Indian Ocean Tsunami Response (2005)

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On December 26, 2004 a Tsunami was triggered in the Indian Ocean. It was caused by an undersea earthquake of magnitude 9 with its epicentre close to Sumatra. Tremors from the earthquake were felt on the Andaman and Nicobar Islands before the sea came inland in a furious surge. 3513 people were recorded as dead and missing, in the aftermath of the Tsunami, in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. The Tsunami had a devastating impact on physical, social and economic aspects of life in the islands. The damage to homes, sources of livelihood and infrastructure was extensive. SEEDS reached Port Blair, Andaman within 60 hours with relief and intermediate shelter. These were later extended to South Andaman and Little Andaman.

Two relief camps were established at Port Blair, where the affected people from different islands were being brought, and a third camp was later added. A community kitchen was established in a colony of fishermen to support people who had not moved into the camps. Relief kits containing all the essential items needed to meet a family’s immediate requirements were distributed and psycho-social support was offered to support people overcome the trauma and sense of loss that they were feeling. Intermediate shelter was provided for 354 families in 8 weeks in Nanjappa Nagar area of Hutbay, Little Andaman.

SEEDS needed to construct the houses on the islands immediately since the Tsunami survivors desperately needed some kind of shelter to survive the harsh conditions prevailing during monsoon rains. The approved intermediate shelters were designed in blocks of 4 units (for tribal) and 6 units (for non-tribal) with each unit functioning separately with its own kitchen. A rainwater harvesting system was designed to enable beneficiaries to collect water for home use, but the storage capacity was undersized and could not cope with sustained periods of heavy rain. A small roof projection also contributed to the waterlogging of the site.

The scope for innovation in the project was limited by the fact that all organisations engaged in shelter development were required to follow design and materials prescribed by the government. For construction work ,SEEDS mobilised the “SEEDS Mason Association” (SMA), which had been developed and trained in Safe Construction Technologies after the Gujarat earthquake, to lead the initiative. The work was overseen by the “SEEDS Structural Mitigation Response (technical) team”. The beneficiary families contributed with manual labour; digging the foundations, carrying pipes and sheets and helping with the construction. This process gave them employment; keeping them occupied, earning them a livelihood and enabling them to play a role in the construction of their houses. One of the problems faced initially was that the settlement had to be established in a freshly-cleared low lying area; allocated by the government for rehabilitation. This led to shelter sites getting waterlogged and also caused rusting of pipes. There were also problems accessing the toilets after rain due to swampy conditions. To improve living conditions drainage plans were designed for the local area and drains were constructed in collaboration with local authorities. SEEDS also constructed a community centre using locally appropriate “Bamboo and Thatch Technology” for community gatherings, public meetings, and clean playing space for children. All the structures were constructed using G.I. sheets and structural framework of steel tubes.