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Tsunami: Build Back Better; Mantra Aside, an Aid Gone Wrong Story

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This study is an independent review but one that the organization, Development Promotion Group (DPG), a Chennai based NGO network, had indirectly spawned. DPG had commissioned Rajan Alexander, the author of this report, to help them formulate thier Livelihood Strategy in the Tsunami Response. During the exercise, they ended up struggling to identify the big picture for alignment of their micro-livelihood strategies. They then posed the key strategic question - What would a Built Back Better Nagapattinam look like?

The idea of undertaking this review accordingly evolved from this search. Since it fell outside the original TOR, it was decided that Rajan undertakes the review independently through his organization Development Consultancy Group (DCG), Bangalore. Rajan's independence and long experience is reflected in his impartial and incisive analysis in these pages. It may appear overall a scathing indictment of the whole relief community, which DPG is an integral part. Yet, it does give credit where it is due, perhaps to a much lesser degree than we would have liked it to be. There is no compulsion to agree fully with the contents. But to dismiss it totally would not be prudent either as it appears well researched and based on perceptions and views of implementers from the field itself.

Every disaster throws up many learnings. Unfortunately, it often stops with consultations, workshops and publications. Examples are too far and between of learning from previous disasters that had been internalized into an advantage in subsequent disaster responses. We have the opportunity to change all this, using critical reviews such as this document to incorporate mid-term correctives within the same disaster response itself.