SRI LANKA'S FUTURE HOUSING
Dr. Tilak S. Fernando reporting from Colombo
On 26 December 2004 Tsunami struck the coastal zone, embracing Sri
Lanka's 24% of its land area, which is inhabited by 42% of its population
with 80% of its located hotels. The official estimated figures of
the damage to dwellings have now been drawn up, and the experts predict
that Sri Lanka needs to build 140,000 new houses per year annually
for the next 25 years. Sri Lanka's annual capacity to build new houses
is set at only 40,000, out of which up to 95% is executed by the private
sector. It is now established that Tsunami has destroyed 90,260 houses
making an overall shortfall of houses at 520,260. Prior to this natural
devastation 430,000 had been destroyed by the ethnic conflict over
United Nations Assessment Survey in 2003 identified the house building
requirement as 430,626, focussing particularly on 'basic housing units
in the North and East and border areas to accommodate the displaced".
The latest Sri Lankan government regulation stipulates a 100 meter
distance from the sea to erect a dwelling. This will entrap 750, 000
people under this regulation which is about 4% of the Sri Lanka's
population making a further demand for an additional 250,000 houses
to be relocated inland to settle these people.
Sri Lanka's current population of 18.7 million is expected to reach
up to 23 million by 2030. Taking into account dwellings which do not
currently meet up to the required specific standards and those illegally
constructed, the actual requirement for new houses will be pushed
up to 3.5 million making a total of 8.7 million houses and additional
86,000 hectares of new land.
All these boil down to the fact that a new opportunity has emerged
from the ravages of Tsunami to re-model a new and a modern Sri Lanka.
According to Dr. Krishan Deheregoda, Chairman, Real Estate Exchange
(Pvt) Ltd (REEL), a government owned company, a master plan for the
development of the country was unveiled by the Urban Development Authority
(UDA) in 2002 which is another Government Agency. After the Tsunami,
this plan has been unveiled on 26 January 2005 with minor modifications
for Matara. A further plan for Hambantota and Galle will be unveiled
in the very near future.
The second most densely populated area in Sri Lanka is the Central
Province which occupies 8.5 of the country's land mass with a population
of 15%. North Western Province occupies 11.9% of the land mass holding
11% of its population. 51% of the Colombo population lives in slums
and shanties. Experts say "The need is to relocate these slums
and shanty dwellers into strategic reservations within Colombo City"
and the REEL will sell this land for development from squatters.
The public funds from institutions such the World Bank and ICRC which
have pledged US$7 million for post Tsunami reconstruction work with
US$2 million from private funds are believed to make the external
pledges to come close to the internal estimates.
The present general consensus in the country is that a decentralised
approach is very essential to ensure accountability, whilst recognising
the importance of civil society's right to monitor the use of such
monies are two key factors needed to ensure the effective utilisation
of Tsunami aid. The Transparency International Sri Lanka, a branch
of the Transparency International, Germany, a respected NGO in Germany
that acts as a watchdog over public accounts has claimed that so far
the 'government financial accountability system was inefficient, parliamentary
oversight was weak due to lack of committees, while other committees
sit in camera and the Auditor General's Department (AGD) too was ineffective
as it is part of the Executive.
However the government sources say that all monies have been allocated
to each donor country and set plans have been given to them to go
ahead with the construction work in the very near future.