Resettlement of the affected a pipe dream

Though Tamil Nadu, the Centre and NGOs constructed hundreds of houses in the tsunami-ravaged areas, the resettlement of many affected people is still only on paper.

Lack of involvement of the local community in the choice of housing site and house design has given rise to conflict and resistance to relocation.

Most of the fishermen living in Cuddalore and Nagapattinam, one of the worst affected areas, have ignored government's rehabilitation houses since they feel it is very far from their source of livelihood.

The worst affected are the poorest segments of the population, whose livelihoods depended on local resources and industries, mainly fishing.

On the other hand, it was a 10-year wait to get houses for “willing” Tsunami affected, who decided to resettle at government constructed houses.

The Tamil Nadu government has constructed nearly 1,000 houses near Chellakuppam area in Cuddalore at a cost of more than Rs 20 crore under Emergency Tsunami Recovery Project, funded by the World Bank.

However, none of the house were occupied by the beneficiaries.

The state government also constructed several thousand houses in all affected coastal areas in a bid to rehabilitate poor fishermen.

According to an official, Central aid for Tsunami rehabilitation projects was Rs 2,347.19 crore, under Prime Minister's National Relief Fund it was Rs 304.99 crore. Further, the World Bank has sanctioned Rs 1,959.10 crore and Asian Development Bank released Rs 629.64 crore, besides Japan Fund for Poverty Reduction provided Rs 16.70 crore.

“The new habitations created for accommodating the coastal community lack basic utilities such as ration shops, primary health centres, schools, and graveyards,” M Kuppusamy, member of Tamil Nadu Fishermen Association, said.

“The place chosen for their resettlement has no drinking water, transport, electricity, toilet and school facilities. No point in going there,” Kokilan, a fishermen from Cuddalore, said.

A senior government official said as per the coastal regulation rule, habitants near the sea should evict and relocate to a new place, which is 500 metres away from the sea area.

"Absence of community consultation and participation, and the lack of involvement of the affected community in decision making together with the lack of information about the reconstruction process exacerbated the problem,” Kumarasamy, who works for an NGO in Nagapattinam district, said.

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