Segments in this Video

Post-Tsunami Plan (01:20)


In Sri Lanka 10 years after the 2004 tsunami, new villages have been built with international aid for homeless coastal dwellers. Aid workers wanted reconstruction to improve living conditions.

Family Tragedy (03:01)

Few people live on the formerly densely populated Navaladi peninsula; the government prohibited new construction in the tsunami zone. Fisherman Loghendran lost his wife and daughter, but refused to leave his land. There is sufficient drinking water to grow vegetables.

Tsunami Relief (02:11)

The third largest recorded earthquake originated off the Sumatran coast on December 26, 2004. Forty thousand died in Sri Lanka. Disaster footage triggered international support; Swiss media stations raised millions in pledge drives.

Rebuilding a Family (03:22)

A decade after the tsunami, filmmakers visit Rhadi and her husband Pathmin. Their former home is now on a 200 meter state owned buffer zone. Swiss television interviewed Rhadi in 2005. She and Pathmin have since had three children to replace those that drowned.

Economic Hardship (04:05)

Rhadi and Pathmin's donated house is 5 kilometers from the coast. It is safe from tsunamis, but they cannot afford living costs and have become indebted to a loan shark. Swiss ethnologist Kathrin Thurnheer says there has been no development effort.

Swiss Village (02:53)

Rhadi and Pathmin live in Thiraimadu with 1,000 other resettled families. Architect Daniel Schwitter returns seven years after its completion. Julietta and Ivo’s home was donated by Swiss citizens and is bigger than their former home. Ivo's son works abroad and supports the family.

Thiraimadu Community Center (03:36)

Swiss organizations funded a Western style community center and park that Schwitter believes has stimulated development. Despite maintenance cost reduction measures, they are falling into disrepair. Batteries in solar powered street lighting built by the government have been stolen.

Resettlement Challenges (03:33)

Thiraimadu fishermen like Surenthiran struggle to feed their families far from the coast. A few months after the tsunami, the buffer zone was reduced from 200 meters to 50. Families with land near the sea decided to stay, and have immediate access to fish.

Navaladi Fisherman's Festival (02:37)

Only 10% of the village population remains; the school and hospital have relocated to Thiraimadu. Former and current residents rehearse for a harvest festival. The temple has remained; Viji predicts people will return in a few years.

German Haritha Gama (03:15)

After the tsunami, the Sri Lankan government provided relief organizations with land inland to resettle 70,000 from coastal regions. A 90 household community was designed to be self-sufficient and self-governing, but beneficiaries were not included in the planning process.

Sustainable Development Failure (04:07)

In German Haritha Gama, solar panels were too expensive to maintain and community amenities have never been used. Tsunami survivors were not consulted about their livelihood needs; many have sold their homes and moved to towns for economic opportunities.

Lack of Unity (01:57)

Viraj, a photographer, moved back to his former home in an area damaged by the tsunami. Long commutes from German Haritha Gama to his studio influenced his decision. Pia Hollenbach says bringing people together from different villages has failed to form a community.

Failed Model Village (05:43)

Tsunami survivor Jajanti is disappointed by a lack of community and says aid workers left German Haritha Gama too early. A building intended as a bakery has become a Buddhist temple. The water system does not supply all homes and the ecological waste system has been abandoned.

Mandanai (03:15)

Residents are moving away from a resettlement village in a dry region; donated houses are dilapidated. Fish merchant Sivagnanamoorthy's son Kunaraaj has repaired their home. He points out poor construction techniques and cheap materials; contractors pocketed money intended for tsunami survivors.

Greenfield (02:42)

Sri Lankan project managers chose high density development for a tsunami resettlement. Marjiana must weave saris in her apartment, disturbing neighbors. Residents are used to rural lifestyles; land designated for gardens has not yet materialized.

Midigama (03:00)

The main road in southern Sri Lanka offers many income opportunities; Thilini sells vegetables at her roadside stand. Part of her family has been resettled in the Turkish Village 10 kilometers away. They chose the location for larger homes, although theirs lacks a kitchen.

Resettlement Maintenance Issues (03:25)

Midigama houses lack provision for cooking with wood. Devika's neighbors build a weatherproof kitchen. Turkish donors constructed the settlement without involving local authorities; they face technical problems and high maintenance costs. Businesses are closed due to lack of demand.

Rebuilding a Bay of Ahungalla Community (03:52)

Marlis and Andre Weber's house was spared from the tsunami, due to its elevated location. They collected money privately to rebuild their neighbor's homes on the original foundations. Rather than relocate, villagers could resume their livelihoods; homes are in good condition after a decade.

Profiting from Disaster Relief (02:10)

Some houses that Weber built have been demolished and the land sold to speculators for building hotels.

Tamil Reconstruction (02:58)

When the civil war flared up after the tsunami, relief organizations withdrew from the combat zone. Fishing communities of Vadamaradchi East returned home after government victory in 2009. They are gradually rebuilding their homes and livelihoods.

Vadamaradchi East Development (03:40)

Martin Studer of the SDC provides technical support, financial planning, and construction planning to families rebuilding their homes. Some have taken loans to improve their houses. Aid agencies must provide schools and water access. Tamil's future depends on creating a local economy.

Panichankeny (03:06)

Tsunami survivors were given homes donated by Swiss aid agencies. During construction, 450 families were evacuated due to the civil war and their homes were damaged in fighting. Most have been repaired but maintenance depends on household income.

Post-Resettlement Poverty (02:19)

Jeyalatha and her husband were relocated after the tsunami. They cannot afford to maintain their home on his wages. Panichankeny lacks the close knit community of their previous village and there are few job opportunities.

Buffer Zone Speculation (03:06)

Jeyalatha's husband sold their land to the Sri Lankan government after resettling. Relocating residents freed Panichankeny's beaches for tourism investment; a Belgian investor plans to build a Spanish style hotel. The president is boosting the hospitality industry.

Pasikuda Bay Tourism (03:19)

The tourism board has been placed in charge of fishing affairs. Hotels displaced 800 families; locals are prohibited from building. With relief organization assistance, the government has used the reconstruction process to clear the shoreline.

Eastern Province Tourism Development (02:25)

Relief organizations have not questioned buffer zone land speculation. The tourist industry is investing in tsunami proof complexes. Former residents are selling property for profit.

Resisting Resettlement (03:33)

A local man in Pasikuda refuses to sell his house to tourism investors. The region's oldest guest house moved one kilometer inland. The proprietor cannot compete with beach resorts and authorities will not allow him to rebuild the original guest house in the buffer zone.

Resettlement Project Evaluation (04:56)

Rhadi and Pathmin remain in the Swiss Village, afraid to rebuild on their old property in the buffer zone. Despite record fundraising efforts, aid agencies left without assessing long term impacts on displaced families or providing support for reestablishing livelihoods. Loghendran refuses to sell his land to speculators.

Credits: Buffer Zone (00:30)

Credits: Buffer Zone

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Buffer Zone

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After the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami killed 40,000 and left half a million homeless, aid agencies rushed to the rescue of Sri Lanka. Inland resettlement, funded with hundreds of millions raised in Western countries, was a welcome solution for a country living in fear of another seismic sea wave. Ten years on, cracks are appearing in the aid effort. What long term problems has this wave of humanitarian support washed up on the shores of Sri Lanka?

Length: 91 minutes

Item#: BVL118350

ISBN: 978-1-63521-467-3

Copyright date: ©2014

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