Post-Tsunami Housing Reconstruction Varies Widely across Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka’s north and east sustained 60 percent of the damage wrought by the December 2004 tsunami. But about a year after the tsunami struck, in December 2005, reconstruction in the north and the east was already beginning to show signs of slowing - principally because there was a lack of land on which to build permanent housing for tsunami survivors.

The resumption of violence between the Sri Lankan government and the Tamil Tiger rebels has added massive problems. The northeast, already saddled with weak public services and poor infrastructure, is increasingly difficult to access. Essentially reconstruction in the northeast came to a standstill.

The country’s Reconstruction and Development Agency (RADA) issued an assessment of the housing reconstruction progress. As of the beginning of March 2007 (see Table), more than 76,000 permanent houses had been built, with another 34,000 in progress. The southern districts of Galle, Matara, and Kalutara have fared very well, and in Hambantota, the number of houses constructed is far in excess of the estimated requirement. But districts in the Northern Province lag far behind.

Province / District

Number of Houses Required

Number of Houses Completed

Percent Completed

Western and North Western Province

6,600

919

14

Colombo

5,639

347

6

Gampaha

887

498

56

Puttalam

74

74

100

Southern Province

33,917

34,972

103

Hambantota

3,193

5,997

188

Galle

14,713

13,788

94

Matara

8,216

7,791

95

Kalutara

7,795

7,396

95

Eastern Province

61,322

36,141

59

Ampara

28,349

16,067

57

Batticaloa

22,648

15,294

68

Trincomalee

10,325

4,780

46

Northern Province

16,488

4,555

28

Jaffna

9,140

3,380

37

Mullaitivu

5,457

1,032

19

Killinochchi

1,891

143

8

TOTALS

118,327

76,587

65

Partly because of the disruption caused by fighting, the north and east have not received commensurate funding for reconstruction. For example, Ampara District sustained 24 per cent of the overall tsunami housing damage, but as of December 2006, it had received only 14 percent of reconstruction funds.