Whither the traditional tile industry?
A tile manufacturing industry
Workers at a factory
Minister Milroy Fernando
Thirty one-year-old Karunadasa who lives in a cadjan roofed house off
Dankotuwa in the Puttalam District has a dream of constructing a new
house and purchasing a lorry to transport tiles that he manufactures in
his factory, while 64-year-old Kusumalatha wants to send her two
advanced level qualified daughters to a private educational institute
for higher studies. A 71-year-old retired village headman, Martin
Karunapala wants the Government to extend them a helping hand to develop
their tile manufacturing industry.
The Sunday Observer last week met with tile manufacturers in the
villages of Dankotuwa, Waikkal, Muruthana, Gonawila, Marawila,
Wennappuwa and Kochchikade areas to discuss with them about the current
position of their life-long tile manufacturing industry.
A tile factory owner at Dankotuwa, J. N. Fernandopulle who was
involved in the tile manufacturing industry for the past 40 years
recalled the bygone era and said the industry has now declined to a
"There is no other alternative to protect the industry, other than
the support of the Government.
He said that 25 years ago there was a great demand for tiles from
"We even sent a large quantity of tiles to the Northern and Eastern
province during the conflict period, but unfortunately sales have
With the introduction of asbestos roofing sheets to the local market,
people hardly use tiles.
"There is a heavy decline in our tile industry and unless the State
gets involved, the industry will not show improvement,".
The owner of Chance Tile Factory at Thambarawila, Waikkal, A.S.D.
Fernando said his Association met President Mahinda Rajapaksa before the
election to discuss the problems faced by tile factory owners and the
current position of the industry.
"Although he attentively listened to our grievances, we have not yet
received any response from him.
We requested the President to reduce the import of asbestos
manufacturing raw materials, expecting a rise in demand for our products
We also proposed authorities use at least 80 percent of tiles for
future construction work in Government buildings such as schools,
housing schemes etc."
He said the Government will construct a large number of houses in the
terrorist affected areas of Jaffna, Kilinochchi, Mullaitivu and
Trincomalee and proposed the relevant Ministry to use a large percentage
of tiles for these constructions rather than using asbestos roofing
A tile factory owner, Siri Perera said the Government should reduce
the present tax imposed on clay. If so, they could sell other clay
related products such as bricks, clay pots and other ornamental items at
He said tiles are graded into four categories and the first grade is
used on roofs and the other grades are used in the construction of
parapet walls and flower beds.
A tile trader Gemunu, proposed the Industrial Development Board to
initiate a program to export tiles and other clay related products to
"I think countries such as Japan and Hongkong would like to buy our
tiles and other clay related products,".
According to a tile factory owner Kamalsiri Peris, about 400 people
are employed in the tile making industry in the Puttalam District and
over 10,000 depend on the industry.
He said some 800 tile factories were there but this has now reduced
to 300 due to the drop in sales.
Various kinds of tiles such as `Uro tiles' and `Roman tiles' are
manufactured on the needs of buyers.
"We also manufacture painted tiles for the use of tourist hotels,
guest houses and homes,".
A tile factory owner Sumanapala of Waikkal proposed the Government
conducts exhibitions in Colombo, Katunayake, Kandy, Jaffna and other
main cities for clay related product manufacturers to showcase and sell
He said without the Government's support the clay industrialists will
not get a chance to develop the industry.He also proposed that President
Rajapaksa visits his area and look into the grievances of clay
industrialists. Puttalam District MP and Senior Minister Milroy Fernando
told the Sunday Observer that he met tile industrialists recently and
discussed with them their problems.
The Minister said President Mahinda Rajapaksa has directed him to
extend fullest support to tile manufacturers.
"The Government has not isolated traditional industrialists as the
objective of the Government is to protect the country's traditional
industries and not close them,".
"We have also taken steps to meet tile manufacturers often to listen
to their proposals and grievances".
The Minister said steps have also been taken to use tiles for State
owned buildings, especially in the tsunami affected areas in the
Northern and Eastern Province. The Government has already planned to
construct houses, housing schemes and large buildings at various places
in the country and hopes to use 70 percent of tiles and 30 percent of
asbestos roofing sheets.
Minister Fernando said that they had to remove tiles and replace same
with asbestos roofing sheets in some Government buildings in the rural
sector due to the damage caused by monkeys to tiled roofs. He said he
had spoken to Sri Lanka Tourism regarding the use of a large percentage
of tiles in the construction of future hotels.