Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka: "Rapid progress made in post-tsunami rehabilitation"

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A team of high-level government officials recently conducted implementation reviews of the post-tsunami rehabilitation and reconstruction programme on a district-by-district basis. Treasury Secretary, Dr. P. B. Jayasundara, TAFREN chairman, Mano Tittawella, and other members visited Batticaloa and Jaffna and planned to extend the visits to Mullativu and Trincomalee in the near future.

This implementation review commenced in Galle in early June and was introduced by Dr. P. B. Jayasundara.

According to a official of TAFREN, "the programme is structured for the officials to interact with the divisional secretaries and the bank officials, representatives from local and international NGOs and other donor organisations, as well as the tsunami victims, themselves."

The spokesman, speaking to The Island said that, "it also involves a field review of reconstruction, offering the officials an opportunity to see the progress made as well the impediments to progress. These meetings have elicited feedback on the distribution of the Rs. 500,000 each allowance to tsunami victims, progress made in transitional and permanent housing and other issues faced by local authorities in capacity building at the grassroots level," he said.

The Jaffna Report

"In the Jaffna District, 12,700 persons have received the first two waves of the Rs. 5,000 monthly financial assistance given by the government, and bank officials and divisional secretaries had agreed to ensure the disbursement of the third wave by the beginning of this month (July). Additionally, groundwork has been laid in Jaffna to disburse assistance under the Cash Grant Scheme (CGS) for tsunami victims to rebuild their own homes. Householders are given Rs. 100,000 or Rs. 250,000 depending on the extent of the damage, for homes situated outside of the buffer Zone," the spokesman revealed.

He said that, "this scheme has been quite successful in other parts of the country with nearly 23,000 households having received their initial tranche of Rs. 50,000 as of June, 16, 2005".

It is understood that from a requirement of 3,910 transitional houses in the Jaffna District, 3043 units have been completed, while 261 are under construction. 5391 houses have been damaged in the district (4,241) completely and 1,150 partially and 24 donors have been identified to construct 4,396 units. For the remainder, home-owners have been encouraged to take up the Cash Grant Scheme to repair their damaged houses.

Strengthen capacity

Chairman, TAFREN, Mano Tittawella, had assured the Jaffna forum, that plans were underway to strengthen capacity at the district and divisional levels.

"We in Colombo will see efforts are made to ensure that your capacity is built, so that the work can be done at the divisional and district levels," Tittawella had observed.

Tittawella had further reiterated that donors were keen to support the capacity building and what was needed was for all districts to identify what their material and human capital needs were in rupee terms, so that the Treasury could make the necessary allocations.

A dire need in the Jaffna District for medical experts and doctors was an issue identified at the Forum. A remedy in the form of incentives or 'hardship allowances' was suggested by Lionel Fernando of the Human Rights Commission. Additionally, the need to ensure that rural roads were made motorable for transporting building material was also raised, as well as a need to ensure a stable supply of drinking water, given that only 50 of the 1,350 cleaned wells currently carry drinking water. A representative from one of the active NGOs in the region, ZOA Refugee Care had agreed to work with the UDA and the GAs, in increasing its assistance in water supply.

The team had inspected IDP camps and transitional shelters in Thumapalai East and Manatkadu, as well as permanent housing construction sites in Kat Kovalam. During these site visits, officials had met the additional secretaries and grama niladaris, as well as point persons from donor bodies, such as, Q-Tech and Humedia.

These implementation review visits allow TAFREN and government officials to interface not only with the implementers on the ground, but also with the tsunami victims and get their foodback on life, six months after the tsunami.

The Batticaloa report

TAFREN, in playing its role as a facilitator held its Implementation Review Meeting for the Batticaloa district, on June 22, 2005, with a view to identifying problem areas, the delays and bottlenecks and to expedite work in the district. Among the matters discussed was the disbursement of the third wave of Rs. 5,000 allowance. With the conformation of those eligible by the Divisional Secretaries, the disbursements were to commence from June 27. The Cash Grant Scheme has been well taken up in the Batticaloa District with 5098 home-owners in the District receiving the first tranche for rebuilding their own homes. In parallel, almost an equal number of houses has been assigned for rebuilding by donors and MOUs have been signed for 4591 units by 30 donors.

"Land issues being a problem area, various such issues were discussed at a meeting and it was specified that any disputes that could not be resolved by the Divisional Secretariat should be referred to the Land Task Force. It was outlined that donors would need to attend to land development and filling and that the Government would assist only in those cases where the donor found it difficult to undertake such development. It was also agreed to recruit Senior Engineers on temporary assignments to assist in complicated damage assessments with a view to expediting the housing programme," said a spokesman from Batticaloa to The Island who attended the media conference on the 'Completion of Transitional Housing', held at the auditorium of the Sri Lanka Institute of International Relations (SLIIR) last Wednesday, (6/7).

He said that, "in the Kathankudi Division, 125 families are to be relocated in the Hyrath land already identified, and the Divisional Secretary is to identify land for relocating a further 471 families. The Thiraimadu plan would be finalised by the 10th of July and it was also agreed to proceed with rebuilding the Varakai Divisional Secretairat which was also damaged by the tsunami."

"On transitional housing, the donors were requested to reserve additional capacity for increasing the number of shelters and also to survey and attend to repairs that may become necessary when the monsoon arrived.

It was also agreed to extend leases on land used for transitional housing for a further six months," the spokesman revealed.