Cablegate: Sri Lanka Relief to Reconstruction Update

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.





E.O. 12958: N/A

Ref: Colombo 457

1. (U) This telegram is sensitive but
unclassified, please handle accordingly.


2. (U) We are sending these various items in hope
they will be helpful in this week's IAWG

3. (U) Summary:
--The GSL has outlined its policy on housing and
tourism industry rebuilding along the coast and
has indicated that there will be 100 meter and 200
meter setbacks for construction in the West and
East respectively.
--Donors have assessed that emergency phase has
successfully concluded, but problems looming for
--Relief agencies continue to struggle with duties
assessed on relief items entering the country. We
have heard from most other embassies that their
nationals are having the same problem.
--The US Army Corps of Engineers is in Sri Lanka
and working with USAID to cost the various
signature infrastructure projects that have been
--We are in discussions with the EU about possible
co-financing of a media campaign to encourage
tourists to return to Sri Lanka.
--Phase two of the multi-lateral development bank
led damage assessment is underway, following a GSL
request that Government representatives comprise
at least 50 percent of each team. End Summary

"Coastal Conservation Zone" (100 meter setback)
--------------------------------------------- --

4. (U) On February 27 the GSL advertised its new
policy housing and tourism industry reconstruction
and repair in tsunami-affected areas. The Coastal
Conservation Zone (CCZ) will actually consist of
two zones. Zone One will include most of the West
and Southern coast, and will consist of a 100-
meter setback. Zone Two, which is most of the
East coast (from Ampara to Jaffna), and which
coincides with the territory claimed by the
Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), will
require a 200-meter setback. Guidelines have been
published regarding replacement and repair of
tsunami-affected structures (both houses and

tourism establishments). Reftel provides more
detailed information.

5. (SBU) While there is now an official GSL
policy, questions regarding enforcement and
availability of land abound. Furthermore, the
sustainability and suitability of Government
resettlement and housing schemes remain
questionable (will fisherman, used to living next
to their boats and equipment on the waterfront,
take to apartment dwelling and commuting to
work?). To complicate matters further, local
officials are interpreting the buffer zone policy
differently, slowing the relief and recovery

Donor Coordination

6. (SBU) Ambassador and USAID Director attended
Thursday meeting of major donors/UN agencies/MDB's
to discuss overall situation. "Stocktaking Report"
by UNOCHA (faxed to SA/INS - please share with
IAWG participants) concluded that emergency phase
had been overall successfully concluded (we
agree). Participants also agreed that heading
into reconstruction phase major potential problems

--coordination (or lack thereof), and lack of
point for policy discussion/input,
--land availability, complicated by 100/200 meter
--taxation of relief goods,
--coordination (or lack thereof) on NGO's, who are
awash with funds.

7. (SBU) UNDP Resrep and MDB heads had discussed
these previous day with Task Force for Rebuilding
the Nation (TAFREN) head Mano Tittawella and
Relief Task Force (TAFROR) head Tilak Ranaviraja.
Mano took the issues on board, said he would
discuss them with President on Friday. Ambassador
is seeking appointment with Tittawella before he
sees President to reinforce these points.

Continued Relief Activities and Issues

8. (U) At a special meeting of the Transitional
Shelter Task Force the GSL, complaining that tents
are too hot and not waterproof, said it will no
longer release tents for temporary housing.
Government officials also emphasized the country's
commitment to providing transitional housing for
up to 18 months.

9. (SBU) Problems with the duty-free import of
relief items persist. Most recently, the
Ambassador wrote to the Foreign Minister,
highlighting the experience of a Baltimore church
that tried to import water purification equipment.
After encountering numerous bureaucratic delays,
the representatives on the ground elected to pay
duty on the items, which amounted to 70 percent of
the value of the goods. They are now on the
ground in the east and implementing their project,
but their experience is indicative of the
challenges faced by many groups here, especially
those without longstanding experience in Sri
Lanka. Consultations with colleagues in the
diplomatic and aid communities reveal that this is
a problem for most Western embassies and relief
organizations in Sri Lanka. Foreign Minister told
Ambassador Thursday that he had sent Ambassador's
letter to the President and would discuss the
issue her that same day.

10. (U) We have been told that new guidance on the
importation of relief and reconstruction items
will be available soon, but the Treasury Secretary
has said that the Government intends to return to
normal duty charges on non-humanitarian relief
supplies, or goods that can be purchased in Sri
Lanka, in order to help local industries. The
following items remain qualified for duty-free
entry: medical supplies, specifically drugs and
equipment; milk powder, infant milk powder and
infant food; roofing material; and, prefabricated

Signature Infrastructure Projects

11. (SBU) A US Army Corps of Engineers team
arrived this week to prepare cost estimates,
procurement options and initial environmental
impact assessments of a number of potential USAID
signature infrastructure projects. Projects
include rebuilding a major bridge in Eastern Sri
Lanka, rehabilitation or rebuilding of 14
vocational-technical schools damaged or destroyed
in the East and South, and reconstruction and
upgrading of three fishing harbors in the South.
The engineers will spend three weeks in Sri Lanka
and work with planners, contractors and USAID Sri
Lanka staff.

US-EU Cooperation

12. (U) The European Union has expressed strong
interest in matching $3.5 million from USAID Sri
Lanka to conduct an international media campaign
aimed at revitalizing the tourism industry. The
campaign's objective is to communicate to the
world that Sri Lanka remains a safe, idyllic
tourist destination ready to receive visitors.
Sites in tsunami-affected areas are making a rapid
recovery, and other highlights of the island's
varied tourism package--including the cultural
triangle, tea plantations, and game parks--were
untouched by the tsunami. The goal is to attract
more tourists, encourage them to stay longer,
spend more, and enjoy attractions beyond the

Damage Assessments, Phase Two

13. (U) The World Bank (WB), Asian Development
Bank (ADB) and Japanese Bank for International
Cooperation (JBIC) launched a plan for a second
phase of damage assessments approximately three
weeks ago. Last week, however, the GSL announced
that it wanted Government representatives to
comprise 50 percent of the assessment teams (the
plan had been for the teams to consist of staff
representatives with specific sector expertise
from NGOs, multilateral, bilateral and UN
organizations, the private sector and government-
from the national and district levels). Team
composition was worked out, along the lines of the
GSL's request, and phase two assessments and teams
will be deployed starting next Wednesday.
Districts in the North and East will have the
participation of the LTTE. USAID will have
representation on two teams, both in the South.
The teams hope to conclude their assessment work
by April 10.

© Scoop Media

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