Tsunami recovery costs $1.5 billion in Sri Lanka

The tsunami contaminated most local water sources in the Northern, Eastern and Southern provinces of Sri Lanka.

The tsunami contaminated most local water sources in the Northern, Eastern and Southern provinces of Sri Lanka. A multi-donor study conducted by the ADB, JBIC and World Bank, provides a preliminary assessment of damages and needs in the aftermath of the tsunami.

Disaster relief efforts are slowly transitioning into reconstruction projects in the coastal regions of India, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Thailand and the Maldives following the devastating tsunami that killed an estimated 200,000 people and left 1.5 million people homeless on 26 December.

Financial aid, medical assistance, food, water and other assistance are being provided to tsunami-damaged regions from many international organisations, governments, non-profit organisations, charities, financial institutions and hundreds of private companies. Losses are estimated to total more than US$ 6 billion from the tsunami, which ranks as one of the worst disasters in modern history.

A preliminary damage and needs assessment report released on 2 February by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC) and the World Bank determined that Sri Lanka will need an estimated US$ 1.5 billion in recovery and reconstruction funds.

Given the wide scope of the Sri Lanka report, the JBIC focused on damages to the water and sanitation sectors, which sustained US$ 42 million in damages. According to the report, the tsunami disaster affected 14 districts in the Northern, Eastern and Southern provinces of Sri Lanka. Most local water sources are now contaminated from saltwater intrusion or sewage. Most residents depend on water wells in these provinces, where saltwater intrusion damaged an estimated 62,000 wells. Cleaning/flushing of these wells is an urgent public health need prior to communities re-settling in affected areas. The report estimated the cost of cleaning/flushing of 12,000 existing dug and tubewells to be US$ 3 million. Some 850 wells have been cleaned, as of early February.

The report described the current condition of water wells in the tsunami-hit region: “Some wells have been found to be beyond recover, with high pollution of the aquifer and/or irrecoverable physical damage due to changed topography. There is an urgent need to assess the physical damage to wells and water quality of wells in affected areas including privately owned wells. Some of the wells are recoverable by extraction of saline water although careful attention should be paid not to over-extract as it may cause further penetration from seawater. Other wells contaminated heavily by seawater should be abandoned and an alternate water resource, (in some cases through new pipe-borne systems) should be secured. But it is noted that the well supply will not be a significant water resource in the coastal area of the Southern region.”

The National Water Supply and Drainage Board immediately repaired nine pipe systems after the disaster, but much of the piped water supply system is largely out of service because the distribution network sustained significant damage along the shoreline. Damaged sanitation facilities include primarily household latrines and Colombo’s Mt. Lavinia sewerage pump house.

In addition, the crushing force of the tsunami waves significantly damaged coastal marine ecosystems, especially in inter-tidal and sub-tidal areas. Land runoff of contaminants, such as wastes and pollutants, debris, soil and organic matter is causing further damage to these ecosystems.

The report estimated recovery costs for water and sanitation infrastructure and equipment to be US$ 117 million. This total includes the cost of immediate restoration of services and long-term projects, such as expanding water supply services to meet growing water demands. Funds are needed to clean, repair or reconstruct damaged wells, and to systematically test water quality over a reasonable period. Damaged water distribution networks must be rehabilitated.

Many low-income families in the tsunami-hit area did not have access to adequate sanitary facilities before the disaster; therefore the report proposes that hygiene education programs, particularly in relief camps, should complement the physical rehabilitation of water and sanitation infrastructure.

The World Bank announced that it will provide an initial US$ 672 million dollars to help Indonesia, Sri Lanka and the Maldives to make the transition from disaster relief to reconstruction following the tsunami that devastated many coastal areas in these countries. Support for India will be determined in the next few weeks following completion of a needs and damages assessment report.

In addition, the ADB is establishing a US$ 600 million multi-donor Asian Tsunami Trust Fund to provide rapid reconstruction and technical assistance to countries most affected by the disaster. An additional US$ 175 million in funding under existing ADB projects will be shifted into the tsunami recovery effort.

Water industry aids tsunami relief

The overwhelming devastation of the tsunami resulted in a huge outpouring of financial support from hundreds of private companies, professional associations and institutions throughout the world. The water and wastewater industry responded immediately by sending donations in equipment, supplies, and volunteer technical support in addition to financial support.

ITT Industries shipped 80 ST1 diesel-powered water treatment units and 10 reverse osmosis systems that, in total, can meet the daily needs of 800,000 people in Sri Lanka. The company also shipped 200 gas-fed chlorinators and donated US$ 500,000 to global aid agencies working on the tsunami relief effort.

GE Infrastructure, Water & Process Technologies donated two 52-ft mobile water treatment units and the resources of 50+ GE engineers, scientists and project managers to provide safe drinking water to 220,000 Indonesians per day. GE is working with the Indonesian government and relief agencies to coordinate water distribution. GE Energy donated a mobile fleet of generators and engineers to power the mobile units. GE also donated three water purification systems to the Thai Red Cross that will aid 5,000 people in shelter centres.

Norit N.V/X-Flow and PWN of The Netherlands donated 20 compact Protector-E water treatment units, complete with power generators. Each unit uses a combination of membrane filtration with ultraviolet light sterilisation, has a capacity of 2,000 litres per hour, and can supply 5,000 people with clean water.

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