Thursday, June 30, 2005

Tsunami as excuse

The poor, who were the most horribly impacted by the Asian tsunami six months back, are being victimized again by the rebuilding, reports Scott Leckie, executive director of the Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions.

"Thailand, India and other affected countries have restricted the right to return but Sri Lanka stands out as the tsunami-affected country which has sought most dramatically to re-shape its residential landscape through the reconstruction process," Leckie writes in a piece called The Great Land Theft. Essentially, poor people are being denied the right to return to their ancestral holdings within 100 or 200 meters of the shore (for those up on Sri Lanka's coastline, the buffer zone is 100 meters in Kilinochchi, Mannar Puttalam, Gampaha, Colombo, Kalutara, Galle, Matara and Hambantota and 200 meters in Jaffna, Mullaitivu, Trincomalee, Batticaloa and Ampara), while rich private owners are being allowed to rebuild in the same risky areas.

"The re-building process has been painfully slow with almost no new homes yet constructed in the most severely affected areas," Leckie writes, adding, "In Sri Lanka, hundreds of thousands of tsunami survivors continue to live in temporary shelters or tents some six months after the disaster. Reports indicate that the government has plans to build new housing four or five – in some cases even 14 – kilometres from traditional coastal villages. This will have a serious impact on peoples’ livelihoods, especially fishing families dependent on the sea and immediate access to it. When one visits temporary resettlement sites in Sri Lanka, it is not difficult to get the feeling that tsunami survivors are going to be waiting for many years before all of the housing that is needed is actually in place. "


Anonymous said...

Hi Robert, I just finished Shadow Cities and loved it. Squatter settlements have always fascinated me, and I read your book to bone up on them before making my senior film (I'm a film student) which takes place in one.

Anyhow, I wanted to invite you to check out a short film I made about Rio's favelas for an Urban Geography class. I wish I had read your book before I made it, but I think it's still a good movie. I'd be interested in hearing what you think. I've never actually been to Brazil; I got most of the footage from a great doc about favelas by Caitlin Manning called "Brazilian Dreams", a movie I would recommend. Anyhow, here's the link (The Favela movie is the second one down):

It may be a revelation to some of your readers, but in making my own video, even having never been there, I had realized that the stereotypes of squatters as criminals and slackers was largely fictitious. Fear creates a vacuum that gets filled with ugly images. The most important thing I took away from your book was the necessity of involving residents in the decision making process. It wasn't until you discussed it towards the end of the book that I realized how much everyone, even those people with good intentions, were just trying to impose their own ideology onto these communities. It also made me think about my own ideas of assistance, and how rigid my own positions have become. Thanks for writing it!


rn said...

Done, Stephen. I just switched templates today. The old look didn't have those pesky links, so I didn't know they were there. Of course, ignorance of the law is no defense. Thanks. Now I'm famous for being a klutzyblogger.

rn said...

Tony D...

Wow. Reimagining the favelas without having been there. Interesting. Takes guts. I'll take a look at your film over the weekend.

I've never heard of Brazilian Dreams, so I'll have to check that out, too.

You might be interested in this: my buddies at the 2bros foundation have posted a short semi-documentary video by Diego Deane and some photos by Gabriel Ponce de Leon. You can check 'em out here.

More soon.