Majority of the 50000 houses India had pledged to build for the war-affected in North Sri Lanka will be new ones. Only a small number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) will be handed over renovated houses.
A Sri Lankan government statement had claimed earlier this week that India would actually build only 5000 houses and repair the remaining 45000.
Existing houses only for a smaller number of IDPs would be repaired if they so wish, the High Commission of India clarified in statement on Friday.
The scope and status of this massive Indian project for the displaced Tamils were questioned earlier this week by two developments: first, the local Sunday Times newspaper indicated that the project could have been halted because of a directive from the Economic Development Ministry. Subsequently, while issuing a statement denying the news report, the Ministry said the Indian project consisted of constructing "5000 new houses and repair of 45000 houses."
Both the news report and the subsequent denial from the ministry cast doubts on the project announced with much fanfare during President Mahinda Rajapaksa's India visit in June after he accepted the offer from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
Friday's statement from the High Commission of India seemed to be an attempt to clear the confusion. "Given the ground situation, it is envisaged that bulk of their housing needs will be met by construction of new dwelling units. However, the project will also cater to the needs of a smaller number of IDPs who may wish to have their damaged houses repaired," the High Commission statement said.
The pilot project to build the first 1000 houses was launched in November.
The statement further stated that while shelter was the primary focus, the project would also tap the potential of creating livelihood. "The Indian agencies executing this project will make every effort necessary to source materials, labour and expertise locally wherever available," it said.