AUROVILLE TSUNAMI RELIEF AND REHABILITATION PROGRAM
Under the umbrella of the Auroville Village Action Group, the Auroville Tsunami Relief and Rehabilitation Centre has been functioning since December 26 th , the day the tsunami hit the Tamil Nadu coast. In the first months its main task was to provide immediate need-based emergency relief to the residents of 24 affected villages and communities, all located in the Auroville area. We have now moved into the longer-term rehabilitation phase, with attention for shelters and infrastructure, livelihood issues and ecological restoration. A tsunami-related Knowledge Centre will ensure that all concerned parties can share all our designs, practices and experiences. A core group of 25 volunteers have taken up tasks ranging from overall coordination, communication, financial management to organizing volunteers for field work. All activities are being carried out in close collaboration with village residents and government authorities.
By means of the following brief summary, we like to inform you about our implemented and planned activities.
Phase 1: EMERGENCY RELIEF
Immediately after the tsunami hit in the early hours of December the 26 th of last year, a group of concerned Aurovilians met. Faced with the influx of fleeing village residents, they decided to immediately open an emergency relief camp. In total 2500 affected villagers were given food and shelter during the three days the relief camp was functioning.
Twenty-four villages and communities were identified as Auroville's main concern. On the basis of need assessments, it was decided to immediately start distribution of food and non-food items like blankets, clothes and school materials. By now most distribution activities have been completed, but close monitoring of the situation in the villages continues.
Until March 1, a group of 50 to100 volunteers have been working in the villages daily to remove the waste and debris laying on village streets and lands. The work is now continued under the Cash-for-Work program project, in which village residents are offered wages in return for cleaning work.
A special team is taking care of the needs of the nine Auroville beach communities and its residents. Depending on needs, individuals and families have been relocated, urgent individual financial needs have been met, cleaning activities have been undertaken, infrastructure and house repairs have taken place, and damaged fences have been resurrected.
Pending issues are: company losses, house repairs, excess salinity level of the water and potential electrical problems due to corrosion of cables by the sea water intrusion. Depending on the available funds and the urgency of activities, further action on these issues will be taken.
Phase 2: REHABILITATION
To facilitate the much longer-term rehabilitation phase, an overall program coordination infrastructure has been put in place. The worldwide Irish charity organization Concern has offered to partner with the Auroville Tsunami Rehabilitation Centre for the livelihood and shelter projects. The UK-based organization Save the Children has partnered with the Auroville Building Centre for the design of pre-crèche Integrated Child Development Centers for all Tamil Nadu. Save the Children has committed itself to build 28 ICDS-centers in Auroville's area of concern.
In order to ensure the input of the affected villagers and to guarantee a need-based approach for all our activities, a Paalam structure has been set up, in which each village or community is represented by one Panchayat member, one woman, one youth and, if possible, one teacher. The Paalams , meaning bridge in Tamil, meet every week and form an indispensable source of reflection and information for all our projects.
The Rehabilitation Program consists of four distinct but very much interlinked projects:
In order to share information, expertise and ideas among the various organizations contributing to tsunami-related efforts in South India and to foster better coordination among NGOs, donor organizations, Government agencies, and volunteers, a Knowledge and Coordination Centre has been established. This Centre, organized and implemented by Auroville, will function as an interactive information platform for the collecting and sharing of knowledge, the spreading of best practices and the development of consensus on rehabilitation strategies and implementation. The aim is to create a coordination and information-sharing model that will be useable in any future disaster emergency.
The Knowledge Centre exists in two locations, a physical office and a virtual office in the form of a website. The physical office in Auroville is open and there is an ongoing collection of data. The website is under construction and will go online in the first week of April.
A main issue of rehabilitation is providing new shelters to tsunami-affected villagers. An implementation strategy to facilitate the construction of up to 1000 new shelters and accompanying infrastructure is being formulated and villages have been identified. Infrastructural solutions concerning planning, land development, roads, multi-purpose community facilities, electricity and renewable energy, water, rainwater harvesting, wastewater treatment, and sanitation are part of this project. Auroville has solutions and related training and management models for housing and infrastructural needs, tested and ready for implementation. A group of Auroville architects has created a number of house designs which have been presented to potential future residents, Government officials and other NGOs for feedback. On a designated piece of land, prototypes of the designs will soon be built. The prototype land will be part of the Knowledge Centre.
The Tamil Nadu Government has provided temporary shelters to a very large section of the people who have lost their houses as a result of the tsunami. In some villages there was no land immediately available, so there is still a need among some sections of the population for temporary shelters. Auroville is willing to provide materials, such as poles and thatch (keet). At the moment we are waiting for permission from the District authorities.
In an effort to create awareness in the population about the importance of afforestation, not just for protection from tidal waves, but also to combat salt-water intrusion and the further degradation of natural resources, an ecological restoration pilot project is being set up. The project will be implemented in Auroville beach communities and on selected village plots along the coast. A presentation of the ecological restoration plans will be made to the Paalam members who will introduce them to the coastline residents on March 17th. A team of Auroville botanists will take up responsibility for this project.
Vocational training programs for village youth
Auroville is coordinating its training facilities to host vocational trainings, from tailoring to computer skills, for up to 100 youths form the affected villages. Recruitment and information activities have been taking place and training programs on Welding, Mechanics, Computer Software/Hardware and Electronics have started.
A pilot project in which 1050 village women are being offered livelihood workshops in handicrafts with the intention of establishing self-sustaining women's cooperatives is taking place in seven villages. In cooperation with Upasana, an Auroville fashion design unit, three modules have been developed for producing complimentary gadgets made from left-over cloth. The easily marketable gadget prototypes have been developed by students from the Chennai-based National Institute for Fashion Technology. The pilot project will be comprehensively documented and used as a model for implementation in other parts of India .
Other livelihood programs with the intention of establishing self-sustaining units, such as a paper bag producing workshop and a papier maché workshop, are being initiated.
The Cash for Work program is daily employing residents of tsunami affected villages to further clean up the village. In order to keep the living surrounding clean, community leaders have showed interest in setting up a solid waste management system in cooperation with the Auroville Eco-service.
Fifty of approximately 170 fishing boat engines have been repaired by an Auroville mechanics team, and 120 more are in the process. A boat repair survey will take place soon and a strategy for the repairing of boats is being formulated.
The Tamil Nadu Government has offered 100% compensation for the wooden catamarans and nets, which will benefit a large section of the fishermen population. For the more expensive fibre boats (or FRP's, Rs. 1,5 lakh each), in use by another large section of the fishermen, the Government has offered a 50% grant. The remaining 50% would be in the form of a loan or NGO's could step in and con-finance the replacement of these boats. As soon as the Government has finished its survey of losses and finalized its refunding policies, we will propose in which way we can contribute to the rehabilitation of these fishermen's livelihoods.Auroville Tsunami Relief and Rehabilitation Centre