Restoring livelihoods will be a key priority in the affected areas in coming years, to help rehabilitate people and prevent large-scale migration to already overcrowded cities (FAO 2004). Fishing communities have been badly affected by the loss of boats, fishing gear, support industries, and aquaculture installations (FAO 2005). Preliminary reports indicate, for instance, that about 80 per cent of the boats in northeast Sri Lanka have been destroyed by the tsunami and more than 5000 fishing families have been displaced. Ten out of the 12 main fishing harbours in the country have been completely devastated, including infrastructure such as ice plants, cold rooms, workshops and slipways (FAO 2005). The impact on fisheries will need to be assessed.
Arable land has been degraded by saline water and could take decades to recover. Farm animals have been killed and crops have been washed away, along with irrigation and drainage facilities (FAO 2005).
Tourism, a key economic activity in many of the affected areas, has been badly affected by the loss of infrastructure and environmental damage. Tourist resorts, including in Thailand and the Maldives, were hard hit at the peak of seasonal tourism revenue. In the Maldives, where tourism constitutes 95 per cent of the economy and is the country's only source of hard currency (Creel 2003), many diving resorts renowned for their rich marine life were destroyed, along with jetties, harbours and coastal structures (UNOCHA 2005b).