Many pledges only pledges: Tittawella
By Frances Bulathsinghala
Many donors have backed out of their pledges since the cost estimates of tsunami reconstruction were done and they now realise the expense of the reconstruction projects they have undertaken, senior presidential advisor Mano Tittawella said.

"They are only pledges. Nobody comes and gives money like that," he said. Mr. Tittawela, who heads the tsunami reconstruction task force said the government's strategy was to carry out reconstruction through agreements signed with donors who would be responsible for the completion of the projects.

According to him, the government will target six to nine months as the time frame for the building of some 70,000 houses for tsunami victims. He said plans for the construction of 40,000 houses had been finalised with pledges signed by both foreign and local donors at a cost of Rs. 500,000 per house.

Mr. Tittawella said 50 percent of the cost for reconstruction work had been pledged largely by local donors including individuals.He said the overall reconstruction which included water supplies, telecom facilities, hospitals, railways and also the livelihood component of supporting people affected by the tsunami was estimated at around US $1.8 billion.

Mr. Tittawella said relief programmes so far had cost 200 million dollars and it included temporary housing. Acknowledging that some schools were still being occupied by displaced people, Mr. Tittawella pledged they would be moved to temporary houses within a month.

Mr. Tittawella also pledged that whatever anyone said no new construction would be allowed within the buffer zone of hundred metres from the sea. He said the government was concerned about the rising prices of building materials and was working out some arrangement with importers.He said many countries had offered to provide building materials and the government was in contact with them.

Mr. Tittawella said the revised plan of action for reconstruction would be released on Tuesday.

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