Acknowledging that social indicators of the one-million-strong plantation community in Sri Lanka are well below the national standards, the government on Thursday unveiled a five-year action plan, which seeks to improve the plight of the community in various sectors and envisages an investment of around $690 million.
1.6 lakh houses required Pointing out that around 1.6 lakh houses are required to be built to replace “line rooms” of barrack type structures, the document, launched in the presence of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, gives an account of the condition of the line rooms, which are always overcrowded; and lack ventilation with no provision for privacy.
Invariably, people have to travel some distance to access common water and sanitation facilities. Each room measures around 200 sq. ft.
Constituting 5 per cent of the country’s population, the plantation community, living in Central, Uva, Sabaragamuwa and Southern provinces, is employed by 23 regional plantation companies and small holders in the segments of rubber and tea.
It forms the backbone of the tea industry, which records export earnings of around $1.5 billion annually, about one-fourth of the country’s total export earnings.
The document, produced by the Ministry of Hill Country New Villages, Infrastructure and Community Development, says the government’s policy is to provide each plantation family with a house of 550 sq. ft. to be built on a block of seven perches.
The house would have two bedrooms, a living room, kitchen and a toilet attached. In the next five years, ending 2020, the plan is to build 56,500 houses of which 5,000 houses are expected to be built this year.