zone under intense pressure
With the debate over presidential polls taking centre stage and
tsunami almost off the radar, officials from regional chambers say
the government would be forced to allow tsunami victims to remain
on their former land despite the 100-200 metre buffer zone restriction.
is already happening in some areas. This was the unanimous view
of tsunami-desk officers of commerce and industry chambers of districts
like Galle, Matara, Hambantota, Kalutara, Batticaloa, Ampara, Vavuniya
(also overseeing Mullaitivu) and Jaffna who met for their annual
steering committee meeting in Colombo on Friday at the Federation
of Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FCCISL).
Galle chamber representative told The Sunday Times FT that almost
all the affected 1,000-plus business persons have gone back to their
homes and are staying put. “90 percent of the town is within
the 100 metres zone. So where do they go from there?” he asked.
He said the people however can’t get loans because their properties
in the restricted zone are not accepted as collateral.
Trincomalee chamber representative said the District Secretary had
allowed residents and businesspersons to rebuild their damaged properties
in the restricted zone in the town area.
chamber district coordinator Mohamed Hussain said the government
relaxed the buffer zone to 100 metres from 200 metres at Sainthamaruthu
village, the worst affected by the tsunami. “Circumstances
have forced the authorities to change the rules.”
tsunami-affected Sri Lanka, regional coordinators spoke of long
delays in permanent housing for reasons like lack of land for relocation,
rising cost of building materials and high labour costs. Many fishing
communities, some of whom are to be relocated five km away from
their original homes, are refusing to budge.
is a sense of hopelessness and frustration among the victims that
the government is not doing enough or hasn’t got its act together,”
one official said adding that at meetings with.
“those officials agree with our plight and also that people
can’t be moved out of their original homes but say they have
no other solution.”
The regional representatives are implementing FCCISL’s Back
to Business, donor-funded programme worth Rs 750 million aimed at
restoring the businesses of the affected business community. The
officials said great strides have been made in helping victims to
seek bank loans and facilitating other support mechanisms.
fact, the support that businesspeople are receiving including micro-level
enterprises is far superior to the service provided by the government
and NGOs to affected families. Dozens of affected businesspersons
have been helped to receive loans and grants through FCCISL tsunami-focus
de Silva, CEO of the Matara Chamber, said they were helping put
together the victims and banks in providing loans to the former.
“The main grievance of the business people is that they have
not received any support from the government – no grant only
a loan -- and that it was through efforts by the chambers and others
that they were rebuilding their lives,” he said.
De Silva said shopkeepers are in quandary as they don’t have
money to buy stocks even if they reopen their shops.
Abeywickreme, FCCISL Secretary-General who led a delegation of these
regional officers to the Indian state of Gujarat recently, said
that region had come up with a unique way of tackling the disastrous
earthquake three years ago. “The impact was worse that the
tsunami in Sri Lanka but none of the residents was asked to leave
their original homes. Instead earthquake resistant houses and buildings
visit was mainly to learn from the Gujarat rebuilding experience.
Next week, two officers of India’s Entrepreneurship Development
Institute are visiting Sri Lanka to further share that expertise
in the affected areas.