|Sunday, 20 November 2005|
Economic targets can be achieved by using fallow land
by Elmo Leonard
Sri Lanka has over two million hectares of uncultivated and under-cultivated land which must be put to gainful use, if the 8 and 10 per cent economic growth rates are to be achieved, the Chamber of Construction Industry of Sri Lanka (CCISL) says.
Simultaneously, the nation's human resources are grossly under-utilised. If the government developed the infrastructure of water supply, irrigation, power, transport, expressways and highways, sea ports, fisheries harbours, airports and railways, the nation's human resource could be put into more gainful use, CCISL president, Surath Wickremesinghe said.
Different government agencies and the National Physical Planning Department (NPPD) in particular had carried out studies for several projects to be implemented, including comprehensive regional physical plans for most of the regions of Sri Lanka except for the north and east.
These studies had revealed the economic potential of the different regions, including agriculture, fisheries, livestock, tourism and industries. These studies had also identified sources of water, new road traces, conservation areas, heritage sites and other land uses, Wickremesinghe told the Civil Engineering Society of the University of Paradeniya.
NPPD had commissioned the firm, Surath Wickremesinghe Planning to undertake a physical plan for the southern region.
The southern region comprises five districts, Galle, Matara, Hambantota, Ratnapura and Moneragala. In the Hambantota and Moneragala districts, there are about 5,000 hectares of land, both state and privately owned, cultivated or under cultivated, available for commercial agriculture, inland fisheries, livestock, tourism, industries and for other economic activity on a mega scale, Wickremesinghe said.
To accelerate implementation of such projects, the government should give priority for land acquisition where necessary, which had been a drawback in the past.
The law for the immediate acquisition of land for urban development should be used as a model for the acquisition of land for priority projects of economic infrastructure.
If the government could provide the physical infrastructure similar to the Mahaweli development project and the free trade zones, these lands would be gainfully developed for productive use.
These projects could be implemented through public/private partnership with BOI incentives on land areas exceeding 500 hectares. When no private investor is at hand the government could offer potential investors funds, obtained from by and multilateral donors.
In the case where there is interest from the private sector, within the island or in partnership with other international private sector organisations, the projects identified for implementation will have a kick start since the preliminary work had already been completed, Wickremesinghe said.
Wickremesinghe also advocated the use of alternative building materials and building methods for lower cost and stronger building and infrastructure.
Produced by Lake House