100 Meters of Desoloation

“With the money comin’ in they could have built this whole damn coastline, and I have a feeling that’s what they’re going to do, but they’re going to do it a whole different way.”

–American Activist in Sri Lanka

To the local Sri Lankans, there are two types of people: The Foreigners, and the Foreigners. One type of foreigners are people like the US Marine Corps, who came in shortly after the 2004 Asian Tsunami and helped distrubute foreign aid among the local Sri Lankans living on the coastlines, and even wanted to help rebuild houses, (in which they were denied permission to by the Sri Lankan government). Then there are the other type of foreigners–Not necessarily evil, but moreso oblivious tools as they are the deep pockets of the Sri Lankan economy; Tourists.

In 2010, the Sri Lankan government envisions 1 million tourists visiting Sri Lanka. They estimate that each tourist will spend at least 155 dollars a day. This would push Sri Lanka from #4 of the Foreign Exchange country, to #1. This is what they envisioned for their country 6 years after the Asian Tsunami. An oppertunity to start fresh, starting with 100 meters of desolation.

“The Hyatt is coming” -Ravi

The Sri Lankan government declared that nothing can be rebuilt or constructed 100 meters from the coastline, because of threats of future tsunamis. After talking to, and treating Sri Lankans near the coastline 2 weeks after the tsunami, Cameron an Australian Acupuncturist discovers ulterior motives to this new law. His suspicion begins when he questions a Sri Lankan government official about “why 100 meters?” when the tsunami went as far as an entire kilometer inland. He answers his own question, suggesting that it is convinient that a resort is sitting on the 100 meter line. Toward the end of Dhruv Dhawan’s documentary, “From Dust” the Sri Lankan government changed their policy on the 100 meters, and now allowes commercial development to take place in this “buffer zone” as Faiszer Musthapa, the Deputy Minister of Tourism describes it. Sri Lankans once living within 100 meters of the coastline are now forced into the hills of Sri Lanka, far inland where few have actually been given government land to rebuild their homes, while many lived in tents, waiting for land to rebuild. These 1 million relocated Sri Lankans include Cyrii, a fisherman who has an impeccible skill for fishing. Now that he is forced to move inland, that skill is obsolete, and he will have to find a new way to support his wife and child.

Dhawan follows Ravi extensively, a Sri Lankan intellectual fluent in English. He and his friend’s homes have been demolished by the tsunami, and had to live in tents. Aside from the tents, their only source of aid were clothes given by foreign organizations, while the government had recieved millions from around the world to help tsunami victims. For people like Ravi, that aid never reached them, and unfortunately this an overly common story for the Sri Lankan tsunami victims.

The documentary, From Dust has been screened by the UN Special Screenings, One World Human Rights Film Festival, Australian International Film Festival, Dubai International Film Festival, Kara Film Festival and Tribeca Film Festival.
Reuters describes it as a “classic tale of how developing countries on the long march to prosperity often ride roughshod over the poor.” while Cinematical describes it as “powerfully moving.”

From Dust is a testimony to the overlying fact that natural disasters such as the Asian tsunami are taken advantage by governments such as Sri Lankan, who truly do believe that “blank is beautiful” as said by Naomi Klein.

Cameron started a housing project in Columbo,Sri Lanka, and was given a warning by the Sri Lankan government that the houses must be destroyed. Now in 2009, not only has Cameron’s housing project for the homeless Sri Lankans been rejected by the government, but the land he was been building on has been sold to a private investor.

The Asian tsunami is only a blur to most people today. And as the tsunami’s destruction on Sri Lanka is forgotten around the world, so are the tsunami victims, by their own government.

Even the Tamils have leant a hand to their neighbors, but not the Sri Lankan government.
Perhaps the bigger wonder, is why foreign countries around the world hasn’t stopped to think about where their tsunami relief money has gone.

However, Sri Lanka isn’t the only country that has have exploited foreign aid, and have ulterior motives for “tsunami safety” for their own people. Indonesians, Maldivians, and Indians are all victims to negligence by their own governments.

Nonetheless, we’ve seen this governmental negligence and exploitation a little too close to home. Hurricane Katrina can attest to that.

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