January 31, 2005
In the aftermath of the December 26 tsunamis
that hit southeast Asia, the Sri Lankan government has banned
constructing or repairing buildings within 100 meters (about
328 feet) of the shoreline, sparking complaints from civic
organizations and citizens.
The government promises that the estimated
750,000 displaced citizens of the tsunami will be given temporary
homes within six months. Sri Lankan President Chandrika Bandaranaike
Kumaratunga announced a plan on January 19 to build 15 new
townships located several miles away from beaches across the
island, though details have not been released.
But many community members are unwary.
Many leaders are opposed to the
100 meter restriction. Protests campaigns are planned,
said Kumar Rupesinghe, the chairman of the Foundation for
Co-existence, at a press conference to discuss the rebuilding
process on January 20. The non-profit organization promotes
transparency and conflict resolution in Sri Lanka.
The new government policy also requires
those still residing within 100 meters of the coast to move.
Police have been ordered to remove citizens who do not comply.
But with enforcement lax and tents and relief camps still
in short supply, many coastline residents have ignored the
policy and continue to occupy houses and temporary shelters
within 100 meters of the beach.
The government says to stay 100
meters away from the water, but they have not told us where
else to go, says Imthiyas Careem, a resident of Hambantota,
a district in southern Sri Lanka where more than 4,000 people
died. Careem, along with hundreds of others, continue to stay
at a relief camp that has been set up near a few pillars of
a mosque that remains standing.
The ban has also caused confusion because
some beachside hotels, popular with foreign tourists, have
apparently been exempted from the ban and new tourism developments
will be decided on a case-by-case basis, according to Sri
Lankas Financial Times.
One government spokesperson has expressed
skepticism over the plan to house displaced residents. We
will try our hardest but I personally dont believe it
is possible, says Niranjan de Soysa, the spokesperson
for Sri Lankas National Center of Operations, which
is in charge of government post-tsunami efforts. Theres
just not enough time.