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Last Updated: Friday, 22 December 2006, 10:50 GMT
NGOs criticise tsunami shelters
By Subir Bhaumik
BBC News, Calcutta

Tsunami victims inside a temporary shelters
Tsunami victims are not happy with the new houses
A group of NGOs have criticised the Indian government for not involving island victims of the 2004 tsunami in their rehabilitation process.

Three NGOs, led by Action Aid, say tsunami victims in the eastern Andaman and Nicobar archipelago are unhappy with the quality of their new homes.

The victims are being shifted to more than 8,500 new houses made for them with pre-fabricated structures.

Officials say the tsunami killed more than 3,500 in the Andamans.

"Across the world, communities affected by disasters are involved to achieve a satisfactory level of recovery. This has been disregarded [in Andamans] in favour of construction by large construction companies," the report by Action Aid, Society for Andaman Nicobar Ecology (Sane) and Tsunami Relief International Network (Trinet) says.

The post tsunami housing in the Andamans has been a disaster
Ayesha Majid
Andaman tribal leader

The report says that although traditional wooden houses built on stilts in the Andamans - an active seismic zone - have withstood earthquakes very well, Indian authorities decided to build houses for tsunami victims using pre-fabricated materials.

'Monstrous

"This has not gone down well with the local communities. The steel and tin structures are unacceptable for the hot and humid climate of the Andamans and that was completely overlooked," said Pragya Vats of Action Aid.

Sane's Samir Acharya said that people across the archipelago had protested against the pre-fabricated housing which cost a million rupees each.

"That's exhorbitant. All that the victims needed were some tool kits, access to timber and a few months of financial support in form of daily wages. They would have built their own houses and that would suit them. These pre-fab houses are monstrous," he said.

Temporary shelter
Tin-made temporary shelters offer no respite from the blazing sun
The report says that despite a wide range of lifestyles evident in the Andamans - because of the diverse character of the population - the government adopted a single type of housing that is more like government quarters across India.

"The houses are twin units divided by a common wall rather than free standing units and that again does not go down well with the local communities. They want independent houses for their families with some land around it for cultivation," said the report.

Protests

The report also noted that almost everywhere in the islands, tsunami victims were unhappy with the location of their new houses as much as they were unhappy with the material used in them.

"The post-tsunami housing in the Andamans has been a disaster. It has proved how an indolent administration with no accountability and dominated by bureaucrats can drive roughshod over people's needs," said local tribal leader Ayesha Majid.

She said the report had rightly pointed out that it would be very difficult for the locals to maintain and repair pre-fabricated houses.

"They are used to timber houses. So they cannot maintain and repair these new houses. And therefore the contractors will have to be called in every time there's problem which means constant business for them," she said.

Across the islands, tsunami victims have often protested - sometimes violently - against their new homes.

The authorities say the new housing has been designed in consultation with local people.


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