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Sunday, 5 May 2013

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Priority for people living in close proximity:

Boost for salt industry in East



Women working in a saltern in Puttalam


The Kumburupiddi saltern site

The Government Information Department has organised a series of awareness campaigns and workshops to make provincial journalists aware about development projects at district level. In line with the workshops and awareness campaigns the Government Information Department has organised several development tours consisting of the media personnel representing media institutions in Colombo.

The Department conducted a series of workshops under the theme "the Role of Provincial Journalists in District Development" in various parts of the country last year.

A workshop was held at the Trincomalee District Secretariat under the same theme. Several development sites such as the Trincomalee General Hospital, Kappalthurai Industrial Park, Eastern Saltern project implemented under the Neganahira Navodhaya, Codbay Fishery harbour and the paddy store of the Paddy Marketing Board (PMB) in Trincomalee were visited by the media personnel from electronic and print media.

During the visit to the Kappalthurai Industrial Park, Regional Industrial Director, Eastern Province Nalaka Ratnayaka said the Trincomalee district is gifted with natural resources including human resources. Once the ongoing projects are completed it will be a state-of-the-art district. There are several major development projects implemented by the Government along with the private sector, he said.

The Raigam Eastern Salt Company Limited, a subsidiary of Raigam Group of Companies has invested in the Kumburupiddi Saltern in Kuchchaveli under the Neganahira Navodhaya accelerated eastern development drive. In an area containing 1,800 acres the Saltern will be set in an extent of 400 acres and the remaining area will be maintained as a water retention area. The total estimated cost of the project is Rs. 900 million of which Rs. 200 million has already been invested.

Five-hundred direct jobs could be given, 150 of which have been given. During the season a large number of workers will be required to crush salt in the field and employment opportunities will increase twofold. Priority will be given to the people residing in close proximity to the saltern. A large number will receive indirect employments too. Nearly 10,000 metric tons of salt is imported per year. Around 170,000 metric tons of salt is required every year. Fifty thousand metric tons of salt was imported before the Raigam entered production industry. After we started the projects in Puttalam and Hambantota, the import of salt declined drastically. But still 10,000 to 20,000 metric tons of salt is imported, Finance Manager, Perera said.

"It is hoped to produce 30,000 metric tons of salt per year while providing 800 direct and indirect employments. During a development tour organised by the Government Information Department M.R. Perera said the project will be implemented in three phases. Under the first phase a Saltern will be set up. Under the second phase produced salt will be processed and a refinery will be set up under the third phase, and distribution network prepared.

"We also hope to improve the living and economic standards of the people in the region. We have also implemented a large number of sub projects parallel to the Saltern project", he said.

Saltern in Hambantota
A saltern in Puttalam

"The surrounding areas of the site is occupied by the fishery community and we have taken steps to improve their living and economic standards in line with the Saltern project. The people residing in close proximity to the Saltern will be permitted to catch prawns and fish in the water retention area without hampering the project.

"Plans are afoot to breed fingerling in the water retention area. We will develop facilities in the retention area to facilitate the fish breeding. There are several natural prawn breeding locations in the area. We will provide opportunity to the people to catch prawns in these places", the Finance Manager Perera said.

"There is a small prawn variety called Artemia, which is imported. We have allocated an area in the site to breed Artemia. Imports of Artemia will then be reduced. The fishing community will receive ample benefits via the project," Perera said.

We conducted a series of studies in relation to the life pattern of the fishing community in the area and released Rs. 2.5 million worth fingerling and prawns to the water retention area. The fishermen have understood what we have planned and extended support to carry out the development works uninterruptedly, the Finance Manager said.

He expressed confidence that the livelihood of the fishing community in the area will be improved parallel to the project.

We also do CSR activities in the area. The people approach us for assistance to develop the Montessori, Kovils, Temples and development projects to be carried out in the area, he said

The Coordinating Senior Manager Wasantha Weerasekara said the production capacity of Kumburupiddi is 40,000 metric tons. We run two Salterns in Puttalam and Hambantota. Salt production is successful in both places, and refineries have been constructed. Kumburupiddi is the third project of the Raigam Group of Companies. It is expected to be completed by 2015.

Last year 500 metric tons of salt was produced during test production. Nearly 70 percent work in the Saltern has been completed now. Only 30 percent remains while 40,000 metric tons of salt can be produced on completion of project. It would take nearly five years to achieve the target. We hope to produce 30,000 metric tons of salt by 2015. Next year our target is 10,000 metric tons, he said.

Weerasekara said when compared to the production cost transport cost is high. Raigam has selected three locations to reduce the transport cost. A large sum of money is spent to transport salt to various locations in the country. Raigam will be helpful to reduce the transport cost of salt. Hambantota, Puttalam and Trincomalee have been selected with the same view.

"The National Aquaculture Development Authority provides technological assistance. They conducted several studies in the site and have given a plan to set up and operate the Saltern. We have agreed that utmost attention will be paid to the well-being of the people in the area. We work with several institutions, but NAQDA is the main institution working with us closely", he said.

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