Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka: Quality Housing for Tsunami Survivors with Minimal Environmental Cost

The quality of accommodation for tsunami survivors and environmental protection are two issues of growing concern as the pace of reconstruction accelerates across Sri Lanka.

The Sri Lankan government says more than 40,000 transitional houses have been completed island-wide, but 20 percent do not meet minimum standards.

This week, IOM completed 2000transitional homes, all of which provide at least 200 square feet of space per family, along with adequate ventilation, electricity, water and sanitation. IOM isconsidering how it can provide support to ensure that shelters of this standard are available to all the tsunami homeless.

"Our transitional accommodation is designed to last up to two years, or longer if necessary, while permanent housing is finalized for the 86,000 Sri Lankan families made homeless in the disaster," said Christopher Gascon, IOM chief of emergency operations in Sri Lanka.

In addition to quality construction, the need to protect the environment is emerging as an important factor in the massive rebuilding effort. According to the government's Task Force for Relief, the construction of some new settlements near protected areas and high demand for sand and wood for rebuilding, are placing a huge burden on the island's natural resources. Without careful management, these activities could potentially cause more irreversible damage to Sri Lanka's environment than the tsunami itself.

While IOM is purchasing some construction materials locally to help revive the local economy, it is also taking steps to minimize environmental damage. It is trucking more than US$130,000 worth of high quality Australian timber to construction sites on the battered east coast.

The timber, donated by OXFAM Australia, will be used by IOM to build a further 1300 transitional homes without placing further pressure on local forests.

"The wood is now being trucked from Colombo to the hard hit eastern regions of Ampara, Batticaloa and Trincomalee in one of the biggest single transport operations since the tsunami struck six months ago," said IOM transport and logistics officer, Dejan Micevski.

Oxfam Australia is donating a total of 100 containers of timber and more wood is expected to arrivesoon in the Sri Lankan capital, Colombo. IOM will receive 70 per cent of the timberfor its transitional shelter programme.The remaining 30 per cent will go to other aid agencies but IOM will transport the timber to all building sites as part of its ongoing support for the wider relief and reconstruction programme on the island.

For more information please contact: Gina Wilkinson, IOM Sri Lanka, tel: +94-777-597-837 Email: