News Archive

posted 06/12/05


Indian Ocean Tsunami Reports From the Field

Value of Resettlement is its Location, Location, Location

May 9, 2005
The southern tip of Sri Lanka

By Guillermo Franco, Cristina Rumbaitis del Rio, Bijan Khazai and J. Carter Ingram

In the wake of the tsunami, one of the biggest challenges facing Sri Lanka today is providing permanent housing for the thousands of displaced families. Much of this housing will be provided in resettlement camps or entirely new villages that will be built in the coming years.

After visiting several camps, it is clear that many factors contribute to the success or failure of a settlement, and that success cannot be measured solely by the number of houses built, or the speed at which they are constructed.


A permanent resettlement camp in Mullaitivu. Photo credit: Bijan Khazai

We visited one camp where well-built permanent houses were almost ready for habitation, but the site was located far from the coast, surrounded by an open pasture and a dry, thorn-scrub forest. One of the residents we spoke to, a fisherman, indicated that he did not want to live there because it was too expensive and difficult for him to commute to the coast.

Both temporary and permanent resettlement camps need to be sited carefully, taking into account people’s livelihood activities, community integrity, access to natural resources (such as water, fish, or fuel wood), and protection of special ecosystems.

Houses also need to be built within the context of cultural preferences, privacy, family size, and the constraints of a hot, monsoonal climate.

It seems that one key component of a successful resettlement project is community involvement. The affected community needs to be involved in their own recovery by participating in camp planning, building or modifying their own houses, and helping their neighbors.


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