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Sri Lanka's battle ahead


With regard to your article on building restrictions around the coast of Sri Lanka (NCE 5 May), I have recently returned from a working holiday in south west Sri Lanka building temporary accommodation for homeless people within the 100m wide strip.

There is still an urgent need to rehouse people living in tents whose already difficult lives will shortly be made worse by heavy rainfall and flooding during the monsoon season.

Excluding ermanent residential construction near to the beach may be good for tourism, but there seems little logic in this policy as I saw long, exposed stretches of coastline where the tsunami demolished structures well beyond 100m inland.

The land is low lying and peppered with lagoons and inland waterways. The water table is less than 1m below ground level and flooding frequently occurs following rainfall. These inland areas are just as exposed to flooding from the sea as those within 100m of the coast - perhaps more so now since the tsunami scoured sand away from the beaches.

Work has started to build permanent houses on the foundations of original dwellings beyond 100m from the beach. However, there are many people who lived within the exclusion zone who cannot rebuild their homes, even had they the resources to do so.

The short term solution has been to build temporary homes in timber within the exclusion zone while government, aid agencies and local religious groups start the process of developing permanent accommodation inland.

Rehousing people who lost their homes will be a long process. Relocating large sections of the community to new undeveloped areas will only add to the complexity of the problem and delay provision of reasonable housing. This will force people to live in unsuitable conditions for longer than would otherwise be necessary.

Geoff Cannell, design manager, Gleeson MCL, gcannell@gleesonmcl. com

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