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 Post subject: New tsunami reconstruction body hits a rut
 Post Posted: Sun Jan 22, 2006 10:12 pm 
New tsunami reconstruction body hits a rut

22 January 2006 15:02 hours

NGOs charged that lack of coordination by one central agency was slowing down reconstruction after the tsunami.

Although government set up TAFREN which is now called RADA to be the main body helping reconstruction it does not maintain a central database to help NGO’s and others find out who has been helped and who has not got anything yet.

As a result government and non-governmental agencies have to find out on their own.

Maurine’s house was completely flattened by the tsunami.

She got Rs. 50,000 to rebuild the house that had only the cement floor left from the original structure.

That’s a part payment of the two hundred and fifty thousand promised but she is clueless as to when the rest of the money will come.

“The government gave Rs. 50,000 about four months ago. But we don’t know about the remaining sum,” says Maurine Cooray.

In Beruwela Tsunami reconstruction is coordinated by the local government agency the Pradeshiya Sabha.

Officials in charge there did not want to be interviewed on why payments were slow.

Many have only got a part of the money for rebuilding their houses.

Many are waiting for the second installment in the Beruwela area.

Maurine’s temporary house, built on the same place where her original home used to be, was also constructed with private donations.

“For temporary house government did not give anything. We took a land with the help of the government but they provided only fifty thousand to build the house,” she says.

About 88,500 houses were damaged or destroyed by the tsunami.

Some, like Maurine, opted to rebuild their houses them selves and as a result fell in to the so called home owner driven program for housing.

Aid donors like the World Bank and Asian Development Bank that support the program give Rs. 250,000 to rebuild a fully damaged house and a Rs. 100,000 for a partly damaged one.

Maurine is supposed to get the full payment since her house was destroyed and is not in the buffer zone.

One reason for delayed payments is because it was difficult to find land to rebuild houses that were in the Tsunami buffer zone.

Since the buffer zone rule was relaxed more people whose houses were flattened by the waves were able to opt in to the home owner driven program.

“It is estimated that the donor driven program is reduced to 32,000 now while owner driven program the number of houses have increased to about 60,000 -so it is balanced,” says Gemunu Alawattegama, CEO, Tsunami Housing Reconstruction Unit.

Many, like Maurine, have only got the first fifty thousand rupee grant.

Less than 20 percent or only 10,600 houses out of 58,200 destroyed have been completed.

Aid usage on the owner driven program is even slower than the national tsunami aid utilization average of 20 percent last year.

Grant aid, which does not need to be paid back, was better used at 25 percent last year while available loan use trailed at 10 percent.

Slow reconstruction is annoying victims like Victor who is waiting for the government to give him a fully completed house under the alternative donor driven program.

“We only ask from the government to give a house where we can live. There is no point in making houses in muddy lands. There are houses being built we have also been to them. But what is the use if we cannot live in those houses. We are fishermen and we had better houses,” says Victor Silva.

Confusion over the buffer zone forced people to look for alternative land to build damaged homes.

But that’s only the tip of the iceberg.

Oxfam, an Australia based charity that’s involved in the Tsunami recovery, says constant policy change is one of the problems.

“Clear rules and regulations should be laid down with enough information. Also proper procedures should be put in place so that people will be aware of their entitlements and rules and regulations which govern them, so that they can take informed choices. If that is not done there will be more confusion,” says P. B. Gowthaman, Country Representative, OXFAM.

Task Force for Rebuilding the Nation or TAFREN the main Tsunami coordination agency don’t have an updated data base on the work completed by donors.

Reconstruction and Development Agency that succeeded TAFREN after the new president took over office says there is no need for a centrally updated data base.

Divisional Secretaries, a part of the local government, update lists of Tsunami relief distributed.

“There are a few lessons we would like to draw from this experience,” says Gowthaman.

“The attention should be drawn to the coordination mechanisms and so far decisions have been centralized. The government officials and the other agencies and bodies should be more empowered and their voice and concerns to be taken at upper levels. Thereby the Divisional Secretaries will be more informed about the ground realities,” he says.

But central coordination is failing on many fronts, for instance a detailed guide on rebuilding houses after the tsunami by the National Housing Development Authority (NHDA) has not been released to NGOs that are doing Tsunami reconstruction although the book has been printed.

Releasing this book immediately after publication could have helped improve the quality of the houses being constructed.

Problems in quality of houses are common place according to government.

“The donor programs have some land issues like site suitability and infrastructure. So those cases we will have to relocate. The rest of the donors have handed over the houses we expect the others to go ahead with program,” says Ramesh Selliah, Director Housing, Reconstruction & Development Agency.

NHDA doesn’t plan to release the book, published in November last year, till next Wednesday.

NGOs charge that, Divisional Secretaries, the coordinators at the local level and the only source for updated information since it is not available at a central location, are inept at doing this job.

“There is lack of coordination. They NGOs and private individuals and philanthropists from this country have done a lot. But I don’t think that anybody knows what is happening,” says Padma Ratnayake, Director, South Asia Partnership.

As a result NGOs sometimes donate houses and fishing boats to people who have already got these from other NGO’s.

World Vision, one of the largest donors to Tsunami reconstruction however is optimistic that RADA, the Government Tsunami reconstruction coordinating agency, can get its act together.

“An organization like RADA can facilitate the smooth progress of the work NGO’s do. They can facilitate in coordinating in bigger issues, so the NGOs can go ahead,” says Yu Sua Li, National Director, World Vision Lanka

If the reconstruction and development agency or RADA had updated information on where resources are needed the most lopsided tsunami reconstructions could have also been avoided.

“But there is an over-pledge of for houses in the South whereas in the east there is an under-pledge,” says Gowthaman.

Over half the Tsunami damage was in the North and eastern provinces but critics say NGO’s are concentrating work on the western coast where divisional secretaries are easier to access compared to ones in the North and east.

Critics argue there is no one-stop-shop with all the in formation for NGO’s and other private donors to access.

They add that one year the Tsunami housing reconstruction is layered with problems of coordination and policy uncertainty.

People like Maurine are tired of filling forms for government and others to be able to coordinate house building.

“So many people have received information. We had filled so many forms but still we did not have anything,” Maurine says.

She hopes that government gets its act together soon.

-LBR Newsdesk: LBOEmail@vanguardlk.com

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