Census Department releases tsunami impact statistics:
How badly hit we are
THE biggest challenge that the Government is facing is bringing the
lifestyle of the tsunami affected people to normalcy. This requires
reconstruction of their damaged houses and providing them livelihood
assets such as boats for affected fishing communities.
Reconstruction of the damaged infrastructure facilities is another
high priority need. For planning and decision making on the rebuilding
the nation devastated by this disaster, it is essential to have reliable
and accurate information on the impact on the lives and properties
caused by the disaster.
The Department of Census and Statistics conducted a census covering
all affected districts to evaluate the damages to the lives and the
buildings in the affected areas. This census was conducted in two
All the buildings including those wiped out were listed during the
stage 1 by updating the list of buildings prepared for conducting the
Census of Population and Housing - 2001.
In addition to the listing of buildings, some information required to
compile a set of key indicators on the damages to the buildings was also
collected in this stage.
Detailed data collection was carried out during stage 2. Preliminary
reports presenting the information collected during stage 1 of the
census have been released for all the affected districts including those
in the Northern and Eastern Provinces.
This census was conducted in all affected districts namely, Puttalam,
Gampaha, Colombo, Kalutara, Galle, Matara, Hambantota, Ampara,
Batticaloa, Trincomalee, Mulativu and Jaffna districts. Enumeration was
done only in the affected census blocks of these districts, and it was
conducted in two stages.
Sri Lanka is consisting of 9 provinces, 25 districts, 325 Divisional
Secretary divisions and about 14,000 Grama Niladhari divisions. For the
purpose of Census of Population and Housing - 2001 conducted by the
department, each GN division was further subdivided into a few smaller
areas called Census Blocks.
The objective of this sub division was to ensure that the enumerator
assigned for the Census Block completes his field work on the final
count within a given short period of time (about 6 - 12 hours). For
urban areas, a census block included about 80 housing units while in
rural and estate areas a census block included about 65 housing units,
Generally, the first step in any census taking operation is to update
the list of all buildings to be enumerated and this list is used as the
sampling frame for subsequent surveys. A frame consisting of all
buildings for Sri Lanka was compiled for the Census of Population and
Housing - 2001.
This frame pertaining to the affected census blocks was updated by
the field staff. This frame was revised giving due consideration to the
new buildings that have been constructed and demolished after the year
To provide information immediately needed for planning purposes, some
key information pertaining to the buildings and the occupants was
collected during the listing stage. The information collected during the
listing stage is given below.
a. Postal address before the disaster
b. Name of the head of the household before the disaster
c. Type of building before the disaster: Housing Unit; Living
Quarter, Institute; Non - Housing Unit
d. Whether the building is still existing
e. Present condition of the building (Completely damaged; partially
damaged and cannot be used, partially damaged and can be used, not
f. Number of persons who lived in the building before the disaster g.
No. of persons currently living h. Where do the usual residents of the
unit now living (same unit, with friends/relatives; camp etc)
i. Address of the occupants if living outside the unit after the
j. Economic activity of the unit before the disaster
k. Whether the economic activities are still carried out
Detailed information on the damages to the lives and buildings caused
by the disaster was collected at the second stage of the census. Field
staff of the department enumerated the occupants of the damaged
In the case of the completely damaged buildings attempts were made as
far as possible to track where the occupants of such buildings were
currently living and to collect the information by visiting them.
Data collection instruments (questionnaires) were so designed that
some key indicators could be compiled before the commencement of
computerization of completed questionnaires with the objective of
releasing required key information soon after the data collection is
Preliminary reports presenting the findings based on the quick manual
processing of data collected at the first stage of the census have
already been released. These reports have been published in the
Department's website: www.statistics.gov.lk.
Several key indicators have been compiled at District, DS division
and GN division levels, based on the data collected during the first
stage of the census.
These indicators include number of affected GN divisions, Number of
affected Census Blocks, number of buildings (housing and other) in the
affected census blocks before the disaster, condition of building after
the disaster (completely damaged, partially damaged and cannot be used,
partially damaged and can be used). Indicators were compiled for housing
units as well as for other types of buildings.
In the affected Divisional Secretary (DS) divisions, there are 1971
GN divisions. Out of these GN divisions, 32 percent has been reported to
be affected. Total number of census blocks in the affected GN divisions
is 4,880. Of these census block, 2,611 i.e. 54 percent has been affected
by the disaster.
There had been 158,011 buildings used as housing units in the
affected census blocks of Sri Lanka before the disaster. Of these
buildings 25 percent have been completely damaged. Another 6 percent
have been partially damaged and not usable.
That is, little over 30 percent of the housing units have been either
completely wiped out or damaged to the extent that those cannot be used
any longer. Percentage of buildings damaged but usable is 24 percent.
The balance 44 percent of the buildings have not been affected.
The highest share of 49 percent, of the completely or partially
damaged housing units is reported from the Eastern Province.
The next highest share of 23 percent was reported from the Southern
Province. Western Province and Northern Provinces accounted for 15
percent and 13 percent of the completely or partially damaged housing
In the North Western Province, only Wennappuwa DS division of
Puttalam district was affected and number of housing units affected was
When compared across the districts, highest number of housing units,
damaged either completely or partially and unusable, was reported from
the Ampara district. Total number of such buildings reported for Ampara
district was 10,566.
This is followed by the Batticaloa and Galle districts and the
corresponding numbers were 9,905 and 6,169 units respectively.
(To be Continued)