Sunday, June 12, 2005

Home Sweet Crumbling Down Home

Last week a set of 25 permanent houses which had been built for people who lost their homes in the tsunami were completed and distributed in Hambantota. This was one of the first set of permanent houses to be distributed.

Permanent mind you, not temporary. These were not wood and tin shacks but proper cement and brick houses in which these people were supposed to spend the rest of their lives. So the people who were going to get the keys to these houses came from the camps where they had been living for almost 6 months.

They took the keys at a big ceremony that was organised to distribute the houses, inspected the houses after the event, and went back to their tents in the camps. No, they have not fallen in love with life in the tent. Nor have they become so attached to spending so much of their time in a tiny confined space shared with about a dozen others.

They thought the permanent houses which had been built for them were structurally unsound and not at all safe for living in. A reporter who was there are the event and went around to few of the houses later, said that you could poke holes in the cement walls with a pen. The sand that had been used in the construction had been sand from the beach. We asked a engineer why sand from the sea cannot be used in constructions and he told us that since they contain a lot of minerals and salts, it hampers the bonding process in the cement. So basically, when you use sea sand in a cement mixture to build a wall, the cement is not as half as strong as it would have been if you had used river sand, which is what is generally used. But river sand is more expensive that sea sand. And their using sea sand in the construction means they knew nothing about building houses, and decided to cut a few corners. Not good.

So the people who got the houses have been complaining about this but the police don't seem to be willing to take some action against the people who built the houses. And they are actually continuing to build more houses using the same sand.

So we get to the big question. Who built the houses? Here's a name. Chamal Rajapaksa. Why does that sounf familiar? Because he's the PM's brother!! Oh my god the PM's brother (who's also a bit of a politician himself) gave himself the contract to build the houses and messed up big time!!! No wonder the cops don't want to catch him!!!

I'll continue to watch this for some time, but for now, the people have no houses.

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