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Following the Asian tsunami of 26 December 2004, the vital domestic fresh-water wells in the coastal zone were either scoured out of the ground entirely or filled with salt water, mud, debris and bodies. Emergency teams naturally exerted huge efforts in trying to restore intact wells, first clearing and then pumping them out. However, it soon became apparent little could be done to rehabilitate the wells in the short term due to the massive intrusion of saline groundwater as well as the fundamentally unsatisfactory nature of local water supply and drainage arrangements. Based on a study carried out on 64 wells in the Ampara district a month after the event, this paper identifies the long-standing issues that need to be solved before a reliable water supply can be established in the coastal zone.

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