|Work is still going on to rebuild lives and restore livelihoods with the active participation of 400-odd NGOs.|
The reconstructed fishing harbour at Akkaraipettai in Nagapattinam district
NAGAPATTINAM district bore the brunt of the tsunami in Tamil Nadu in 2004. In the past three years, however, rehabilitation and reconstruction works have been going on in full swing to restore the livelihoods of the affected people, most of them fishermen and their families, and to rebuild their homes.
The government allotted 603 acres of land (497 acres of private land, 59 acres of temple land, 25 acres of donated land and 22 acres of poromboke land) for the construction of houses for those rendered homeless by the tsunami, at a cost of Rs.30 crore. The land was then handed over to non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to build the houses. The new housing colonies coming up on this land are being provided with safe drinking water, roads, street lights and other amenities. More than 400 NGOs, Indian and foreign, are involved in the rehabilitation work.
The Nagapattinam district administration’s efforts to build houses for tsunami victims have started showing results. It had instructed the NGOs to speed up the construction of permanent houses. Nearly 13,000 permanent houses have been built and handed over to the beneficiaries. The target was to build 19,700 houses in 76 locations in the district.
The District Collector, Tenkasi S. Jawahar, was optimistic that the remaining 6,700 houses, which are under various stages of construction, would be completed before the end of March 2008. “There is no compromise on the quality of construction. The NGOs should adhere to the norms and guidelines of the government. Each house should have a minimum plinth area of 325 sq.ft. With the rising cost of construction, NGOs are spending about Rs.2.5 lakh on every house,” the Collector said.
Houses built by the Development Promotion Group, a Chennai-based NGO working with fishing communities hit by the tsunami, at Vanavanmahadevi village in Nagapattinam district
The Development Promotion Group (DPG), a Chennai-based NGO, has been engaged in rehabilitation and reconstruction activities in 12 villages in Nagapattinam and Tuticorin districts of Tamil Nadu and in Prakasam district of Andhra Pradesh. The organisation has been working to provide education, health care and vocational training to children in the tsunami-affected areas. It also helped fishermen by getting their damaged boats repaired and fitted with new engines and by distributing 150 fibre-glass boats and fishing nets.
It has built 822 permanent houses in six villages in Nagapattinam and Tuticorin districts; 652 of these houses have been handed over to the beneficiaries. The quality of construction has drawn praise from the government and the Nagapattinam district administration has entrusted the DPG with the task of building 170 more houses, 59 in Kameshwaram village and 111 in Vellapallam.
According to R. Bhakther Solomon, chief executive officer of the DPG, several foreign agencies came forward to help tsunami victims through the DPG’s network. Nearly Rs.28 crore has been spent on relief and rehabilitation services and for the formation of self-help groups (SHGs) among the affected communities. The DPG has extended to women’s SHGs financial assistance to the tune of Rs.69 lakh and organised training courses.
The construction of permanent shelters has benefited as many as 1,849 families. “We took special care and used best quality construction material. Each house was built on a plinth area of about 450 sq.ft. at a cost of nearly Rs.2.75 lakh,” Bhakther Solomon said.
A community hall was built for tsunami victims at a cost of Rs.26 lakh at Vizhundamavadi, a coastal village. Small halls were built in Mapillaioorani in Tuticorin district at a total cost of Rs.9 lakh. The Church Development Services (EED), Germany, and the Inter Church Co-operation (ICCO), the Netherlands, are the major partners in carrying out rehabilitation work. Other agencies, including the Diakonie Emergency Aid (DEA), Christian Aid, the Association of Asian Confederation of Credit Unions (ACCU), Self Development of People (SDOP), the American India Foundation (AIF), the Times Foundation, the Indian Christian Organisation and the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) have associated themselves with the DPG in tsunami-related programmes.
A community hall built by the group at Vizhundamavadi village
A garment manufacturing training centre, a livelihood revival programme for tsunami victims, was established at Velankanni in Nagapattinam district in 2006 by UNESCAP, Bangkok, in partnership with the DPG. The programme will train 35 or 40 women in garment manufacturing. A garment production unit will be established under the programme.
It will be jointly owned, managed and administered by a private company chosen by the DPG and the community. The aim is to provide training-cum-employment continuously to about 40 women at competitive market wages. The company is named Rose Fashions and Designs.
The industrial training institute built by the People’s Development Association at Prathabaramapuram village in Nagapattinam district was inaugurated in December 2007
The People’s Development Association, a Madurai-based NGO, has been engaged in relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction activity in Nagapattinam district from the day after the tsunami struck. It has distributed relief materials worth nearly Rs.4 crore to 7,683 families in 16 tsunami-hit villages.
As part of its efforts to restore livelihoods, the PDA distributed among fishermen 187 fibre-glass boats, 284 outboard engines, 424 sets of fishing nets, seven catamarans and 20 weighing machines at a total cost of Rs.3.20 crore.
The PDA has established two vocational training institutes in tsunami-hit villages, said Joe Velu, its director. The Anjelo Airoldi Industrial Training Institute was established to provide industrial training courses on two- wheeler and three-wheeler mechanism, electrical and plumbing works and vehicle driving.
More than 150 young men and women now undergo training in this institute. The PDA Tailoring Institute imparts training to more than 240 women in fashion designing on the same campus. Besides, computer classes are being conducted for boys and girls.
The PDA Industrial Training Institute was established in December at a cost of Rs.1 crore at Prathabaramapuram village near Nagapattinam. The institute, built with financial assistance from the workers of the Voestalpine, a multinational steel company from Austria, provides formal courses in welding, automobile mechanism and electrical works to 64 students of the tsunami-hit villages.
The PDA has also constructed 295 permanent houses, each at a cost of about Rs.2.5 lakh, in Vizhundamavadi, Vellapallam, Serudur and Velankanni. These have been handed over to beneficiaries. Besides, three community halls were constructed at Vellapallam, Velankanni and Keechankuppam and new classrooms were built for 11 schools in 10 tsunami-hit villages.
The association’s director, Joe Velu, with children from tsunami-affected families at Velankanni
As many as 132 women’s SHGs, with 2,486 members, got Rs.8.86 lakh from the PDA to start income-generating ventures.
All the rehabilitation activities are now being carried out with support from partners such as Volkshilfe, Austria; the Austrian Development Cooperation, Austria; Solidar India; Solidar Italy; Solidar Belgium; Solidary Laique France; Nachbar In Not, Austria; GUS, Italy; Progetto Sviluppo, Italy; CGIL Italy; Swiss Solidarity, Switzerland; ASB, Germany; United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) India, the Tamil Nadu government and the Government of India.
SNEHA (Social Need Education and Human Awareness), another organisation helping tsunami victims, has been working with fishing communities in the coastal areas of Nagapattinam and Karaikal since 1984. A remarkable aspect of SNEHA’s work is its gender-based approach: the organisation regards women of fishing communities as “fish workers”.
Construction work under way at the Nagapattinam port, which is getting a facelift
SNEHA has achieved considerable success in organising federations of fisherfolk, which has enabled the community to address its problems at the taluk and district levels.
The Nagapattinam port, which suffered in the tsunami onslaught, is getting a facelift at a cost of Rs.44.58 crore. This is financed by the Asian Development Bank and is being carried out in three phases.
Children of families affected by the tsunami at an anganwadi centre at Akkaraipettai village
The first phase (Rs.9.61 crore) will soon be completed; the second phase (Rs.27.17 crore) will be over by the end of March 2008; and the third phase (Rs..80 crore) will be completed by the end of June 2008. In the first phase, the north and south breakwater is being reinforced with stones, the road is being repaired. The weighbridge and illumination facilities damaged by the tsunami have been repaired.
The second phase includes extension of the north and south breakwater and dredging a 1,575-metre stretch on the Karudaiyar river for a depth of 4m near the port. The port will soon get a dredger and a marine survey instrument.