More on the Trincomalee visit
The Transitional Shelter Phase of Tsunami Reconstruction
The transitional shelter phase of tsunami reconstruction is almost over, but not without issues. Poor site selection is hampering efforts to upgrade water and sanitation facilities that are presently underway in the transitional shelters. According to an INGO representative in Trincomalee it is feared that the transitional shelters will be flooded during the monsoon season again as a result of poor site selection. She further said that nobody has taken into account the need for a proper drainage system in the transitional shelters. Furthermore she lamented that when it comes to sanitation related facilities for the people, it is generally limited to an understanding that it only involves building toilets.
Water container vehicles are providing water to the families living in the transitional shelters, funded by various NGOs. But most of them work under a very strict financial time restriction and one wonders as to whether these NGOs will continue providing this service, say in one years time. If this is going to be the same manner in which water is going to be supplied to the permanent housing schemes one can assess the quality of thought and planning that is being given to these vital issues affecting the Tsunami hit people.
Permanent housing phase
Finding lands for permanent housing has been a problem in many of the Tsunami hit districts, where there are not enough state lands to provide to the people. Even where lands are being found there has been complaint of proper consultation with the people not being done resulting in poor site selection. The Urban Development authority (UDA) functioning from Colombo has no local knowledge of the situation in the districts and makes arbitrary decisions with regard to all these issues. The GAs in the district have a better understanding of the situation, but mostly they are voiceless in the dominating presence of the UDA backed by the Government in Colombo.
During the early days of the Post-tsunami period the government and the UDA did a lot of ‘fancy’ planning, producing colourful handbooks and power point presentations at conferences and seminars. But no proper assessment was done before these plans were formulated and one wonders where these plans are lying now. According to people involved in Tsunami reconstruction efforts there is very little planning that has gone into as to how the Government should respond to these issues.
In Trincomalee a Task Force on Tsunami Reconstruction was set up soon after the Tsunami, the same way it happened in all the tsunami affected districts. But the taskforce was shifted to Colombo soon after the first (or the first couple of meetings). The Secretary of the SLFP (Mr. Maithripla Srisena) was appointed Chairman of this task force. The task force was obviously, because of its lack of presence in the district, very slow in responding to the Post-Tsunami issues which needed immediate attention and needless to say it cut-off or made any kind of consultation that the Govt had with the people worthless. Even for the civil society groups or NGOs to get permission to work with the tsunami affected people they had to go to Colombo to get permission. Some of the local Community Based Organisations (CBOs) found this entirely impossible to comply with because of the bureaucracy that was involved in getting the permission.
One local NGO that we met in Tricomalee said that they had problems with the SL Army in transporting construction materials to LTTE controlled - Tsunami affected areas. The Army did not directly ban them from taking the materials but made it difficult for them and prolonged the process of taking it to the affected areas. The general procedure is that the GA when giving permission for these NGO’s to carry out relief work in LTTE controlled areas gives them a letter which is copied to six people including the NGO and the Brigadier of the Army in charge of that area. When this particular NGO took this letter that was copied to them to the army check point along with the construction materials they were turned back for not bringing the original copy of the letter. It took that NGO two more weeks to sort this issue and get the materials across for work to start in those LTTE controlled areas.