Revival of life in Tsunami-hit Southern Province
DAILY NEWS Journalist Indeewara Thilakarathne recently toured the
Southern coastal belt to assess the progress of tsunami reconstruction.
The destroyed building that housed the Ice-Manufacturing Plant at
Kirinda Fisheries Harbour.
THE sun blazes over the vast expanse of the Southern coastline
against the Indian Ocean. The sea is now claimed and quite as if nothing
had happened but everybody knows the death and the physical destruction
brought about by the South Asian Tsunami.
Before the tsunami hit, livelihood in this part of the country was
sustained by the fishing and the flourishing tourism industry that
brings much needed foreign exchange to the country besides creating
direct employment and an equal number of indirect jobs for youth. The
tsunami waves had wiped out entire communities.
Malgampura Housing Scheme opened by the Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse
Nearly one year on, life is beginning to kick up with the gradual
arrival of tourists, still made up largely of international volunteers
who had been working for various NGOs in the rebuilding of the coastal
settlements wiped out by the tsunami.
Most of the fishermen have begun their daily routines with whatever
fishing gear they have and were donated by NGOs.
Some of the newly houses in Mirissa
Except for a few isolated makeshift tsunami relief camps and tents,
housing schemes are coming up for the tsunami displaced.
Abundant generosity on the part of the International Community and
the Sri Lankan expatriate community has helped in constructing housing
schemes and in some places entire villages to shelter thousands of
fisher folk who lost their livelihood and their loved ones among the
ferocious tsunami waves.
Hela Sarana is one of the housing projects that came up in Peraliya,
now famous for the world's worst railway catastrophe in which more than
thousands perished and washed away by the tsunami.
A scene at the Hambantota harbour
The wreckage of the compartments of the ill-fated train remains
beside the newly constructed Colombo-Matara tracks.
A host of foreign NGOs are active in the area, mainly in the
reconstruction of destroyed settlements and restoring basic sanitary
facilities such as digging up wells and constructing toilets.
The Hela Sarana housing project, which was founded by Sri Lankan
Buddhist Society of Calgary in Canada, is a unique housing scheme where
the housing unites are planned and designs to the requirements of the
- A houses warming ceremony in progress at the Malgampura scheme
Under the project, a family or an individual is provided with
Rs.225,000 worth material to design and construct a house to suit them.
So far 25 houses had already been handed over to owners and
construction of 53 houses had also been completed and only nine houses
remain to be completed. The 4th Engineering Brigade of the Sri Lankan
Army had contributed the project in terms of labour.
The Malgampura Housing Scheme with 106 housing units is a role model.
The community is located about two kilometres off the sea. The
villagers, all of them are fisherfolk, are gradually adopting to the new
environment to commence their trade.
A large number of volunteers and voluntary organisations such as
Hilfwerk from Sweden are busy at work in various sites and individuals
from different parts of the globe had constructed houses and single
housing units for the tsunami affected people perhaps due to the global
media coverage given to the catastrophe.
Along the coastal belt from Galle to Matara, settlements sprawl in
double quick time occupying the shattered landscape. With the reduction
of the buffer zone by the Government, beachfront restaurants are being
reconstructed and tourist arrivals in areas like Unawatuna and Mirissa
is returning to normal.
The fisheries sector is also taking off with multi-day boats starting
to fishing in the deep sea. Most of the fishermen who lost their boats
had complained that Grama Sevakas, the grassroots level administrative
officers, had favoured with and donated boats to persons who had never
been fishermen. Bureaucratic delays are rampant, especially in the case
of allocation of State lands.
Fisherfolk complain of the lack of fishing gear and boats and the
deepening of breakwater of fisheries harbours.
Most of the physical infrastructure of the fisheries harbours had
been destroyed by the tsunami and especially the temporary breakwaters
made of granite would not be strong enough to avert giant tide.
Fishermen are complaining that they have to store ice at their homes
and sometimes bring from outstations to keep the fish harvest freshly
unloaded from multi-day boats which normally bring ashore a large stocks
The ice-manufacturing plants at the most of the harbours had been
partially or completely damaged by the tsunami.
However it is obvious from interviews and the observations that
ninety per cent of the fisherfolk had, in fact, received tsunami relief
and some of the fishermen who worked at boats before tsunami have been
lucky enough to get boats and become boatowners.
The fishermen, who have been located in the interior, are now
gradually adopting to a different environment while resuming their