The much-awaited housing project for hill-country Tamils in Sri Lanka will take off later this month.
P. Thigambaram, Minister for Hill-Country New Villages, Infrastructure and Community Development, on Friday exchanged letters with India’s High Commissioner Y.K.Sinha on the construction of 4,000 houses in Central and Uva Provinces, where the hill-country Tamils live in large numbers.
Funded by the Indian government, the project is part of a programme to build 50,000 houses in the country, of which 46,000 units are being set up in the Northern and Eastern provinces.
Even though the component for the hill-country Tamils was part of a memorandum of understanding signed in January 2012 between the two countries, several issues came in the way of its implementation. The absence of land deeds for the prospective beneficiaries is one among them.
Hill-country Tamils are landless people as they have been working as resident labour in tea and rubber plantations for over 150 years.
Seven perches of land (equivalent to 1,925 sq. ft.) have been earmarked for each family and the government of Sri Lanka is working on the transfer of land ownership to the beneficiaries, Mr. Thigambaram said.
Initially, 1,134 houses will be built through community-driven model. The unit cost has been fixed at SLR 9,50,000. While the Estate Workers Housing Cooperative Societies are being involved in the selection of beneficiaries and supervision of work, the UN-Habitat, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, Habitat for Humanity and the National Housing Development Authority, all of which have been used in the North and the East for technical support, will also provide their expertise. Of the 46,000 houses in the North and the East, 45,000 have been built, Mr. Sinha said.