In Sri Lanka, the Government-led initiative to build 65,000 houses for the displaced in the North and East has run into controversy. The proposed installation of pre-assembled steel houses are not suitable for the N-E region environment, with the displaced having no say over the type of house they are to receive and with little or no room for modification according to individual needs. These houses that are three to four times more than those in other housing projects with conventional brick and cement in the same region bring no benefits to the dwindling local building construction workers. While the Ministry is favoring the contractual worker driven methodology when the owner driven methodologies are less expensive, more versatile, and have more positive social advantages; the elected representatives of the displaced people have objected to the installation of these pre-assembled steel houses and want the houses constructed using conventional brick and cement using local workforce.
The accelerated process by which the builder was selected out of several bidders and the doggedness is raising doubts on the sincerity of the Ministry in the minds of the people in the region; who are accustomed to the inclusion of upfront costs into projects under taken a common occurrence during the negative peace years after the war. As said in the previous posting in Northern Breeze, after the civil war a new generation of rulers who were trapped in their own bubble of greed was a curse to the population, where opinions of masses were disregarded in most callous way. This venture too appears to head that way, is typical of the top down policy pursued by a centralized state that is nothing new to the people that continue in spite of three people uprisings that pushed development back by five decades. This enterprise was taken without dialogues with the concerned individuals or even nearby government authorities on any part of the undertakings. The design of these houses will be prearranged with the contractor; each standard unit will be 520 square feet with a steel structure and prefabricated panels are to cost over Rs 2 m. The suitability and relevance of these supplier-driven arrangements are not being pilot-tried by the contractual worker.
As stated in an earlier posting in Northern Breeze @ https://rtr734.wordpress.com/2016/04/16/metal-houses-for-idps-are-caravans-without-wheels, a better proposition than the present scheme of providing 65,000 pre-fabricated metal houses would have been to provide say 100,000 conventional houses of same size which as a life time investment would have benefited the recipients. Providing conventional houses using local material and labour, could take more time to mobilise the local labour required and may take about five years to complete. But at the end of five years the beneficiaries will have a house and the region will have an experienced construction workforce in every district for future use.
The whole process has been dilly dallying wasting time for more than a year through aimless indecision could be that the Minister is under duress to build them anyway! The Minister could have instead initiated the two Provincial Councils to assist in selecting suitable unemployed people from each district to be trained as construction workers, which would have complimented the depleted construction workers in each of the eight districts in North and East. It would open a major opportunity for housing related small industries in roof tile making and carpentry workshops possible with a well-planned locally constructed housing scheme to build on the various owner-driven housing schemes, including by the Indians and Swiss, which created demand for local masons, carpenters and un-skilled labour. This would have satisfied those who are to live in these houses and those already living in similarly constructed houses by all other housing programme completed or currently underway in the region. For the discrepancy could breed inequities and multiple standards, resulting in tensions within communities. The bottom-line is if the proposed pre-assembled steel houses are not suitable for the N-E region environment.