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TN: Land scarcity causing housing problems for tsunami victims
S S Singhan in Madurai | November 07, 2005 10:48 IST
Scarcity of land due to a variety of reasons has become a major hindrance in providing housing to tsunami victims who were rendered homeless by the tidal waves in some pockets of Tamil Nadu, including Nagapattinam, Cuddalore, Kanyakumari and Tuticorin districts.
Though various non governmental organisations, including Tata Consultancy Service, Seva Bharathi and Matha Amritanandamayee were willing to construct houses, each at a cost of about Rs 2 lakh, the district administrations are finding it difficult to acquire lands, especially the sites preferred by fishermen.
NGO sources told a visiting PTI correspondent in Nagapattinam that one of the NGOs came forward to build 800 houses for tsunami victims of Akkarapettai, one of the worst-hit areas. They were willing to provide upto Rs 2.15 lakh per house. But the government could provide land for only 225 houses.
The reason is the high cost of private lands due to non-availability of lands beyond 500 mt from the coastal area (Coastal Area Regulation Act bans construction activities within 500 mt from sea coast).
Fishermen in Nagapattinam and Cuddalore districts want land near the backwaters so that they can bring their boats straight near their homes. But the district administration is finding it difficult to locate government land or buy lands from private owners at the price fixed by the government.
According to Nagapattinam District Collector Dr Radhakrishnan, it would take another six months for all the affected people to get their own houses. Another issue related to providing housing was developing colonies with all infrastructure facilities including roads, lighting, water connection etc.
"The NGOs have funds only for construction of houses, the rest, including basic amenities, have to be developed by the government and there is snag in this," he said.
District officials of Cuddalore feel it would take another six months to complete land acquisition formalities and handing them over to NGOs for construction of houses.
"Though construction of houses and handing over them are going on in stages, to complete the formalities for all the affected people will take six months," Radhakrishnan said.
In Tuticorin district also, about 225 residents of Muthiapuram panchayat, who were affected by the tsunami and shifted to temporary shelters, had not been provided permanent houses.
The residents were accomodated in Camp II, but as they could not stay in temporary shelters for a long time they had moved to their habitations near the sea.
"We don't think the governent will provide us permanent houses. We had to move out of Camp II because it was inundated several times in rains between February and April. We approached both the district administration and the Port Trust to provide us with permanent residences. But so far no action has been taken", says Senthil, a fisherman.
Tuticorin District Collector V Chandrasekaran, during a recent meeting, said 700 permanent shelters for the tsunami victims had been completed.
However, 225 residents of Camp II would get houses only if they were prepared to move away from temporary shelters.
"The fishermen want houses near temporary shelters. But that land is owned by the Tuticorin Port Trust. How can we build houses there?" asked an official.
The Nagapattinam district administration had made rapid strides in the construction of a school for children in Akkarapettai area where 854 children were studying in the school washed off by the Tsunami.
Now, new class rooms with lab facilities are under construction. The work is almost over, said Pushpavanam, a local resident.
According to officials, most of the people of tsunami- hit areas have come out of their mental depression. The number of people visiting psychiatric wards has come down, says Dr Sundararajan. However, they needed motivation and treatment. The physically affected people also needed physio-therapy.