Sri Lanka has secured most of the $1.8 billion
worth of aid it reckons it needs to rebuildtowns and villages
razed along its tsunami-ravaged coastline, what it needs now is
land to build them on, Reuters reported yesterday.
The government has imposed a coastal buffer of
at least 100metres (330 feet) along its southern, eastern and
northernshores, where around 40,000 perished in Decemberís
tsunami,and land for reconstruction beyond it is proving hard to
"There are land acquisition problems," said
Suren Batagoda,head of the state Urban Development Authorityís
tsunami housingunit tasked with finding and acquiring land to
Some families are refusing to sell land the
state wouldlike to acquire, and in some cases geography is
getting in theway. The east, which was hardest hit by the
tsunami, ispeppered with vast lagoons.
"Our policy is to give land closest to the
originallocation where (those displaced) lived. But options
arelimited," Batagoda added. "In some areas...we donít have
landto build houses because of the sea and lagoons. When we
passthe lagoons, it is too far inland."
The Urban Development Authority has secured land
to buildaround half of the 60,000 permanent houses the
governmentístsunami reconstruction plan initially envisages.
But with 500,000 people displaced by Sri Lankaís
worstnatural disaster in memory, it is a race against time.
Around100,000 survivors are living in wooden shacks, tents
ortemporary shelters, with the balance living with family
Standing beside her field tent near the ruined
remains ofher seaside home near the historic southern town of
Galle,Noeline Welandaratne and thousands of tsunami survivors
likeher have nowhere else to go and are hostage to the
"My home is destroyed, finished," the
49-year-old said."They have a big plan and have to build many
houses, so we willhave to wait. We have to believe they will,
Donors say some plots the government has
identified in thesouth are so far inland that fishermen would be
cut off fromthe sea, and hoteliers are defying the buffer zone
andrebuidling next to the beach as fast as they can.
Sri Lankaís biggest donor, the International
Federation ofRed Cross and Red Crescent Societies, which has
raised $400million for Sri Lanka, has so far secured land for
9,000 of the15,000 houses it has pledged.
"The Muslim areas (in the east) are very
crowded...so itísvery difficult to find land to build houses,"
said MarcalIzard, spokesman for the International Committee of
the RedCross in Sri Lanka.
"Weíre still in the phase of finding suitable
land plots,"he added, though officials said it was important
that thegovernment and donors take time to properly plan
futuresettlements and ensure that title deeds and land ownership
In the LTTE-controlled areas in the north and
the eastof the island, the rebels and the government, who have
stillto reach a deal on sharing tsunami aid, have yet to agree
onwhere to rebuild hundreds of homes.
Some donors who asked not to be identified said
they wereset to start construction projects, but were still
waiting forthe government to give the final go-ahead.
Rather than centralising aid, the Sri Lankan
government iseffectively outsourcing the bulk of its
reconstruction projectsto relief agencies, leaving the lionís
share of the $1.5billion worth of firmly committed aid in donor