New ports and airports would bring about prosperity - Minister
Government’s Mega development drive:
Minister of Ports and Aviation and Minister of Irrigation and Water
Here in an exclusive interview with Sunday Observer, Minister of
Ports and Aviation and Minister of Irrigation and Water Management
Chamal Rajapaksa express the vision behind the government’s mega
development drive and the long term and immediate benefits that it would
bring about. Excerpts of the interview.
Q: With the liberation of the East from the clutches of the LTTE and
transition of power to a civilian administration following an election,
the long- held up project of the construction of Oluvil harbour has
commenced. What are the overall benefits that it would bring to the
region which suffered for years from the protracted conflict that
reduced it to zero?
A: Though the construction of Oluvil harbour has been on paper for
ten years, little effort was made to translate it into reality. But
during the presidential election held in 2005, President Mahinda
Rajapaksa clearly stated in the manifesto Mahinda Chinthanaya that the
port of Oluvil will be constructed.
Following the dawn of peace to the East, considering the development
drive for the region, we were able to obtain an interest free loan of
Euro 46 billions from Denmark for the construction of the Oluvil port.
Basically the Oluvil harbour will consist of commercial and fisheries
Model of proposed Weerawila Airport
Master plan of Oluvil Harbour
The proposed Oluvil harbour is located 8km north of Akkaraipattu and
17km south of Kalmunai. The harbour basin would cover an area of 16ha of
the sea and would span 1.2 km along the coast. In the first phase of the
construction, the harbour will facilitate ships weighing 5000 tons and
fishing harbour will facilitate multi-day fishing crafts.
This part of the coastline is famous for a good catch of fish
especially the tuna. Once the construction is completed, the catch can
be brought to the fisheries harbour and processing industry will emerge
with much value addition to the products.
In the second stage, plans are afoot to construct industrial zones
associated with the port. The port will enable paddy farmers to obtain a
fare price for their agricultural products and the establishment of
industries associated with agriculture. The bumper harvest of paddy can
be transported to Colombo and Galle via sea routes.
It is expected to create about thousand employment employment
opportunities during the construction of the first phase. Ports
Authority (SLPA) and the Denmark contractors MT Hojgaard signed the
Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for the construction of Oluvil Port
Project on March 13, 2008.
Denmark Construction Company MT Hojgaard will engage in the
construction of the port while the Denmark Government provides financial
assistance. The Project worth Euro Million 46.1 is scheduled to be
completed within 27 months.
The construction of the port will be completed in four years. On
completion the port will provide facilities for medium size ships
weighing 15,000 tones. Oluvil port will definitely be a boost to the
tourism industry along the coastline from Kalkuda, Pasikuda and
In addition to the development of network of roads connecting the
port to neighbouring towns and villages, domestic airports will be
constructed in Trincomalee, Batticaloa and Ampara. These domestic
airports will not only help boost tourism industry but enable regional
business personnel to fly to Colombo in approximately one hour’s time.
We hope that budget airlines such as Mihin Air and other domestic
carriers would commence air-taxi services between Colombo and domestic
airports. It is for the first time that government has launched a mega
development drive to develop ports in Trincomalee, Kankasanthurai,
Oluvil, Hambantota, Galle and Colombo North Port at a cost of 45 billion
If the people experience inconvenience now, it will be over in four
years and unprecedented development would bring about, creating
thousands of employment and bringing influx of foreign exchange into the
country. There will be an economic boom.
Q: What is the progressed achieved so far in the construction of the
Port of Hambantota and Airport in Weerawila?
A: Already twenty percent of the construction in the first stage of
Hambantota port has been completed. I would like to state that we are
ahead of time. We hope to complete the construction even before the
The Port of Hambantota will be a Service and Industrial Port. It
could also be developed into a transshipment port with the increasing
volume of cargo. A short term plan has been made to serve Hambantota
port as a service port in the first phase to cater for the immediate
demand created by passing vessels.
The Port of Hambantota will be an international port five times
bigger than the port of Colombo. The Main components are two nos. of
berth with 500m length, and the Breakwater of about 1.8 km and the
proposed port will have depth of 15m.
Currently about 200 ships sail passing Hambantota. A considerable
income could be generated only by supplying service to the ships and the
port will help develop districts of Hambantota, Monaragala and
The network of roads connecting the proposed port to neighbouring
villages and townships has already been developed. The Hambantota
Massive Development Zone (HMDZ) has now been extended up to Buththala,
Wellawaya, Sevanagala and Tanamalwila.
It is expected that industries would be set up in those areas.
Environment Impact Report of the Hambantota air port has already been
done and the lands that will be acquired for the Airport have been
People whose lands will be acquired for the airport will be given
alternative lands and houses will be constructed for those people whose
houses will come under the airport.
In addition, they will be paid compensation. The construction of the
Airport will commence in two month’s time.
Bandaranaike International Airport will be expanded and areas have
already been assigned for the construction of the second runway to the
Government has shifted its aviation policy to an open sky policy and
bilateral air agreements have been signed with several nations. Plan for
the construction of dedicated budget terminal has been finalized and
this would attract host of budget airlines to the airport such as Air
Asia and Silk Air. Overall Development
Q: What are the projects in the pipeline in the area of irrigation?
A: Within the past two years country saw an overall development in
the arena of irrigation. We have commenced work on Daduru Oya scheme in
North-Western Province. In the North, we have commenced Rabukan Oya
irrigation scheme in Maha Oya provincial Secretariat Division.
It is an ancient irrigation scheme which commenced in the reign of
king Tissa and we have renovated it.Rehabilitation of Galoya scheme has
commenced under the title “Galoya Nawodaya”.
We hope to develop Hada Oya in Lahugala in Ampara, Pahala Uva
irrigation scheme in Monaragala District. Under the Uma Oya diversion
project, water from Uma Oya will be channelled to Wellawaya and feed the
system of tanks stretching from Wellawaya to Hambantota facilitating
cultivation of paddy in large areas with irrigated water, about 12,000
hectares of land.
We also expected to generate 100 megawatt of electricity while
channelling water from Uma Oya to Wellawaya via 26 kilometre tunnel from
Welimada to Wellawaya. It will be the longest tunnel in Sri Lanka and 90
percent of engineers working in the project will be Sri Lankan
It will be constructed with financial aides from Iran.
Construction work on Weheragala tank with a dam across Manik Ganga
has been completed and as expected, water is, now, being channelled to
Lunugam Wehera tank.
The world food crisis would be intensified by 2015.
With the construction of tanks, large area of land will be able to
develop contributing substantially to the increase in food production.
In Hambantota, the Kakiri Oya tank will be constructed and the water
will be channelled to Kirama Oya enabling to supply pipe-borne water to
villages like Walasmulla in addition to irrigating large paddy fields in
It will facilitate cultivation in two seasons and prevents floods
during the rainy reason.
The Department of Irrigation has been conducting a study, exploring
the possibility of managing water in Gin Ganga and Nilwala Ganga
(rivers) and diverting water to Muruthawela and Chandrika Wewa.
All the canals and dams will be renovated and under “Wari Pubuduwa”
in Kurunegala, small-scale tanks in the North-Western province will be
renovated and maintained. We have also embarked on a programme to
protect tanks with the title “Nildiyawara Ketyayata” (Water to the
Under the scheme, an awareness campaign will be launched among the
school children and among the community emphasizing the need to protect
water resources, thus engaging them in the process. They will be
introduced to the hydraulic civilization. The need to protect water is
emphasized with the view to face a predicted water crisis in 2025.
Therefore, we have launched these programmes to educate the
population on the importance of water management. As a MP in 2004, I
started Mauara irrigation scheme in Tissamaharama electorate. Under the
scheme, 33 tanks from Meegahatenna to Bandagiriya are fed with water
throughout the year.
For instance, Malaara (a tank only fed in the rainy season) is now
full of water throughout the year, generating substantial income for the
Another project that I launched was the North Bank of Walawe River
and 66 tanks have been developed in the area with allied infrastructure
such as network of roads and new settlements have been emerged.
I have also developed Battaata Seed Paddy Farm into an Agro-tech-Park
encouraging next generation of youth to engage in agriculture with the
application of latest technology. Sub- research facility for Coconut
Research has been established in Middeniya Farm and mini- coconut
triangle has been identified in an around the area of Walasmulla,
This has encouraged scientific coconut growing and animal husbandry
in the area.
Cultivation of rubber has also been encouraged with a view to tapping
the lucrative international market for natural rubber and rubber
A research centre for small crops such as paper was also set up at
the farm to encourage cultivation of spices. People will feel the
development that is unfolding before their very eyes.