Is it helplessness or stubbornness that endangers the lives of Vinodhani and others at Meeriyabedda?

Text and pix by P. D. De Silva

13-year-old A. Vinodhani a grade six student lives with her family on Meeriyabedda Tea Estate in Koslanda. She saw the devastation that was caused by the landslide that took place a few hundred metres from her home on the morning of 29 October 2014. She also knows that the area where her house is has been recognised as a high risk zone and that her parents have been asked to move to a safer place which they have been unable to do for almost a year!

Today, Vinodhani’s family together with 86 neighbouring families live in fear each time it rains hard not knowing at what moment the floor they stand on will slide or sink under them!

The National Building Research Organization (NBRO) has identified the area on which Vinodhani’s house stands is rich in underground springs and highly susceptible to a landslide by circular bearing reference NBRO/LRR MD/BD/L7/31/14551/A. Divisional Secretary Haldumulla Shiromi Jeewamala in turn alerted the residents and requested them by letter dated 30 June 2015 to evacuate their homes sighting the NBRO warning.

The Divisional Secretary’s letter states that action would be taken to grant the house holder an alternative plot of land and also requests them to be vigilant and take every precaution to protect their lives. The electricity to these houses was disconnected as a safety measure and the Little Flower pre-school and the Meeriyabedda Tamil Vidyalaya which were in proximity to these line rooms were relocated.

Keeping to her word the Divisional Secretary has seen that plots of land were allocated to these families. But as at date no assistance has been given to help these daily wage earners to build their dwellings and they still live on unstable land!

The 75 families who were displaced due to the earth slip in October 2014 are to receive cosy little cottages at Poonagala a few kilometres away within the next three months.

“I walk to school each day and if it rains hard I am unable to return home because we have been warned not to cross the path of the former earth-slip and even when I get home I know it is not safe. At the moment there is no place we can take shelter in safety,” said Vinodhini.

“Each time it rains hard we are asked to leave our houses which are said to be in a hazard zone. We don’t have any shelter to go to. I have three children. My eldest son is married and has two kids; we all live in the same house. We were given plots of land close by but we do not have enough money to build new houses. We earn a daily wage which is not enough to buy our food,” lamented 53-year-old Pushparani.

“I have two children and we live in fear each time it rains hard. We have been asked not to stay in our houses if it rains hard but we do not have a place to go,” said Vijayakumari a resident of a line room in Meeriyabedda Estate.

“The authorities worry about us only when it rains. They send the police and ask us to leave our houses. We do not have anywhere to take shelter. They should help us build a new house. The place where we have been allocated land is further away from here. Our children have a long walk to school and it costs Rs. 700 a month to send one child by three-wheeler,” said S. Kandasamy a kangani at the Meeriyabedda Tea Estate.

Shiromi Jeewamala said, “There are many places within my area which have been recognised as areas where landslides could occur. The area in reference is where the number 14 and 15 line rooms are situated. We are unable to provide all of them with houses similar to the ones that were provided to the families affected by the landslide. But we hope to provide them with some assistance to build their houses. I have brought up the issue at the Badulla District Committee too. I have advised these people to use whatever resources they have and move out without endangering their lives and the lives of their loved ones when they know very well that they are living in a high risk area.”  – See more at: http://www.ft.lk/article/539201/Is-it-helplessness-or-stubbornness-that-endangers-the-lives-of-Vinodhani-and-others-at-Meeriyabedda?#sthash.3DYicgzN.dpuf