India aids 4,000 estate workers get roofs over their heads
With initial ground work completed, the India-assisted housing project for 4,000 beneficiaries from the plantation sector will be launched by next month, a senior minister said.
Hill Country New Villages, Infrastructure and Community Development Minister P. Thigambaram told the Sunday Times that in the initial phase 1,134 houses will be completed in the Uva Province as cluster villages near the tea estates.
According to the minister the inauguration ceremony of the project will be held at Dunsinane Estate in Pundaluoya.
“All the formal preparations have been completed. We have sought suitable dates from the Indian High Commissioner to conduct the inauguration ceremony by next month,” he said.
He said though the houses built under the Indian assisted housing scheme are not sufficient to meet the need in the upcountry, a project proposal was submitted to the Government of India for consideration to seek additional funds for the construction of 20,000 new houses and upgrading of 30,000 existing houses prior to the visit of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Last week the Cabinet approved a proposal to enter a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Indian government to construct 40,000 houses within three years from the beginning of 2016 for estate workers in the Uva and Central Provinces.
“Following the Cabinet approval we have forwarded to the Indian government to consider, we are hopeful to initiate talks on this soon after the present project is completed,” Minister Thigambaram said.
This project is being implemented under the Indian Government grant over a three-year period to construct four thousand houses each costing Rs. 1.2 million. The houses are to be constructed in the Nuwara-Eliya, Hatton and Badulla regions.
Every house will be on a 550 square feet area on seven perches of land. Ownership and land titles would be given to the respective families. As a cluster based housing programme water supply, sanitation, access roads, electricity, communitycentres, child development centres and temples and other common facilities will also be set up.
WAPCOS Limited, an Indian government undertaking consulting company has been appointed to undertake the planning and design of the Indian housing project.Discussions with the estate management to identify suitable lands for the houses were held with clearances from the National Building Research Organisation (NBRO) as safe places.
The beneficiaries were selected as per selection criteria with the help of the estate management. The houses will be constructed as single units with two bed rooms, living room, verandah and attached kitchen and toilet.
According to a senior official at the Ministry of Hill Country New Villages, Infrastructure and Community Development, perimeter surveys, block out surveys and contour surveys have been completed and handed over formally to the WAPCOS consultants through High Commission of India by last year.
The second phase of the Housing Programme will be focusing on land slide affected, fire affected and landslide prone areas. The balance 2,866 houses are identified in consultation with the regional plantation companies.
The UN-Habitat – United Nations Human Settlements Programme, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), National Housing Development Authority (NHDA), and the Habitat for Humanity involving the EWHCS (Estate Workers Housing Cooperative Society) have been identified as the implementing partners for the housing scheme.
However the Ceylon Workers’ Congress (CWC), the largest trade union in the upcountry believes at least 200,000 houses are needed to improve the lifestyle of the plantation workers.
CWC Leader Muthu Sivalingam told the Sunday Times that the idea of an India assisted housing scheme for the upcountry was first mooted by the CWC and put to the Indian government for consideration when the CWC was in the previous government.
“Unfortunately, today many politicians are claiming responsibility for the project,”