Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Census Department releases tsunami impact statistics

How badly hit we are

Article from the Daily News, Colombo

BY DR. AMARA Satharasinghe, Deputy Director Department of Census and Statistics

THE biggest challenge that the Government is facing is bringing the lifestyle of the tsunami affected people to normalcy. This requires reconstruction of their damaged houses and providing them livelihood assets such as boats for affected fishing communities.

Reconstruction of the damaged infrastructure facilities is another high priority need. For planning and decision making on the rebuilding the nation devastated by this disaster, it is essential to have reliable and accurate information on the impact on the lives and properties caused by the disaster.

The Department of Census and Statistics conducted a census covering all affected districts to evaluate the damages to the lives and the buildings in the affected areas. This census was conducted in two stages.

All the buildings including those wiped out were listed during the stage 1 by updating the list of buildings prepared for conducting the Census of Population and Housing - 2001.

In addition to the listing of buildings, some information required to compile a set of key indicators on the damages to the buildings was also collected in this stage.

Detailed data collection was carried out during stage 2. Preliminary reports presenting the information collected during stage 1 of the census have been released for all the affected districts including those in the Northern and Eastern Provinces.

This census was conducted in all affected districts namely, Puttalam, Gampaha, Colombo, Kalutara, Galle, Matara, Hambantota, Ampara, Batticaloa, Trincomalee, Mulativu and Jaffna districts. Enumeration was done only in the affected census blocks of these districts, and it was conducted in two stages.

Sri Lanka is consisting of 9 provinces, 25 districts, 325 Divisional Secretary divisions and about 14,000 Grama Niladhari divisions. For the purpose of Census of Population and Housing - 2001 conducted by the department, each GN division was further subdivided into a few smaller areas called Census Blocks.

The objective of this sub division was to ensure that the enumerator assigned for the Census Block completes his field work on the final count within a given short period of time (about 6 - 12 hours). For urban areas, a census block included about 80 housing units while in rural and estate areas a census block included about 65 housing units,

Generally, the first step in any census taking operation is to update the list of all buildings to be enumerated and this list is used as the sampling frame for subsequent surveys. A frame consisting of all buildings for Sri Lanka was compiled for the Census of Population and Housing - 2001.

This frame pertaining to the affected census blocks was updated by the field staff. This frame was revised giving due consideration to the new buildings that have been constructed and demolished after the year 2001.

To provide information immediately needed for planning purposes, some key information pertaining to the buildings and the occupants was collected during the listing stage. The information collected during the listing stage is given below.

a. Postal address before the disaster

b. Name of the head of the household before the disaster

c. Type of building before the disaster: Housing Unit; Living Quarter, Institute; Non - Housing Unit

d. Whether the building is still existing

e. Present condition of the building (Completely damaged; partially damaged and cannot be used, partially damaged and can be used, not damaged)

f. Number of persons who lived in the building before the disaster g. No. of persons currently living h. Where do the usual residents of the unit now living (same unit, with friends/relatives; camp etc)

i. Address of the occupants if living outside the unit after the disaster

j. Economic activity of the unit before the disaster

k. Whether the economic activities are still carried out

Detailed information on the damages to the lives and buildings caused by the disaster was collected at the second stage of the census. Field staff of the department enumerated the occupants of the damaged buildings.

In the case of the completely damaged buildings attempts were made as far as possible to track where the occupants of such buildings were currently living and to collect the information by visiting them.

Data collection instruments (questionnaires) were so designed that some key indicators could be compiled before the commencement of computerization of completed questionnaires with the objective of releasing required key information soon after the data collection is over.

Preliminary reports presenting the findings based on the quick manual processing of data collected at the first stage of the census have already been released. These reports have been published in the Department's website: www.statistics.gov.lk.

Several key indicators have been compiled at District, DS division and GN division levels, based on the data collected during the first stage of the census.

These indicators include number of affected GN divisions, Number of affected Census Blocks, number of buildings (housing and other) in the affected census blocks before the disaster, condition of building after the disaster (completely damaged, partially damaged and cannot be used, partially damaged and can be used). Indicators were compiled for housing units as well as for other types of buildings.

In the affected Divisional Secretary (DS) divisions, there are 1971 GN divisions. Out of these GN divisions, 32 percent has been reported to be affected. Total number of census blocks in the affected GN divisions is 4,880. Of these census block, 2,611 i.e. 54 percent has been affected by the disaster.

Housing units
There had been 158,011 buildings used as housing units in the affected census blocks of Sri Lanka before the disaster. Of these buildings 25 percent have been completely damaged. Another 6 percent have been partially damaged and not usable.

That is, little over 30 percent of the housing units have been either completely wiped out or damaged to the extent that those cannot be used any longer. Percentage of buildings damaged but usable is 24 percent. The balance 44 percent of the buildings have not been affected.

The highest share of 49 percent, of the completely or partially damaged housing units is reported from the Eastern Province.

The next highest share of 23 percent was reported from the Southern Province. Western Province and Northern Provinces accounted for 15 percent and 13 percent of the completely or partially damaged housing units, respectively.

In the North Western Province, only Wennappuwa DS division of Puttalam district was affected and number of housing units affected was only 54.

When compared across the districts, highest number of housing units, damaged either completely or partially and unusable, was reported from the Ampara district. Total number of such buildings reported for Ampara district was 10,566.

This is followed by the Batticaloa and Galle districts and the corresponding numbers were 9,905 and 6,169 units respectively.

(To be Continued)