Many internally displaced persons (IDPs) in north Sri Lanka have not moved into available shelters in the hope that an India-funded project in the pipeline for months now would provide them with better quality houses, the UN’s Sri Lanka chapter has expressed concern in a new update. The UN’s Office of the Commissioner for Humanitarian Assistance (OCHA) indicated that there was a delay in the massive Indian project in which 50000 houses are expected to be built for the war-displaced. “There is continuing concern that a number of families have declined shelter assistance from agencies based on the belief that they will shortly receive housing of a higher standard through the Indian Government programme. The start date and grant levels for this project remain unconfirmed,” the OCHA statement said.
The global agency’s worries were that the “uncertainty” of the project could potentially lead to serious coordination difficulties, and that it was “imperative that partners broadly harmonize grants/housing assistance, under overall government guidance.” Several agencies were involved in building houses for the IDPs in the north and east of Sri Lanka including UNDP, Sarvodaya, UN-Habitat and Muslim Aid. According to OCHA, while donors were building or repairing more than 32000 houses, the demand was of 70000.
On its part, the Indian government has denied any delay in the project, saying two companies Hindustan Prefab Limited and RPP Infra Projects Limited had already been appointed as consultants and contractors to implement the 1000 houses pilot project. “Barring unforeseen circumstances, the project will be completed as per schedule and the housing units will be handed over to beneficiaries during the latter half of the year,” the High Commission of India said in a statement. The statement added that India was still awaiting a list of beneficiaries for the first 1000 houses from the Lankan government, and that it could expedite the process of building the remaining 49000 houses. But for the thousands of homeless, the wait is turning out to be endless.