Thursday, April 06, 2006

Housing problems even with new buffer zone

The Sri Lanka government enforced the 200 metre buffer zone area rule soon after the tsunami, and discouraged tsunami victims to reconstruct or repair their damaged or destroyed houses in that area. The government has since given grants to repair and reconstruct houses, and some NGOs have constructed houses, only for those living outside this zone - leaving out the victims living within the buffer zone.

The government of Sri Lanka has now relaxed this rule and has established 65 metres as the new buffer zone area. Before, and even now, some of the tsunami-affected people within this zone are still living with their relations. Still others are living in temporary shelters constructed by NGOs on private lands and occupied by individuals only on the condition that they would vacate these properties within a period of about one year.

Although the government has reduced the buffer zone area to 65 metres, the people within 65-200 metre zone are now finding it difficult to rebuild their own houses without assistance from the government. Additionally, many INGOS are currently engaged in constructing houses for those living outside the 200 metre zone and they have little money left with to start building houses for the most severely affected tsunami victims living within the 65-200 metre this zone.

More than one year and three months has passed since the tsunami, and it is a pity no permanent houses have been constructed or provided to the victims within 65-200 metre buffer zone. Tsunami-affected individuals provided the following comments during our visits to temporary shelters:
  • We do not have houses for ourselves and permanent dwelling is a problem for us. Being in temporary shelters we cannot do anything. To do sewing, or rear birds and animals, one should have a permanent house and land. We don't have any of those here.

  • No one is looking after us now. Government paid us Rs. 5,000/- every month, and that too has now been stopped.

  • It is difficult to live without income. We need money to buy milk powder to feed our infants. We cannot be involved in any self-employment in this condition.

  • Living in temporary shelter with tin sheets roof is an agony. Very often we get sick, and so too our little children, due to the scorching heat inside temporary shelters.

  • Our school was damaged in the tsunami and is now functioning in temporary shelters far away. It is difficult for our children to walk this distance and they are not attending school now.

  • We do not know when we will get permanent houses.

  • We, at times, feel it better to have died in tsunami rather than living in this condition.