNDP, fewer than the estimated 169,000 dead and missing in Sumatra, the Indonesian island near where the earthquake-driven tsunami originated. Another half-million Sri Lankans lost their homes, and 90 percent of the adults affected lost their livelihoods, making Sri Lanka the second-hardest-hit country after Indonesia.

It was particularly cruel to the nation's 152,000 fishermen. The disaster wiped out 75 percent of the fishing fleet and killed at least 5,000 fishermen.

"There was heavy competition among (foreign relief groups) to help these fishing communities," said Leslie Joseph, a fisheries consultant with the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization, a Rome-based group. "They wanted to give a boat to every fisherman."

If too little aid creates obvious problems, too much of it can cause difficulties, too.

Boatyards backed up with orders, sending work to new fly-by-night boatyards. Some fishermen complained that the new vessels weren't seaworthy.

Downside of abundance
More boats were replaced than were destroyed. Former crewmembers on other boats got their own vessels. Relief groups turned over so many new boats that the FAO now warns of the potential to overfish the continental shelf around Sri Lanka.

It all came about because of the world's big-hearted response. The dramatic tsunami, falling a day after Christmas, led to huge fund drives by relief and charitable organizations. Governments, aid agencies, private donors and others pledged more than $13 billion to the affected region.

Along Sri Lanka's eastern and southern shores, the tsunami caused some $2.15 billion in damage, and funds pledged for relief and rebuilding reached $2.95 billion, according to the U.N. Office of the Special Envoy for Tsunami Recovery. Of that, $853 million came from private groups.

"Ships came. Planeloads came. All of it was very good, but it left in its wake a lot of confusion," said Abeykoon, the health consultant.

Even so, much went well. The government avoided any serious outbreaks of disease. Tent camps went up within weeks, followed by the creation of 54,102 wood-plank transitional houses with tin roofs. The houses are meant to be habitable for up to two years.

Only about one-third of the committed relief money in Sri Lanka has been spent, the rest bottled up to ensure that it's well-spent. Jealousies have erupted over unequal distribution. As relief segued into development, experts noticed other problems of inequality.

A government edict to safeguard coastal dwellers has slowed rebuilding and sparked rumors of a land grab for the rich. Officials declared a buffer zone 330 to 660 feet from the high water line, banning reconstruction of destroyed homes there. It ordered donor-built new communities to be erected inland.

Hambantota, the home of President Mahindra Rajapakse, who was elected in mid-November, has been particularly blessed. The town, on Sri Lanka's southeastern coast, has signed agreements with aid groups to build 5,000 homes but could only identify 1,600 families who needed them.

In contrast, along the eastern coast, "they are still to see one house being built," said Anushika Amarasinghe, program coordinator for Transparency International, an international group that advocates transparency and monitors for corruption.

At Hambantota's 2,005-acre New Town, hundreds of simple homes are going up amid scrub vegetation, few inhabited. Many are basic. Some are nicer.

"I'm not happy with this house," said W. Umbewickrema, a salt vendor who moved in recently. "Before the tsunami, I had a great house."

More spacious homes are going up nearby, with gardens and larger lots, erected by a Taiwan-based Buddhist charity, the Tzu Chi Compassion Relief Foundation.

"We want to give the best," said Danny Lee, a coordinator for the foundation. "We are different. We want quality."

Some experts preach patience, saying expectations for new housing were too high.

"Everybody should be aware that it takes time to rebuild," said Alessandro Pio, the Asian Development Bank's point man in Sri Lanka, noting that the prices of bricks, gravel, sand and labor have risen dramatically.

Tuwan Nizar, a 32-year-old fish vendor, offered his assessment of how Sri Lanka is doing a year after the tsunami.

"We are happy, but not 100 percent happy," he said.

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Tuesday, January 03, 2006

A Year On…

LBO: 26/12/2005" by Shafraz Farook

The hidden hand of the December 2004 devastation was touted as the mighty force that could finally settle a 20 year feud simmering between the government and the rebel LTTE in the north and east of the tropical island nation.

Both sides, having lost over 60,000 lives in the two decades of civil unrest, almost dropped their difference when the waves swept away over 35,000 lives in a matter of minutes and showed signs of working together to rebuild the nation under a joint effort.
A year on todate however, the tension between the government and the LTTE is at a three year high, with over 20 people killed over the weekend alone, including a Tamil Parliamentarian being shot and killed at Christmas mass.

A joint mechanism to share aid and push reconstruction got sucked into the annuls of the judicial system.

The new President, the then Prime Minister who presented the defunked Post Tsunami Operational Management Structure (P-TOMS) to Parliament, is calling for a new deal to share aid, designed with the insights of his Marxist allies.

A resolution to the conflict meanwhile seems nowhere near – a feeling shared by the countless tsunami survivors in the region who are still waiting for state assistance to rebuild their lives and settle their conflict with daily life and the daunting memories of December 26, 2004.

The government’s official estimate for attaining a satisfactory level of rebuilding and resettling the over one million people who were displaced is three years and some US$ 2.2 billion – not factoring in the possibility of war or further escalation in violence.

So Far..

A lot has been done in the year that has been, real progress has been made the government and aid agencies say. Over US$ 3.2 billion has also been pledged – enough to push through the rebuilding effort satisfactorily.

The tsunami might not have washed away the differences between the North and the South, but it certainly did was away a good part of its debt repayment for the year and some more in the coming years.

A lot more however still remains to be done.

For instance, a national disaster warning system is still far from in place. A number of private efforts, including one by Lirne Asia and the Sarvodaya Foundation have been put in place to warn against disasters, but a national version is still in the making.

Then there is the housing issue. Where does that stand? The glossy official reports say the transitional housing is over 90 percent in place. The permanent housing - a fraction already up and the rest of the 98,525 that were destroyed on the way.

Far from it, some coastal residents in a recent interview said. Those who could afford it have rebuild their lives where it ones was, before December 26, 2004. The government however still touts the line that some 100,000 homes have to be rebuilt.

Experts from a number of nongovernmental agencies have cautioned that higher than expected inflation and the higher cost of building material today could be far more than that estimated by the aid agencies.

But then if people are rebuilding on their own, wouldn’t that leave at least some money enough to cover the extra costs?

What Else?

Then there is the psychological issues and the side effects of cluster living. Drinking, rape, forced marriages and the inhibiting dependency mentality have all been so far reported.

The fisheries industry meanwhile is still reeling in from the December devastation. Got boats and not nets or vice versa. Or have both and no motor.

According to numbers published by the Fisheries Ministry, we also have a great leap in the number of boats in existence form the numbers reported before the tsunami.

What is more surprising is that at least a good 1000 fishermen could have lost their lives to the killer waves, but there are more people now claiming boats.

A myriad of other issues that still need resolving and will eventually sort if self out – hopefully. Let us also hope for peace, without which there will be no rebuilding.

Take a moment to remember all those who lost their lives in the December 26, 2004 tsunami – here in Sri Lanka and in other countries in the Indian Ocean region and also spare a moment for those who survived but still suffer in the hand of slow working bureaucracy.

Even the official death toll is stuck in the bureaucracy - with each government agency quoting its own numbers. All that is certain is hope.

Shafraz Farook: shafrazf@vanguardlanka.com

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A family rebuilds after tsunami heartbreak

USA Today: 25/12/2005" By Tim Sullivan, Associated Press Writer

PERALIYA, Sri Lanka — There is no happy ending to this story. How could there be with a son dead and a home destroyed? Yet a year after the tsunami tore into this village and through this family, there are signs of lives slowly rebuilding. The dead son's mother still wakes up crying, but less frequently. One daughter is enrolled in nursing school, another teaches sewing to homeless women. The father has emerged from a long silence. And the family's new house is under construction.

Always, though, there is the shadow of what has happened.

"Sometimes, if we're smiling about something and we smile a little too much, I stop — because my son is dead," said Sriyawathi Malani Gunathilaka, who lost her 19-year-old son, Pradeep.

"I know now that the pain will never go away," she said, sitting beside the tiny grocery shop she has set up in front of the one-room temporary wooden shelter, built by an aid agency, where she and her husband live.

"We're still suffering," said Sujeewa, the youngest daughter, who is clearly both relieved and distressed by her first time living away from home, attending a nursing school three hours' drive away. Her younger brother had been the center of the family, the late-in-life only son revered by his parents and sisters. "I miss my parents," she said. "I call them every day, but it's not enough."

The agony is still felt wherever the waves of Dec. 26 struck along the shores of this West Virginia-sized island. In Peraliya, a village of fishermen and small traders, and in adjoining Telwatta, 450 people died. It also was here that a train was swept off its tracks, killing about 800 passengers and becoming a symbol of Sri Lanka's 31,000 tsunami dead.

One of Peraliya's dead was Sriyawathi's son.

In front of her shelter, three men were cutting tree branches on a recent afternoon to be used as scaffolding for the family's permanent house. While many of their neighbors have already settled into new homes built by aid groups, Sriyawathi has moved slowly. At 55, she knows that the chance of another tsunami in her lifetime is tiny, but she still wants the house built higher, and with reinforced concrete columns, just in case.

The choice has meant slower construction, higher costs and dramatically less help from aid agencies, many of which insist on building houses to their own specifications.

While the family plans on moving ahead slowly, taking years if they have to as they get grants of cash from various government and private programs, the meticulous project has stirred false gossip that they must have a wealthy benefactor, and access to unlimited funds.

Jealousy is now a significant part of life in Peraliya, fueled by fights for aid among the survivors. While much of the help is tightly regulated, this part of the Sri Lankan coast, long a magnet for European tourists, also saw many well-intentioned people simply stopping their cars or trucks to hand out everything from cash to sewing machines.

Seeing all this, Sriyawathi, a proud woman who never liked asking for help and had few close friends even before the tsunami, has simply closed herself off from many neighbors.

"I'm not even part of this village anymore. We keep to ourselves," she said. "I lost the biggest thing that I had, so I don't have many expectations."

While Sriyawathi remains in pain, she has slowly emerged from what appears to have been a serious bout of depression, when her nighttime wailing worried the neighbors and terrified her children.

Her husband, Punyasiri, a quiet man who descended into silence after his son's death, has begun to tell stories of travels through Sri Lanka's interior in his younger days. Their elder daughter Kumudu has a job with a small aid agency, teaching handicraft-making to unemployed women at a camp for displaced tsunami victims.

Increasingly, the emotional trauma has given way to daily difficulties. While Pradeep was only 19, he did much to care for his parents — particularly by ferrying them around on his scooter — and they had been counting on his financial support when they got old.

"Now we physically feel his absence every day," she said.

For a time, Sujeewa stepped into her brother's former role. When her mother's depression was at its peak, she moved back into the shack from the nearby home of her married older sister, where she had moved after the tsunami.

But word came a couple months back that she had been accepted into a three-year nurse training program at a government hospital outside Colombo, the capital. Going away would be difficult, but everyone knew the opportunity could not be wasted.

Today Sujeewa shares a tiny room with two other nursing students, spending her days at the nearby hospital.

It has been a tough transition; until the tsunami she had only spent one night away from her parents' house, and she has already had one run-in with a roommate. But she's clearly happy.

Even when talking about Pradeep she smiles. He knew how much she wanted to be a nurse, and both encouraged her hopes and tried to steel her in case she was rejected.

She comes close to tears only once, when she mentions that he died before finding out she had been accepted.

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Salt in the wounds: A year later, what has become of tsunami survivors?

Oakland Tribune: 26/12/2005" By Jonathan Jones, STAFF WRITER

KALMUNAI, SRI LANKA - A year after the tsunami, there are no monuments or memorials to honor the dead, only sticks in the ground near palm trees and coconuts to mark the mass graves.
Along the road next to a magnificent sandy coastline, a few market stalls are selling fresh papayas and mangoes. Men are sitting outside of tea shops and smoking cigarettes. Children are playing cricket on a dusty field. And fishermen are bartering with wholesale dealers about prices for their daily catch.

But the mounds of rubble, piles of garbage, gutted homes and concrete foundations are a stark reminder of the damage caused when the world's fifth-largest earthquake in a century unleashed a series of tidal waves here.

This eastern fishing village, one of several near the town of Kalmunai, was among the thousands of beach communities devastated by the Dec. 26, 2004, tsunami, which left more than 216,000 people dead or missing.

Of the 35,000 Sri Lankan voices silenced that day, half were in Kalmunai and its surrounding villages. The dead included grandparents at home unable to overcome the pull of the waves, mothers sitting down for tea, and more than 40 children at a nursery school of a local mosque.

One year later, tens of thou-sands of families here still live onsmall plots of land in crudely built shacks and huts, or with relatives, where feelings of disappointment and exasperation run high. But in a country where 500,000 Sri Lankan families lost their homes, the complaints of villagers here barely raise an eyebrow.

So when Meerasaibu Aribay, a 64-year-old petroleum shop owner representing 416 families in Kalmunai, learned that a local government official would be coming to their village to discuss housing, he begged a foreign journalist to report on it.

"We've heard rumors that they're building in other parts of the country," said Aribay as he sat surrounded by piles of debris and garbage yet to be cleared. "The main problem is housing. We are still asking the government for help. We want to rebuild this village far better than it was before. We want to develop its economy and meet the basic needs, electricity and education for our children. The government should be doing better than they're doing."

Up and down Sri Lanka's coast, nongovernmental aid organizations including the Red Cross, Oxfam and World Vision, supported by ordinary citizens in the Bay Area and across the globe, put thousands back to work, drilled new sewage lines, prevented outbreaks of disease and helped almost 90 percent of the children affected by the tsunami return to school.

But for all the money pledged for reconstruction in Sri Lanka — $400 million at last count — the actual rebuilding of housing has been slow to occur.

In Kalmunai and its surrounding villages, more than 12,481 homes were destroyed. But so far, only 26 homes have been handed over to displaced families. And more than half of the homes proposed for construction — nearly 7,000 — have yet to secure funding, according to district summaries from the government.

Most survivors live in "transitional shelters" made of wood and tin with little ventilation, where they share toilets and rely on handouts of rice, sugar and lentils to survive.

One year later, the lack of progress in eastern Sri Lanka reveals the complications of disaster relief in a region where the northern-dominated ethnic Tamil rebels, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, and the southern-dominated Sinhala government have been fighting each other in a civil war since the 1980s.

The road to Kalmunai from the district capital, Ampara, where most of the aid agencies are based, closes after dark and sometimes during the day if violence breaks out.

In addition, many aid agencies, including the American Red Cross, that landed in Sri Lanka after the tsunami positioned their efforts in the south to avoid aiding the rebel Tamil Tigers, who are on the U.S. State Department's list of terrorist organizations.

"There has been a lot of racial tensions (in the east) for a long time, so operating in those (areas) has not only been difficult for us, but also for aid agencies," said Ramesh Selliah, director of housing, urban development and the environment for the Sri Lanka Task Force for Rebuilding the Nation. "It's a tricky situation there."

According to villagers and government officials, delays in construction also were exacerbated by the government's decision to restrict villagers from rebuilding near the sea to create a "buffer zone" against another tsunami.

But in Kalmunai, many of the displaced survivors are fishermen. They say they need to live near the ocean to do their job.

"We can't live anywhere else and do our business," said Ajmal Mohideen Mohamed, a 38-year-old bearded wholesale fisherman. "We are fishermen. This is all we know."

The difference between those who have permanent homes and those who do not can be found in people such as Ajmal.

He, his wife and three of his sons survived the tsunami, but he spent several of the following days driving around in a truck looking for his 11-year-old daughter, Jiya, his parents and 20 other relatives.

When he finally found his daughter's body several days later, he recalled, "I thought it was pointless to go on living."

Instead, after a local businessman offered to loan him money, he decided to reopen his fish distribution business and "stop thinking about the past."

Today, Ajmal has a new permanent home, a new stereo, a motorcycle and a job. He said he is doing better than many of his neighbors, who have lived in transitional housing and still do not have jobs. He said they seemed distraught and removed from any effort to rebuild their community.


"I have lost my relatives and my possessions," he said. "Even though I have my fish business, the memories of my lost family members haunt me. But if I try to think about what I lost, it makes me feel depressed. I try to concentrate on the business."

The ethnic Tamil and Muslim villagers of Kalmunai say the lack of progress in rebuilding and the lack of information from the government have left them bitter and frustrated.

Many villagers, mostly Muslim men, have marched by the thousands in protest. But the protests appear to have resulted in little more than the closing of the roads into town.

Now, they seem at the edge of despair.

"Before the tsunami, I wasn't dependent on anybody," said 45-year-old Abu Baker Adbul Haleem as he mended someone else's fishing nets and smoked cheap tobacco rolled in a temburni leaf. "Now, I'm dependent on someone for everything, and the government isn't supporting us."

Abu, a lanky man wearing a sarong and an undershirt, said they had received some help from the government soon after the tsunami but have heard virtually nothing since. In the wake of the tsunami, aid workers quickly found shelter for hundreds of thousands of people, housing displaced families in schools, tents and basic huts before building new transitional housing.

For the displaced villagers, the new transitional shelters, which sometimes had electricity, seemed like an upgrade from tents and temporary shelters. But now many of these tiny shelters, sometimes divided into two rooms by a blue tarp, flood whenever it rains, and people are getting restless.

In Tirrukovil, a Tamil village south of Kalmunai and a frequent site of rebel activity, security checkpoints and barbed-wire fencing surround the clusters of primitive transitional shelters as a handful of military officers stand on guard, apparently without orders to be involved in the rebuilding process.

Twenty-five families call this small plot of land home. While a few women make rope out of coconut husks, most of the people living here have nothing to do but draw lines in the sand. Some have radios, bicycles or an occasional sewing machine, but most have little more than a sheet and a plastic tub.

"We've been here for six months, and we still have no water facilities," said Kandasamy Maheswari, a 45-year-old woman who used to own a grocery shop along the coast. "We're just idle. We have no jobs. We do nothing but sit here all day in the camps."

Helping Hambantota

But the southern coast tells a very different story. In the districts of Hambantota, Matara and Galle, funding has been secured to build 12,705 new homes. That's 4,136 more homes than the total 8,569 homes destroyed by the tsunami, according to government data.

Down a dirt road two to three miles outside of the town of Hambantota, hundreds of two-bedroom, one-story brick houses with a veranda and gardens have been built for tsunami survivors.

In Hambantota, the home district of Sri Lanka's new president, Mahinda Rajapakse,
4,591 new homes are being built although only 1,057 homes were destroyed, according to government data.

There are plans to build a school, a mosque and a church to help strengthen the sense of community. But right now, the new housing project is disconnected from stores, schools and places of worship in town.

Some of the new residents, such as 55-year-old Seiadu Mohamed Marook, said the new housing has been a big help for his wife and two children. Before the tsunami, he shared a small house with two other families. Now, each family has its own home. But for others, such as Chandrika Preethi, the location of her home may be different, but the sadness is the same.

The 44-year old widow had lived with her mother and two children, and rented out the extra rooms in their former home before it was destroyed in the tsunami.

For 10 months, she lived in a tent before moving into a new house, which she has decorated with pictures of her late husband, mother and two daughters. She says she has no one.

"I am alone," she says as tears stream down her face. "There is no one to take care of me."

Like others, she sells an assortment of biscuits, peanuts and detergent from her home to neighbors. But she said she is unable to earn enough money to make a trip into town, and most days she stays at home alone, consumed with grief.

"This is too much," she said. "I'm fed up with life."

In the run-up to the Nov. 17 election, opposition leaders routinely criticized Rajapakse, then prime minister, for attracting donors to help Hambantota after the tsunami while neglecting other areas.

Police launched an investigation into allegations of misappropriation of tsunami funds to his constituents in Hambantota, before the Supreme Court eventually halted their inquiry.

Ramesh Selliah, the director of housing, urban development and the environment for TAFREN, Sri Lanka's reconstruction task force, defended the disproportionate number of new houses under construction in Hambantota. Selliah contends that in the wake of the tsunami, multiple aid agencies began working independently on new housing there.

Selliah added that the government also has disbursed the first installment of cash grants to 4,848 villagers in Kalmunai and its surrounding villages through the homeowner-driven program to encourage resettlement.

Horrific year

The government says most of those displaced by the tsunami will be moved to permanent housing in 2006. But the lack of information provided to people in Kalmunai had left many with little hope they would be moving anywhere anytime soon.

Just inland, Abdul Sakam's transitional housing looks like any other from the outside. But inside, jars of lollipops, lottery tickets, orange soda and fabric softener are for sale.

A former fisherman, he converted his transitional housing into a convenience store two months after the tsunami using the money he received for the loss of his wife and four children.

As he stood next to his 11-year-old daughter, the 42-year-old widower said he'll never return to the sea. The housing may be transitional, but the changes in his life are all too permanent.

If the government allowed people to rebuild on their land, Ajmal said, villagers could recover from the tsunami. But people here are very upset by what they see as government's indifference to their plight, he said.

"The government says be patient, and said in the newspapers and on TV that they'd begin to build houses within three months," Ajmal said. "But it's been 12 months since the tsunami, and they have not done anything. We're not sure what's happening."

Ajmal believes that once villagers rebuild their homes, Kalmunai and the surrounding villages can be restored to their former selves within four years. The United Nations says 10 years is a more realistic time frame to expect communities in Sri Lanka to recover completely from the tsunami.

But no matter how long it takes, the first anniversary does not mark much of anything for most of the survivors, except the passing of one horrific year.

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Monday, January 02, 2006

Guidelines for post disaster housing in coastal Sri Lanka

Daily News: 02/01/2006"

UNDER the guidance of Ministry of Housing and Construction, the National Housing Development Authority (NHDA) supported by the German Technical Co-operation (GTZ) through a Tsunami Housing Support Project (THSP) implemented on behalf of the German Federal Ministry of Economic Corporation and Development has published Guidelines for Post Disaster Housing in Coastal Sri Lanka, states a National Housing Development Authority press release.

The primary objective of this guideline is to cater to the needs of all categories of actors involved in the post-tsunami re-housing endeavors within the coastal belt. At the same time, the need to address other, more frequent natural disasters such as cyclones and floods is also recognized.

As an initial step, the disaster-resistance issues that primarily affect the coastal belt of Sri Lanka, has been given high priority in this document.

The Guidelines are intended to cover the technical requirements relating to several natural disasters that might affect the coastal belt, such as tidal wave, earth tremors, floods and high winds.

The Guideline contains two sections: Section 1 deals with Sri Lankan building regulations applicable to the coastal belt. These are culled from the relevant guidelines issued by the Urban Development Authority (UDA), local authorities and the Coast Conservation Department (CCD).

Section 2 deals with "best practices" in the areas of participatory development approach, settlement planning, neighbourhood and housing layout for energy efficiency and thermal comfort, sustainable design, appropriate use of materials, disaster-resistant housing and best practices in the provision of infrastructure services.

While the former presents a quick guide to the current statutory provisions with respect to housing in the coastal belt, the latter is a distillation of the collective wisdom of key stakeholders in the area of housing provision.

This is culled from stakeholders as diverse as academia, professional organizations, non-governmental actors, grassroot activists and users. It is hoped that the second section would grow over time, leading to a more rounded codification of best practices in the area of post-disaster housing reconstruction.

The Guideline was ceremonially launched on December 21st at Bandaranaike Memorial International Conference Hall, Colombo 07 under the patronage of Minister of Housing and Construction, Mrs. Ferial Ashraff. The NHDA has published the entire Guideline in their website http://www.nhda.lk/.

Guideline from NHDA for Housing Development in Tsunami Affected Costal Belt of Sri Lanka

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Long march to rebuild their once shattered lives

Sunday Times: 25/12/2005" By Anthony David and Chris Kamalendran

Udaththanai, Amban and Vallipuram in the northern tip of the country were among three of the coastal villages badly affected by the December 26 tsunami, with the residents trying hard to recover and return to their normal lives.

As most of those living along the coastal belt the villagers saw their fishing boats being washed away, their houses destroyed by the sea and loved ones dragged into a watery grave.

Twelve months after the disaster they continue to live in tents put up by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees with no immediate hopes of permanent houses being constructed in the foreseeable future.

“We are not sure when permanent houses would be put up for us. There is no one in a position to give us any definite date”, Paneer Chelvan (38) said.
But, Chelvan’s concerns are not confined to these villagers in the north. These concerns are common to villagers living in the 52 Divisional Secretariat areas that were affected by the tsunami.

The reconstruction work on some 100,000 houses that were destroyed has been, for a range of reasons, lagging behind the target date set for completion.

Confusion and contradictions on the buffer zone which initially was a bar for reconstruction of damaged houses and subsequently revised this week, the non-availability of suitable land and the failure to properly monitor the progress on the reconstruction of houses by non-governmental organisations were some of the reasons for the lack of progress.

The reconstruction process in the north and east has been relatively slower compared to the south. But even in areas in the south including Galle there have been instances where the authorities have not been able to put up some form of temporary shelter and as a result the families live in tents which are vulnerable to the heavy showers and strong winds as experienced in the past few weeks.

In Colombo a range of statistics are being made available about the reconstruction programme, but in reality one year after the devastation the progress appears to be slow, according to some Government Agents.
In Jaffna according to the District Secretary’s office 5,479 houses were damaged – 4,299 fully and 1,180 partially, but so far only 159 have been fully constructed while 459 have been partially completed and 576 have been categorized as work in progress indicating they are still at the preliminary stages including the surveying of lands.

This amounts to just 20 per cent of the total number of houses required in the district. In the Mullaitivu district which was also badly devastated by the tsunami, 5,900 houses were fully or partially damaged, of this only 500 houses have been completed so far but yet to be handed over to the beneficiaries.
The reconstruction work has been further hampered by the heavy rains experienced during the past two months.

With the construction of houses for those living within the buffer zone areas yet to get underway, the 500 houses constructed for those living outside the buffer zone cannot be handed over as the distribution of these houses is likely to cause uneasiness among the others. In Trincomalee too the reconstruction of houses has been relatively slow with issues ranging from obtaining suitable land and the lack of supervision of non-governmental organizations being some of the reasons.

The district requires about 6,206 houses and of them 116 have been completed and 141 will be ready for handing over on the first anniversary of the tsunami while work on the construction of 850 has begun.

Batticaloa which also witnessed large scale damages needs 23,000 houses. About 125 houses have been completed within the buffer zone area while 500 more have come up above foundation level and 1000 still at the foundation level.

Outside the buffer zone with financial assistance some 1,500 house have been completed. Ampara requires a total of 11,029 houses, but only 401 have been completed while 722 still are under construction.

In the southern province the situation has been better than that of the east, but comparatively less than expected. The 100-metre buffer zone in the south and 200-metre zone in the north and east turned to be a serious issue due to the scarcity of land prompting the government and the NGOs to go searching for new land.

However the government’s decision this week to relax the buffer zone in almost all parts of the country is likely to ease the current problem, but has caused some complications as some of the tsunami victims have already begun constructing their houses in areas outside the buffer zone in keeping with the earlier enforced restrictions.

The government has introduced two different programmes for the reconstruction of houses. One is known as Donor Built reconstruction programme under which all families affected were entitled to a house built by a donor while the other is under the Home Owner driven housing reconstruction programme with the provision of a cash grant.

An owner of a partly damaged house was paid Rs. 100,000 while the owner of a fully damaged house was entitled to Rs. 250,000. While 55,525 of the tsunami-affected people received the first instalment under the Home Owner driven programme only 491 have received the fourth and final instalment giving an indication as to the slow progress of the construction programme.

A report prepared by government agencies, NGOs and UN agencies on the tsunami recovery progress, to have been officially released yesterday said under the transitional shelter programme, 54,102 transitional shelters were put up by November and 1,948 are in the process of being completed.
The report said the quality of these transitional shelters was not always upto standards and upgrading was underway and a programme of care and maintenance was also being developed.

But, in some areas the transitional shelters mostly built using timber have already begun to decay, with no replacement or upgrading until permanent shelters are ready with the requirement to change or replace them before the 2005/2006 monsoon emphasized.

Social stigma, depression among widowers, increased alcohol use among teenagers are all highlighted in the voices of tsunami survivors that were captured in a series of "People's Consultations" in Sri Lanka.
The 800 focus-group discussions that were carried out in 1,100 villages in the 13 affected districts in the island were conducted by the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka in collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the University of Colombo.

A news release from the UNDP states that these consultations have allowed tsunami survivors to express their concerns and aspirations, thereby empowers them to map out their futures. It not only helped officials ascertain the needs, concerns and ideas of the affected, and share these findings with relevant development actors, but also turned out to be an important way to disseminate information on critical issues and decisions to the affected communities. The dialogues highlight that more women than men perished in the disaster, leaving an unprecedented number of widowers suffering from depression and stigma. Many husbands who lost their wives on December 26 find it difficult to look after young children while also being sole breadwinners for their families.

In addition, the research reveals an increase of alcohol consumption among men and teenage boys, large numbers of absenteeism and a high number of dropouts recorded in schools in affected districts since the tsunami.
Some of the people affected by the tsunami are suffering from social stigma and many talk of being labelled as ‘tsunami-karayo’ – tsunami fellows – or beneficiaries of the ‘golden wave’. The initial findings show that some communities are now divided over many issues and relationships amongst neighbours, relatives and friends have seen drastic changes in some places. “The old harmony of the village has disappeared and in its place, envy, greed and resentment have grown,” the report says.

On the issue of housing, there is consensus among people across the board that they should be consulted and involved in the rebuilding process. The initial feedback shows that some fear that stringent adherence to the buffer zone policy will aggravate the challenge of finding land for rebuilding, particularly in those districts where land is scarce to begin with.

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