Playing catch-up

Print edition : November 16, 2012

SOON after the Eelam War IV ended, the Sri Lankan government began moving into Northern Province with its infrastructure development programme. Of course, there was generous help from the international communityinitially for relief and demining and later for rehabilitation and infrastructure development.

Northern Province has five districtsJaffna, Mullaithivu, Mannar, Vavuniya and Kilinochchi spread over 8,884 sq km. The war caused extensive damage to public infrastructure, including roads, and to private property. The loss of livelihood meant there was nothing to spur economic activity.

Imelda Sukumar, former Government Agent, Jaffna, who was one of the Tamil faces of Sri Lanka in international fora, has in her presentations to visiting dignitaries outlined how the government got its act together. The government immediately utilised its resources and rebuilt sectors, including housing, water supply and sanitation facilities, hospitals, schools, she said in one presentation.

Several mammoth projects were initiated and most of them are still being executed. Among them are the reconstruction of railway lines with intra- and inter-province connectivity; the Vavuniya and Jaffna National Highway; bridges to connect Jaffna with Vavuniya and Mullaithivu and at other places; provincial roads at Navatkuli, Paranthan, Sangupiddy; reconstruction of electricity transmission lines; water supply projects at Iranamadhu, Kilinochchi, Jaffna, Maruthankerny, Point Pedro, Delft and Valvettithurai; and reconstruction of hospitals in Jaffna, Mullaithivu and Kilinochchi.

According to the Sri Lankan Defence website, impressive progress has been made in the health and education sectors. The government has spent over Sri Lankan Rs.2.6 billion to repair hospitals, build new ones and provide equipment and drugs, it says; 900 of the 1,020 schools in the region are functioning.

According to the Indian High Commission, apart from the construction of 50,000 houses in Northern and Eastern Provinces launched on October 2, India is heavily involved in development activities in the North. They include restoration of the Northern Railway, Kankesanthurai harbour and Palaly airport; the construction of five vocational training centres; the renovation of the Duraiappa Stadium in Jaffna, the construction of a new cultural centre in Jaffna, and the setting up of a 500 MW coal-fired power plant at Sampur. India also announced a soft line of credit of $800 million.

Nirupama Subramanian and R.K. Radhakrishnan

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