NINETY per cent of the permanent houses for tsunami affected families will be completed by the fourth quarter of this year, the Government asserted yesterday.
"The bulk of the permanent housing project is to get off the ground by May and June and 80 to 90 per cent of the housing units are expected to be completed by the last quarter," said Mano Tittawella, Chairman of the Task Force for Relief and Reconstruction (TAFREN).
"The State has completed demarcating land for up to 34,000 permanent houses outside the 100 metre buffer zone as of yesterday and they have singed the MOUs with 71 donors to start construction," Tittawella told a news briefing. "May and June will be a decisive period for the housing program. Work has already started on 2,300 houses."
"We have to physically hand over the land at the time of signing the MOU with the donor," Tittawella said adding that the complex process involving land allocation has slowed the pace of housing reconstruction but they have overcome most of the issues now, in response to media queries.
He confirmed that the Government was capable of providing land for all the families needing relocation.
The TAFREN Chief said the Government with the help of foreign and local donors has built 15,470 transitional houses to relocate those in the relief camps and the total requirement of 30,000 houses will be completed by end of May. About 4,000 units are under construction.
Donors have expressed that they need at least 45 days from the MOU to finalise tender procedures and acquire material, one of the major challenges before actual construction could begin.
According to the latest figures of the Census and Statistics Department a total of 77,561 houses have been damaged in the December 26 tsunami which included 41,393 houses completely washed away by the waves.
A total of 194 donors have made pledges to construct about 97,000 permanent houses and these pledges are now being converted to actual commitments.
The Government has also decided to continue the family allowance of Rs.5000 up to June 30.
Tittawella said the President directed the Treasury at a recent meeting to continue this support payment up to June by which they hope the donor sponsored livelihood projects will be set in motion.
"We have paid this allowance for two months, January and February. Then it was stopped pending Treasury clearance," Relief Commissioner Tilak Ranaviraja said.
The Government Agent of Jaffna K. Ganesh, District Secretary of Hambantota, M.A. Piyasena, Batticaloa District Secretary V. Shanmugam, Matara District Secretary H.G. Jayasekera IOM Chief of mission Mary Sheehan and Plan Sri Lanka Director Juliano Fernando made presentations.