Today, Trudy and I met Dr. Milinda Pathiraja, an architect and engineering professor here in Colombo Sri Lanka, to consult with on our vision of building an ecobrick trauma center from ecobricked waste and earth in Nepal. Trudy asked him whether there were any good examples of structural innovation after all the millions of dollars spent on relief projects in Sri
Lanka after the tsunami in 2004.
“You could almost say nothing.” Said Dr. Pathiraja. “The shelters were the most expensive houses– five times the cost of the usual house. The construction industry did become very wealthy. I knew the people from the industry, they were very eager to receive the funds. The people who gave the money weren’t cognizant to where it went. It was a wasted opportunity. Failure.”
Essentially, it was to the industry’s and NGO’s advantage to build costly buildings so that money could be spent and received fast. Consequently, there was no incentive to build human and community friendly structures– the test of which being whether they were replicable– which they weren’t. Nothing worthwhile was developed!
According to Trudy the effects of the international aid had another dimension “The aid that came in created dependency, not empowerment. The NGOs said they were going to do capacity building as they built structures, but everyone got used to receiving aid and having free things built for them. The aid was really the second tsunami, that just created another disaster.”