COLOMBO (EconomyNext) – The Sri Lankan government has begun building homes for hill-country tea estate workers at risk of landslides under a program that aims to replace their current ‘barrack-style’ line-rooms with individual houses, officials said.
Each family will be given a 550-square foot house costing 1.2 million rupees, Minister of Plantation Infrastructure Development Palani Digambaram told a news conference.
The progam aims to improve the living conditions of estate workers whose social indicators like maternal health and child mortality and literacy rates are worse than the national average.
Construction work has already begun on 75 homes for victims of the Meeriyabedda landslide at Haldumulla in the Badulla district in October 2014, Digambaram said.
The houses will be built in an area certified as free of landslide risk by the National Building Research Organisation, which provides technical services for disaster risk reduction and safer built environment.
Under the program, 162,000 line rooms will be fully converted to houses, said V. Sivagnanasothy, Secretary, Ministry of Plantation Infrastructure Development.
Line rooms refer to military barrack-style accommodation dating back to the British colonial times that often houses three generations of a family on tea estates.
Each house will be built, with two bedrooms, verandah and kitchen.
“Most importantly they will be given title deeds a as proof of ownership, a bankable document on which they can take a loan,” said Sivagnanasothy.
The government will build the entire home for the workers, he added. Previously, the government only gave 500,000 rupees as part-grant and part-loan to workers to build their homes which left partly-built homes and some many unable to repay their loans.
The full grant will be given to families coming under three categories – landslide-affected or landslide-prone families and fire-affected houses, said Sivagnanasothy.
Building homes in the hill country was more difficult than in other areas given the need to safeguard against landslide risks, he said.