North-East and Beyond: Welcome Developments on Several Fronts

Beyond sweet words and never-ending talks with the TNA and others, on the political front the government has done little so far to indicate concrete movement towards some form of power-sharing. The gradual reduction of lands delimited as High Security Zone is a welcome development albeit rather belated. On the development front, however, there are some very encouraging steps and ventures. Several are identified here through reiteration of news items in print and web sources. Michael Roberts.

Indian railway project in Sri Lanka in full steam

R. K. Radhakrishnan, from The Hindu

With an Indian de-mining team clearing the 107-km stretch of a railway alignment from Medawachchiya to Talaimannar in record time, the Indian Railway Construction Corporation (Ircon) has shifted gears on the construction of a railway line. Ircon is aiming to complete the sections allocated to it in a year-and-a-half. When the ISO-certified de-mining team, Horizon, began its work about eight months ago, it faced a host of obstacles. “We did not know where the alignment was,” said Shashikant Pitre, chairman, Horizon Group. The LTTE had destroyed the alignment and bridges and had taken away the railway track. “The ground was heavily compacted with gravel making the raking to a depth of 15 cm quite difficult,” he added.

This was not the only problem. Over the years, there has been heavy water logging in some of the areas and there were metal remnants all over the alignment. “The presence of metals in such large quantities meant that we will not be able to make use of metal detectors,” said Mr. Pitre, who retired as a Major-General from the Indian Army. There were other problems too. All the bridges, major and minor, had been destroyed. This often meant long detours. “We faced serious logistical problems in the transport of people and heavy equipment,” said Anil Srivastava, Horizon Project Manager inSri Lanka. The actual de-mining took only 25 per cent of the eight months. “From this you can understand how big and serious the logistical problems were. The remaining time was spent on surveys, clearance and marking,” added Mr. Srivastava, a former Colonel with the Indian Army.

As per the contract, Horizon cleared 15 metres from a delineated centre line to either side. In places where stations have been planned this distance goes up to 50 metres clearance. The team said there were only three major confirmed hazard areas, totalling 18,000 square metres. One was between Cheddikulam and Madhu, another between Madhu and Manakkulam and a third between Manakkulam and Mannar.

Horizon, established in 2001 by a few retired Indian Army officers, has been working inSri Lankasince 2003. So far it has cleared an area of 96 and released a total area of 456 for rehabilitation. In the process, it has recovered a total of 1,00,444 devices, comprising 44,000 mines and UXOs (unexploded ordnance). There are two Indian de-mining teams operating inSri Lanka. The larger of the two, Sarvatra, has so far released a land area close to 1,300 in the districts of Mannar, Mullativu and Batticaloa. During 2010 Sarvatra also cleared almost three times as much as its nearest civil demining rival, the British charitable organisation called MAG. During 2010 alone, Sarvatra cleared more than four million square metres, destroying more than 40,000 explosive devices, said Brigadier (retired) S.S. Brar, CEO of Sarvatra.

                                                     **************                                                          ***********************                                            ******************

India to help develop port in Northern Sri Lanka

News item, The Island, 14 May 2011

Two rival economies, both emerging economic superpowers, will assist the government ofSri Lankadevelop the once conflict-torn island-nation. WhileChinadevelops theHambantotaPortin the deep-South, the Indians would soon help develop a port in the North, and analysts believe this gesture on the part of the Sri Lankan government would be more meaningful in terms of reconciliation and inclusive economic development.

The government ofSri Lankasaid it would sign an MOU with the government ofIndiaseeking assistance to develop the Kankasanthurai port (KKS) in the once conflict-torn North. The two-phased development of KKS would involve repairs to the existing break water, jetty and deepening of the harbor while a new breakwater would also be constructed, the government said.

The government said the MOU with the government ofIndiawould be signed shortly. Operations at KKS were hindered due to the 30-year conflict, but it was once a thriving port.  “The government has declared KKS to be one of the ten entry points, both, sea and air, in to the country that would be developed. The development of KKS harbor would facilitate the transportation of goods from nearby Indian ports.  This is considered as one of the important projects in the context of security of the country and the economic and social development ofNorthernPeninsula,” the government said in a statement issued yesterday (5).

All to benefit — Shipping expert Jayantha Rathnayake speaking to The Island Financial Review said the development of KKS would bring benefits to all communities. Not only would Tamil speaking citizens of the North and East benefit immensely from the development of KKS, but Sinhala speaking people in the North-Central Province, which includes Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa, would benefit as well. “More than 95 percent of consignments reach the North via the Port of Colombo, so the development of KKS would give the region a big boost. At the moment, smaller consignments come in from KKS, but if the harbour is deepened to allow bigger ships, the benefits would be tremendous,” Rathnayake, Managing Director of the commercial cluster of the Ceyline Group said.

More than 70 percent of volumes handled bySri Lanka’s main port,Colombo, are transshipment of Indian cargo and Rathnayake said the development of KKS with a deeper draft, would have an almost instantaneous success. “Much has been done to develop theHambantotaPort, but by focusing attention on KKS as well, the government is boosting the prospects for better economic dividends of all Sri Lankans,” he said.

Economic benefits — Senior Economist Prof Sirimal Abeyratne said Sri Lanka had a lot to gain by linking up with India’s economy. “India is emerging as a global economic powerhouse so Sri Lanka can benefit by deepening its economic ties with India because it is such a huge market. India’s economy would grow with or without Sri Lanka. But if we are to grow strongly ourselves, then we must deepen our access to Indian markets,” Prof Abeyratne, a senior economics lecturer at the University of Colombo said,

Anushka Wijesinha, Research Officer of the Institute of Policy Studies, said the government ofSri Lankashould ensure that the development of KKS incorporated broader industrial development, including the development of industrial zones and parks around the area.

“A good start is the Achchuveli Industrial Zone currently being developed inJaffna. Public-private partnerships could be considered in this regard, as it is done in Hambantota,” he said speaking to The Island Financial Review. Wijesinha went on to say the development of KKS would ensureJaffnaemerged asSri Lanka’s Northern hub.

FDI flows. — In 2010, foreign direct investments into Sri Lanka declined 14.14 percent to US$ 516 million during the first full year of peace since the thirty-year conflict ended in 2009. In 2009, FDI inflows had amounted to 601 million. India topped the list with FDIs amounting to US$ 110 million in 2010, followed by Malaysia (US$ 72 million) and the UAE (US$ 66 million). Authorities say FDIs would reach US$ 1 billion this year, but the IMF has a more conservative estimate of nearly US$ 900 million.

                                                 ********************                               *******************                                  ****************

 KKS: regional port for N-E cargo

Ravi Ladduwahetty in the Daily News, 14 May 2011

The government will develop the Kankesanthurai port as a regional port, geared for Indian cargo for the North andEasternProvinces. The project will also be funded from the Indian government under its assistance for Northern andEastern Sri Lanka, billed to be complete in two years. ‘The rationale behind the development of the KKS port will be to have it as a regional port which will be used for the Jaffna and Trincomalee- bound cargo from Indian port cities such as Tuticorin and Madras, which will be essentially cement, fertilizer’ and food items, such as, onions, Sri Lanka Ports Authority Chairman Dr Priyath Bandu Wickrema told Daily News yesterday.

The port, will be a regional port, and would not either be for transhipment cargo or a location for the sixth generation mega carriers, but for small ships which are not even container carriers, but for break-bulk cargo and bags. The KKS port, when fully developed, will have a draft of only eight feet, he said.

Cabinet approval for the project has already been given and a Memorandum of Understanding will also be signed between the Governments of India andSri Lanka. The signatory to the MoU on the Sri Lankan side will be Ports Ministry Secretary Sujatha Cooray. The Indian Government signatory is not known yet. There had also been a high powered visiting Indian team of officials including those of the Indian Shipping Corporation who had been inColomboand Kankesanthurai on an exploratory mission.

There will be a US$ 40 million grant from the Indian Government, meant for the preliminary feasibility study, which has already commenced now which will be followed by the dredging and the development of the breakwater and the construction of the quay wall.

There will be a loan also from the Indian Government, the amount and the terms of which have not been determined yet, but will made be after the preliminary feasibility has been completed.

The development of the KKS port will also merge additional synergies with the possibility of transporting agri-produce fromJaffnaby sea toColombo,Galle, Hambantota, Trincomalee, slashing transit times, hitherto done in lorries. However, containerized cargo forming the bulk of imports and exports from and toIndia, will have to be channelled throughColombo.

Sri Lanka Navy Media spokesman Commander Kosala Warnakulasuriya told the Daily News that the Navy will use the KKS port, when rebuilt, to replenish its vessels sailing in the area with fuel, water and provisions while transporting its sailors and cargo as well and will continue to use it as the base in the northern peninsula. When the port is fully developed, it will be used by the merchant shipping vessels as well to transport cargo to and from the north such as building materials to KKS and vegetables from the North as well, he said. The Navy was using the port even during the time of the conflict and that was one of the few locations in the northern peninsula to be free of terrorist attack. The KKS port which was originally built to transport cement from the KKS factory, will useful with the government deciding to rebuild the cement factory as well.


Cabinet approves US $ 164 mn water supply project for Jaffna, Killinochchi

 Zacki Jabbar in The Island, 14 May 2011

The Cabinet of Ministers have approved the implementation of a US$ 164 millionJaffna, Kilinochchi water supply and sanitation project. Media Minister Keheliya Rambukwella told journalists inColomboon Thursday that the Memorandum, seeking Cabinet approval for the project, was submitted by Water Supply and Drainage Minister Dinesh Gunawardena. The ADB, AFD and International Fund for Agricultural Development have agreed to contribute a total of US $138 million, he said. Rambukwella said that the project, expected to be completed in 2017, would benefit about 300,000 people living in theJaffnaPeninsulaand Kilinochchi District.

Leave a comment

Filed under Indian Ocean politics, island economy, power sharing, Rajapaksa regime, reconciliation, Sinhala-Tamil Relations, welfare & philanthophy

Leave a Reply