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* India launches second phase of Housing Project in Northern Sri Lanka
Tue, Oct 2, 2012, 09:35 pm SL Time, ColomboPage News Desk, Sri Lanka.

Oct 02, Colombo: The second phase of Indian Housing Project to construct and repair 43,000 housing units for the resettled families in the Northern and Eastern Provinces of Sri Lanka got off to a start on Tuesday, the High commission of India in Colombo said in a release.

Minister of Economic Development Basil Rajapaksa and High Commissioner of India Ashok K. Kantha jointly launched the project on the ground today in the presence of Minister Rishad Bathiyutheen through events organized at Periyamadhu, Mallavi and Eluthumadduval in Mannar, Mullaitivu and Jaffna districts respectively.

Minister Wimal Weerawansa attended the function at Periyamadhu and Minister Douglas Devananda participated in the event at Eluthumadduval.

Addressing the event, Minister Rajapaksa has expressed his deep appreciation for the assistance provided by the Government of India towards rehabilitation and resettlement of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and for reconstruction and development of Northern Province.

He has highlighted how the Housing Project was indicative of the phased, timely and sequenced manner of India's development assistance to Sri Lanka which has been based on requirements on the ground.

Minister Rajapaksa also has pointed out that among donor-funded humanitarian assistance projects in Sri Lanka, the Indian Housing Project was unmatched and unprecedented in its scale, reach and impact. He has appreciated that the Project was being implemented under an owner-driven model of construction where beneficiaries own and manage the reconstruction of their homes.

Ministers Bathiyutheen, Weerawansa and Devananda also have thanked the Indian government for the assistance in the resettlement and rehabilitation of IDPs in Sri Lanka especially the Indian Housing Project.

In his remarks, High Commissioner Kantha has said that the launch of the second phase was a special occasion because today is also the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi and it was far more meaningful to celebrate it by launching the second phase of the Indian Housing Project which will touch the lives of thousands of people in Sri Lanka.

High Commissioner has emphasized that the pilot phase of construction of 1,000 houses was completed successfully in July this year.

High Commissioner has said that approximately 1,500 beneficiaries have been selected to receive assistance under this Project in the first lot and that funds have already transferred for the first installment of 100,000 rupees into the bank accounts of beneficiaries and construction work on the ground would begin soon.

He has added that in consultation with the Sri Lankan government and the Implementing Agencies, the target of constructing 9,000 houses by August 2013 has been increased to 10,000 houses. High Commissioner has also assured that the target of completion of all the 50,000 houses to be constructed under Indian assistance would be completed within three years and Government of India has already set aside the requisite funds for this purpose.

High Commissioner has also highlighted that all Indian assisted Projects in Sri Lanka were progressing in a smooth manner and that some have been completed well ahead of schedule.

The second phase of the Project adopts an owner-driven methodology, under which owner-beneficiaries are involved in the process of construction. A cash grant of 550,000 rupees is being provided for construction of a new house in installments linked to progress in construction. A cash grant of up to 250,000 rupees will be provided for repair of a housing unit based on actual assessment of damage.

To facilitate the construction of houses under this phase, the Government of India had earlier, through a competitive process, selected four reputed Implementing Agencies, viz., UN-Habitat, International Federation of Red Cross in partnership with Sri Lanka Red Cross, National Housing Development Agency of Sri Lanka and Habitat for Humanity. These agencies have experience in implementing similar projects in Sri Lanka.

Beneficiaries under the Project are being selected through a transparent and norm-based process on the basis of clearly defined and objective criteria. These beneficiaries will undertake the construction/repair of their houses with necessary technical assistance and support provided by the Implementing Agencies.

The entire Project is under full grant assistance of the Government of India with a total outlay of 30.6 billion rupees (approx. US$ 270 million) making it one of the largest grant assistance projects implemented by the Government outside India.

The construction of 43,000 houses for resettlement and rehabilitation of IDPs in Northern and Eastern Provinces is part of Government of India's overall commitment to build 50,000 houses announced by Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh during the State visit of the President Mahinda Rajapaksa to India in June 2010.

The Project essentially aims to facilitate early resettlement of persons who have been displaced as a result of the armed conflict, to help them rebuild their homes and contribute to their livelihoods as well as to promote return of normalcy in the area.

In order to ensure early operationalization of this commitment, a Pilot Project involving construction of 1,000 houses was launched in April 2011 and successfully completed in July 2012. Under this project, 250 houses in Kilinochchi, 250 houses in Mullaitivu, 175 houses in Vavuniya, 175 houses in Mannar and 150 houses in Jaffna have been constructed under the agency-driven model on land provided by the Government of Sri Lanka.

The third phase of the Housing project is expected to commence before the end of this year. In this phase, about 2,000 houses will be directly built by construction agencies for people from most vulnerable sections of IDPs in the Northern and Eastern provinces who are unable to build their own houses and 4,000 houses for Indian-origin workers in tea estates in the Central and Uva Provinces. The process of selection of executing agencies for construction of 4,000 houses is presently underway.

The Indian Housing Project is being carried out in close consultation with and cooperation of the Government of Sri Lanka. A Memorandum of Understanding was earlier signed on 17 January 2012 between the two governments covering various aspects of project implementation.

** Related Story :: Second phase of India-funded housing project for Sri Lanka\'s resettled in North to commence tomorrow

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