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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, February 25, 2006

Eppawala Phosphate languishing without investments

Daily Mirror: 20/02/2006"

•Needs Rs. 700 m investment
•Will save Rs. 511 m per year from the fertilizer subsidy


The Eppawala phosphate mine is still languishing without inventors as the Chinese and Indian investment bids have been turned down by the government due to issues in the ownership clause.

According to Lanka Phosphate Ltd (LPL) Chairman Dr. Chandana P. Udawatte both proposals that were submitted as a result of state visits to India and China by the current President and his predecessor were turned down as they demanded a controlling stake in the joint venture.

“It is imperative that LPL has a 51% stake in the venture. None of the submitted proposals have satisfied this criteria. Therefore we have rejected them,” Dr. Udawatte said. However, fresh bids are expected to be submitted by China, India and Japan. According to Dr. Udawatte a Rs. 700 million investment is needed to set up the triple super phosphate production plant along with the sulfuric plant that is needed to dissolve rock phosphate.

The plant is estimated to save Rs. 511 million per year, from the massive fertilizer subsidy that is currently being doled out.President Rajapakse’s former visit to India resulted in a US$ 15million pledge by the Advance Group of Companies to manufacture super phosphate for the local agricultural market using rock phosphate from the Eppawala mine.

Dr. Udawatte told the DailyFT that he is also looking at the options of either borrowing the lump sum from a state bank or the Indian Credit line. However, the prerequisite for the latter option is that all equipment and machinery should be imported from India.

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Community based solid waste management programme towards self-sustainability

Urban Development Gateway: Toxics Link, an environmental NGO based in India, is implementing community based solid waste management projects in Defence Colony A - Block, a higher middle income group community and in Gautampuri, a lower income group community near Badarpur, Delhi. The objective of the projects is to create zero waste residential colonies and to promote sustainable community based zero waste management system.

Read the full report

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Friday, February 24, 2006

Environmental Performance Index 2006

Environment and Development Development Gateway: The 2006 Environmental Performance Index was released at the World Economic Forum, with New Zealand ranking on the top. According to the related Press Release, the EPI identifies targets for environmental performance and measures how close each country comes to these goals. It ranks 133 countries on 16 indicators tracked in six established policy categories: Environmental Health, Air Quality, Water Resources, Biodiversity and Habitat, Productive Natural Resources, and Sustainable Energy. As a quantitative gauge of pollution control and natural resource management results, the Index provides a powerful tool for improving policymaking and shifting environmental decision making onto firmer analytic foundations.

The Pilot 2006 Environmental Performance Index, was developed by the Center for Environmental Law & Policy at Yale University and the Center for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN) at Columbia University in collaboration with the World Economic Forum and the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission.

2006 Environmental Performance Index Website
Overall 2006 Environmental Performance Index Country Rankings
Press Release: New Zealand Tops New Environmental Scorecard at World Economic Forum in Davos
2005 Environmental Sustainability Index: Benchmarking National Environmental Stewardship

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Thursday, February 23, 2006

Capacity Development through E-learning: Potentials and Challenges

Capacity Development for MDGs Development Gateway:
If education and capacity development are critical enablers for the achievement of the MDGs, e-learning, as an important alternative medium of capacity development and a means to people's empowerment, warrants an in-depth assessment.
Online education provides the opportunity to train more people better and at lower cost, saving on the construction of classroom buildings, student housing, parking lots and other physical infrastructure, as well as on teachers' salaries. Among the great potentials of online education is accessibility at any time from anywhere in the world. In this way, human resource capacity and knowledge is widely disseminated and utilized more efficiently.

At the same time, online education presents some serious challenges especially for students in developing countries where there is an unreliable supply of electricity and poor telecommunications. In addition to the existence of infrastructure, e-learning requires that students have basic computer-literacy. Another concern raised in studies of online education is that the lack of face-to-face interaction often leads to student isolation and high dropout... more


UNESCO: ICT and Education
"Technological Minimalism and Sustainability Strategies-Lessons Learned From Teaching Online"
"Strategy for implementing a Distance Learning process in UNCTAD"
"The Riddle of Distance Education: Promise, Problems and Application for Development"
World Links

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Wednesday, February 22, 2006

For Thousands, Life Is "Unbelievably Grim"

IPS NEWS: Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Feb 1 (IPS) - A survey of more than 50,000 tsunami survivors in five Asian countries has revealed that most of them have been doubly devastated: losing their loved ones in the December 2004 natural disaster, and subsequently having their human rights abused by their own governments. The five countries -- Indonesia, Thailand, Sri Lanka, India and the Maldives -- are accused of discrimination in aid distribution, forced relocation, arbitrary arrests and sexual and gender-based violence. These governments "frequently ignored human rights principles and failed to protect survivors from discrimination, land grabbing and violence", says the five-country study by three non-governmental organisations (NGOs): ActionAid International, People's Movement for Human Rights Learning (PDHRE) and Habitat International Coalition. In many places, tsunami survivors have been driven from their land, cut off from their livelihoods and denied food, clean water and a secure home, according to the three NGOs. "Whilst much of what governments have done in exceptionally difficult circumstances has been good, this report highlights a culture of failure to deliver to some of the most needy, some of the poorest and some of the people already on the margins of society due to their gender, their race or their ethnicity," says Ramesh Singh, chief executive of ActionAid International. "The responsibility is on us all -- community groups, international NGOs and governments -- to use the money donated to make a lasting difference to the millions of families affected by the tsunami," he added. According to some of the findings of the survey released Wednesday: -- The disaster has provided an opportunity for governments to introduce new statutes and/or reinforce old ones that threaten to take away people's right to their land; -- 'Buffer zones' have been used to remove people from coastal areas under the guise of safety, thereby jeopardising the livelihoods of those who rely on the sea for a living; -- Single women, including widows, have not been recognised as a household unit and have frequently been denied compensation; -- Housing design and layout in particular have been gender-insensitive, affecting women's privacy and security and; -- Migrant labourers, landless people, dalits (or formerly untouchables of India), and ethnic minorities have all received little or no support and have also been excluded from decision-making. The tsunami, which hit a total of 12 countries in Asia and Africa, has been described as one of the world's worst natural disasters. The number of deaths has been estimated at over 250,000, with 2.5 million people either displaced or rendered homeless. More than 13 months after the disaster, the conditions endured by many tsunami survivors have been described as being "unbelievably grim". "Hundreds and thousands of tsunami survivors are still living in virtually uninhabitable shelters. They often lack access to health and other basic services," the report notes. At the same time, "thousands of children have not been able to go back to school, women do not feel secure, people's livelihoods have not been restored, and people are still distressingly uncertain about their future." According to the United Nations, the post-tsunami relief and recovery challenges were "unprecedented". The international community pledged a total of more than 13.6 billion dollars in assistance. But mere aid is insufficient to tackle such a situation, the report argues, pointing out that the role of the government is crucial. For aid to be effective, the onus is on governments to introduce legislation that helps vulnerable groups; to transfer the largest share of resources to the poorest; defend the most marginalised through social protection measures; to prevent corporate interests from trampling over people's rights to housing and livelihoods; and to enable communities to participate in decisions that affect their lives. "We believe that relief and rehabilitation is not just about giving money and resources -- it is also about respecting the dignity of victims," the study said. The recovery process should therefore be measured against international human rights standards. At the core of these standards, the report points out, "is the full and informed participation of affected communities, including women and other marginalised groups". Among the recommendations, the study calls on the U.N. system to play a larger role in monitoring human rights compliance, and urges the international community, including international financial institutions, to integrate human rights in their humanitarian donor policies. (END/2006)

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Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Tsunami response: Human rights assessment

ReliefWeb � Document Preview � Tsunami response: Human rights assessment: Source: ActionAid, Date: 01 Feb 2006

FOREWORD
The December 2004 tsunami unleashed loss and destruction of horrific magnitude in 12 countries(1) in Asia and Africa. One year after the tragedy, despite the tremendous efforts of local, national and international agencies, the rehabilitation and reconstruction process is fraught with difficulties.
Even though all the affected countries have ratified international human rights instruments, they are failing to meet these standards in posttsunami relief and rehabilitation work. Allegations of human rights violations in tsunamiaffected areas are rampant. These include discrimination in aid distribution, forced relocation, arbitrary arrests and sexual and gender-based violence. One year on, tsunami reconstruction efforts are plagued with serious delays and have not been given the priority they warrant.
While international attention is fading, post-tsunami challenges continue to have an enormous impact on the family structures and social relations of affected communities. This impact has been particularly severe on women and other vulnerable groups, including children.
Women continue to be marginalised in the rehabilitation and reconstruction process.
A lack of access to education, a lack of security of tenure for land and housing, domestic violence and other forms of gender discrimination conspire to hamper recovery. The presence of military forces in camps where tsunami survivors are living and the lack of privacy in temporary shelters have caused serious concern for women's physical safety. This is compounded by an absence of adequate health services.
Greater efforts must also be made to uphold the rights of children. Special guarantees are yet to be put in place to enable orphaned children to receive entitlements to land and compensation. Instead these assets are being absorbed into the existing family units of temporary guardians.
Under international human rights law, individual states bear the primary responsibility for protecting the rights of their populations, including the rights to food, water, health, education and adequate housing. This responsibility extends to natural disasters. As recently as September 2005, during the 60th session of the General Assembly of the United Nations, heads of state specifically expressed their commitment to "support the efforts of countries... to strengthen their capacities at all levels in order to prepare for and respond rapidly to natural disasters and mitigate their impact".(2)
Inadequate response and a lack of consideration for the human rights of victims creates a humaninduced tragedy that exacerbates the plight of those already suffering the effects of a disaster brought on by natural causes. Therefore, individual states, international agencies including the UN and its programmes, civil society and the private sector, must redouble efforts towards the realisation of human rights worldwide, including rights to disaster-preparedness and disaster-response. Indeed this is essential if we are to reduce the loss of life, human suffering and homelessness resulting from disasters in the future. It is only through national and international cooperation based on human rights standards(3) that people uprooted and at risk as a result of devastating natural disasters can be effectively protected.
This report is a significant contribution. It assesses the status of post-tsunami reconstruction and clearly highlights multiple human rights violations in Indonesia, Thailand, Sri Lanka, India and the Maldives. It makes the demand for human rights standards in resettlement and reconstruction all the more urgent.(4) Non-discriminatory access to relief and rehabilitation, mechanisms to ensure transparency and accountability, and provision for the active participation of survivors are fundamental, while all efforts must take into account the special needs and concerns of women.
The report findings represent an opportunity to put things right. We know that there has been some excellent work by governments and nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) in the wake of the tsunami -- the speed and scale of the response meant that lives were saved and many predicted outbreaks of epidemics were contained -- but it is not enough. We can see that where people have organised, they have pushed governments and NGOs to be responsive, and we should build on these efforts.
All actors involved in relief and rehabilitation work must undertake efforts to make sure that the grave mistakes made in post-disaster experiences of the past are not repeated. Failure to immediately comply with human rights standards will deepen the human-induced tragedy already afflicted on the survivors of the tsunami. The resolve shown by states and the international community in the immediate aftermath of the tsunami must not be allowed to dissipate. In the process of rebuilding the lives, livelihoods and homes of those affected, it is vital that immediate humanitarian needs be complemented with long-term rehabilitation and reconstruction programmes based on international human rights standards, which uphold survivors' rights to dignity, equality, livelihood and adequate conditions of living.
Miloon Kothari Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing United Nations Commission on Human Rights New Delhi, January 2006
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
1. This report
This report is about human rights in countries hit by the December 2004 tsunami. It focuses on the accountability of governments and their role in responding to the tsunami. It also examines how new legislation, policies and practices are undermining people's rights to food, clean water, a secure home and a life free from fear. The findings show that governments in the tsunamiaffected countries are ignoring the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and violating binding international human rights law with clear disregard for human dignity.
2. Methodology
More than 50,000 people living in 95 villages and urban areas in Indonesia, Thailand, Sri Lanka, the Maldives and India were visited in November 2005. This extensive field research is complemented by desk reviews of government plans and policies post-tsunami.
3. Findings
3.1 Land The disaster has provided an opportunity for governments to introduce new Statutes and/or reinforce old ones that threaten to take away people's right to their land. -- 'Buffer zones' have been used to remove people from coastal areas under the guise of safety. This has jeopardised the livelihoods of those who rely on the sea for a living. -- Governments have largely failed in their responsibility to provide land for permanent housing. They have stood by or been complicit as land has been grabbed and coastal communities pushed aside in favour of commercial interests. -- The granting or withholding of compensation has meant that many people have been left with no option but to relocate. Families relocated to far away places face an uncertain future and hostile environment.
3.2 Housing Structures and materials, space, the provision of water and sanitation, access to services and proximity to place of work are used to assess governments' success in meeting the human right of adequate housing. Generally, living conditions in temporary shelters and relief camps were found to be far below minimum standards set by the UN.(5) More specifically: -- Overcrowding and inadequate lighting has left women and children exposed to abuse. -- Lack of toilets and running water has contributed to bad health. -- Shoddy construction and second-grade materials mean people have suffered extremes of heat and cold. -- Many families are unable to find work or are at risk from flooding due to relocation. If mistakes are to be undone and the human right to adequate housing met, the views and preferences of vulnerable groups such as women and children must be taken into account.
3.3 Livelihoods Millions of dollars worth of aid have been poured into restoring livelihoods, but the goal of rebuilding livelihoods based on human dignity and equality is still a long way off: -- Compensation has been inadequate, uneven and ignores the needs of non-fishing communities such as farmers and labourers. -- Displaced people have been left with no means to earn a living. -- Lack of livelihood support for vulnerable groups such as women and migrant workers has exposed them to further exploitation, trafficking and bonded labour. Within the fishing community, those engaged in small-scale fishing have benefited less from livelihood support programmes. In programmes to generate local employment, the affected people complained of use of outside labour by contractors.
3.4 Women Relief and rehabilitation efforts are dominated by male interests and fail to recognise the crucial role of women in leading the recovery process: -- Single women, including widows, have not been recognised as a household unit and have frequently been denied compensation. -- Housing design and layout in particular has been gender insensitive, affecting women's privacy and security. -- Increased burdens, such as providing clean water, fall disproportionately on women. Women are being routinely excluded from decision-making. Government policies have failed to offer new opportunities for women.
3.5 Discrimination and vulnerability The tsunami has had a more severe impact on marginalised groups. Deep-rooted inequalities based on caste, class, gender, nationality and ethnicity have been magnified by discriminatory policies and practices. The following groups have received little or no support and are excluded from decision-making: -- 'Sea gypsies' and migrant labourers in Thailand. -- Agricultural workers and landless people in all countries. -- Dalits (formerly 'untouchable' castes) in India. -- Ethnic minorities and people displaced by war in eastern and northern Sri Lanka. Government policies and practices have reinforced rather than challenged social divisions. The overall situation for vulnerable groups is bleak.
4. Recommendations
In all five of the areas researched, our findings show that human rights have been undermined in the aftermath of the tsunami. A major effort is required to prevent further abuse of human rights and to correct the wrongs that characterise the first year of the tsunami response. Our general recommendations therefore include the following measures:
1.Post-tsunami recovery plans must be informed by a human rights framework.
2. Disaster-response policies must be based on a human rights approach including the human rights education and learning with all stakeholders.
3. The basic human rights to housing and land for all must be protected and fulfilled.
4. Livelihood restoration must be undertaken in a spirit of equality and non-discrimination.
5. Relief and rehabilitation must be gender-sensitive and recognise women's human rights.
6. Special protection must be given to those who face discrimination and exclusion.
7. Participation of the tsunamiaffected must be the guiding principle of post-tsunami rehabilitation.
8. Non-government organisations should set a precedence in respecting human rights standards.
9. The international community, including international financial institutions, must integrate human rights in their humanitarian donor policy.
10. The UN system must play a larger role in monitoring human rights compliance.
Notes:
(1) Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, Thailand, Maldives, Somalia and on lesser scale in six other countries of Asia and Africa
(2) See 2005 World Summit Outcome Document at http://www.un.org/summit2005/documents.html
(3) Human rights standards including the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement
(4) A compilation entitled International Human Rights Standards on Post-Disaster Resettlement and Rehabilitation prepared by Habitat International Coalition -- Housing and Land Rights Network and People's Movement for Human Rights Learning, in collaboration with the UN Special Rapporteur on adequate housing, documents some of these existing standards: www.pdhre.org/HICPDHRE. pdf
(5) General Comment 4 of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights sets out minimum core obligations of the State in the context of the right to adequate housing as: a) legal security of tenure; b) availability of services, materials, facilities and infrastructure; c) affordability; d) habitability; e) accessibility; f) location; and g) cultural adequacy. For details, visit: http://www.unhchr.ch/tbs/doc.nsf/(symbol)/CESCR+General+comment+4.En? OpenDocument
Full report (pdf* format - 592KB)

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Monday, February 20, 2006

TEC Report

Tsunami Evaluation Coalition: The Tsunami catastrophe struck the Indian Ocean region on 26 December 2004. Although the major impact was felt in India, Indonesia, the Maldives, Sri Lanka, and Thailand, several other countries were affected including Bangladesh, Myanmar, Kenya, Malaysia, Seychelles, Somalia and Tanzania. In total, reportedly 226,560 people died or are still missing. Overall, an estimated 2 million people have been directly or indirectly affected of whom 1.7 million are internally displacedi. The earthquake and subsequent waves damaged infrastructure and destroyed people's livelihoods leaving many homeless or without adequate water, sanitation, food or health care facilities.
The world - both governments and individuals - responded with overwhelming generosity, in solidarity with the rescue and relief efforts of the affected communities and local and national authorities. This spontaneous flow of funding is seen by many as the distinctive feature of this disaster and the most determinant factor influencing, for better and for worse, the coordination and sharing of assessment information among the large number of actors present in the field.
Download the full report

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Sunday, February 19, 2006

Water and Sanitation Review 2005

Water and Sanitation Review 2005 conducted and compiled under the auspices of the EC Humanitarian Regulations.

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Public support vital - SLMM

ReliefWeb � Document Preview �: Source: Government of Sri Lanka
Date: 14 Feb 2006

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) Chief Hagrup Haukland yesterday appealed to the public to contribute towards a stable environment so that the Government-LTTE talks in Geneva be held on a firm and peaceful platform.
Haukland said unless there is a stable environment on the ground it is very hard to hold high level talks of this nature especially under tensed conditions.
The SLMM will be one of the parties taking part in the Ceasefire Agreement talks, Haukland said. "We are preparing for the meeting," he said.
Asked what the SLMM's role would be at the talks, Haukland said it will make its recommendations and share its views on the Ceasefire Agreement.
"The Mission is preparing its recommendations based on its experience in Sri Lanka," he said. Haukland said their recommendations are expected to address issues related to the Ceasefire Agreement with the consent of the two parties.
"Our participation at the talks is to share our experiences as the Ceasefire Agreement monitor in Lanka with the two main parties," he said.
The talks will focus on implementing the Ceasefire Agreement with a realistic approach from both the parties, Haukland said.
Asked if the SLMM had identified any specific areas in terms of the Ceasefire Agreement which they think would be vital in implementing the ceasefire in its full force, Haukland said: "If there were such areas the two parties can discuss them at the talks and it is up to the parties to decide on these matters or to amend the existing Ceasefire Agreement."

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ACT Dateline: Sri Lanka -Jaffna peninsula a symbol of the ravages of war

ReliefWeb � Document Preview � : Source: Action by Churches Together International (ACT)
Date: 17 Feb 2006

By Callie Long, ACT International
Jaffna, Sri Lanka, February 17, 2006 - Just over a year ago, the tsunami killed some 40,000 people in Sri Lanka-a devastating blow to this island nation, and one that exposed the fragility of an uneasy and tenuous cease-fire agreement brokered four years ago.
Nowhere is the fragility more evident than in Sri Lanka's Jaffna province, where the conflict between the government and the Tamil rebels fighting for independence is ever-present in the scattered ruins of a war that has claimed the lives of at least 60,000 people over the decades.
A recent escalation in violent incidents in the north and east of the country has re-opened deeply felt psychological wounds, coming as it did in the lead-up to the setting of a date and location for the restarting of peace talks-now agreed on by the government and Liberation Tigers Tamil Eelam (LTTE) to happen on March 22 and 23 in Geneva, Switzerland.
Yet the violence continues, including more recent abductions and attacks on humanitarian aid workers in the north and east.
This prompted Christian leaders in the country to call for a stop to the spiral and culture of violence that is "spreading dangerously and indiscriminately." The call, signed onto in a media release by heads of churches of the National Council of Churches in Sri Lanka (NCCSL)-a member of the global alliance Action by Churches Together (ACT) International-and the Catholic Bishop's Conference, expressed concern that "no-one [is] even taking responsibility for wanting to stop this trend."
The heads of churches condemned "all killings, whether innocent civilians, service personnel, LTTE cadres or cadres of other groups," calling for "an end to these continuing and senseless killings in our country. The killing of any human is a judgement on us all. Whatever the rationale or ideology, any killing is an indication of our failure to live with differences and our inability to find a non-violent, inclusive and civilized way to deal with grievance and conflict."
It is within this complex political environment that the Jaffna Diocese of the Churches of South India (JDCSI) has been working, bringing immediate relief in times of crises to people mired in poverty, and continuing its work with the local communities.
Communities living on the edge
In what can be described only as an ongoing emergency for at least one impoverished community in Chillipurum, 15 years have come and gone in which they have been displaced several times. The small community of 115 families lost their original land when it was appropriated to create the high security zone that spans the northern coastal region of the country. Living in a camp for displaced people that cannot be upgraded or renovated, as it is on private land, the people have come to rely on assistance.
The Rev. Joshuva of the Moolai JDCSI congregation in Jaffna province's Valliganam district says the reason the churches, in a country where less than ten percent of the population is Christian, and of which the mainline Protestant churches are by far in the minority, can continue their work is "because our work in the long-term (and through the last two decades of civil war) has not been geared to proselytizing." He explains that the work they do within the community is about "community upliftment" and that they focus on issues of social justice.
The small community that has benefited from the churches' assistance, through JDCSI and members of ACT International, has seen some tough times. Prone to leprosy, many of the families that make up the community not only live in the shadow of poverty, considered a lower status (or caste), but have also been ostracized because of the skin and nerve affliction that has seen people cast out from society through the ages. Right now, 46 cases of leprosy are known, with only eight considered active.
Already living on the edge, the small community lost all their sea craft when the tsunami crashed into the coast of Sri Lanka. The families themselves were spared, living as they do outside of the high-security zone, where they leave their boats at the end of each day.
Then, nearly a year after the tsunami, toward the end of December, torrential rains flooded the area where they live-and again, JDCSI, working through the NCCSL and the ACT alliance, responded with emergency relief-dry rations and other food items-to see the community through the worst of the crisis.
For some, hope comes in the shape of a house
Some of the families have, however, now opted out of life in the camp, and having saved money, are, with the assistance of JDCSI and ACT, building homes and starting a new life in Katapulam, a short distance from the old camp in Chillipurum and within sight of the high-security zone where their old homes were.
For most people, buying or building a house is simply not a "political issue." However, for the small, displaced community, it is, as it means that they are giving up their dream of ever returning to their original land.
Others still cling to the hope that one day they will be able to "go home"-a view that JDCSI supports as an advocacy issue, while respecting and assisting those who now want to start a new life.
Shiranee Mills, the chair of JDCSI's Tsunami Relief Committee and a school principal in Uduvil, explains that there is no pressure on people like Mr. Thavachelvan, for instance, to relocate or build a house. Not only would it mean "giving up" on their dream of returning to their land, but simply saving money is difficult, if not impossible, when the only source of income is from erratic and unsustainable casual labor-income that at best may amount to Rp 200 (less than US$2) a day.
Of the 115 families, 18 have so far opted for new homes-several of which are under construction by the owners themselves.*
Dr. Preman Jeyaratnam, a retired anesthetist from the U.K. who was born and raised in Jaffna, says the tsunami dealt the poor communities yet another blow, as prices of property sky rocketed. Dr. Jeyaratnam says that with the sudden "demand" for land by NGOs, "a small plot of land, which would have cost Rp 1,000 before the tsunami, now sells for close to Rp 100,000." Having returned to Jaffna as a volunteer with JDCSI, as well as the Green Memorial Hospital where he originally trained in the 70s, Dr. Jeyaratnam says that having a house makes a "big difference" in the lives of people, showing how one enterprising family is using their small plot of land to raise chickens and plant rice.
The work done by the churches in Jaffna province is relatively limited-mostly "gap filling," as ACT coordinator Michelle Yonetani, who is based in Colombo, describes the assistance-but often vital, and always welcome. However, the assistance is all too often hampered by a lack of infrastructure. Communications can be difficult, as telephone lines and mobile networks are not reliable, which also means that access to the Internet is sporadic. The recent violence and attacks on government forces in the area have also meant extra security and long lines at military checkpoints. Movement around the peninsula is sometimes constrained, with most people ensuring they are back home and indoors well before nightfall. Many families have already left the peninsula and moved to the LTTE-controlled Vanni region.
And there is always the fear and reminder of a war that dragged on and claimed so many lives, as well as the year-old tragedy of the tsunami. On the issue of despair in the face of so many challenges, Rev. Joshuva adopts a pragmatic approach. "Some people blame God, while others thank God that the disaster was not bigger," he says. "Others blame Satan." For him, however, "death is natural. God simply takes us from one life to another. From a life of hardship into his own hands." He pauses, then adds, "* like the war has taken us."
*Eighteen of the Chillipurum houses are now built to the level of the roof and way ahead of the implementation timetable with a high proportion of the labor being done by the families themselves.
(ends)
Callie Long is the communications officer for Action by Churches Together (ACT) International.
For further information, please contact:ACT Communications Officer Callie Long (mobile/cell phone +41 79 358 3171) orACT Information Officer Stephen Padre (mobile/cell phone +41 79 681 1868)
ACT Web Site address: http://www.act-intl.org/
ACT is a global alliance of churches and related agencies working to save lives and support communities in emergencies worldwide. The ACT Coordinating Office is based with the World Council of Churches (WCC) and the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) in Switzerland.

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