Restoration of road network | Sunday Observer

Restoration of road network

The recent landslides and floods left a daunting task to the country to restore its infrastructure and bring back life to normalcy. Sound infrastructure plays a pivotal role in supporting and promoting economic growth. The Sunday Observer spoke to the authorities concerned for their views on restoring the road network which is a vital cog in the country’s economy.

Road Development Authority (RDA) Director Maintenance and Management Kamal Amaraweera says:

“Work on restoring all national roads affected by the recent floods and landslides will commence within the next two months, to enable smooth transportation”.

He said, temporary renovation of all roads, making them passable for vehicles has commenced, except the Kaluaggala Labugama road in the Colombo district.

“Around Rs. 7,000 million has been allocated for the restoration of all national roads. Work on the project will commence once the clearing of roads affected by floods and earth slips has been completed,” Amaraweera said.

The estimate includes the renovation of A and B grade highways.

Earth slips

Main roads in the Kalutara, Ratnapura, Galle, Matara and Hambantota districts are impassable due to floods and earth slips. According to the RDA most of the national roads have been damaged by the earth slips.

‘The Nagoda Kallawella Wellapitiya road in the Kalutara district and Kaluaggala Labugama in the Colombo district are the most affected, and needs the approval of the National Building Research Organisation to carry out renovation,” Amaraweera said.

The authorities have been accused of the slow process in the clearing of roads which hinders the pace of normalizing the daily activities of the people. Amaraweera however said, “all the earth slips cannot be cleared at once. There are too many, and it has to be done with care, as there could be more earth slips when clearing one. Therefore, it has to be done in stages”.

“We have cleared the path for at least one vehicle to pass,” an RDA spokesman said.

He said, we have undertaken the task of clearing the roads however challenging it may be. The reinstatement of roads, bridges and structures to ensure that no further damages would occur, will commence soon. The Urban Development Authority (UDA) Chairman and Director General, National Physical Planning Department Dr. Jagath Munasinghe said, even before the recent flood and landslides hit the country, the UDA had assessed the risk the urban areas in Sri Lanka, mainly cities such as Colombo, Galle and Kandy, would face in terms of floods. The UDA was mainly concerned about the existing drainage infrastructure in these areas which includes, canals, drains and outlets that needed to be attended regularly. The canals are badly affected by encroachments and unauthorized constructions on their banks. The blockage created by such encroachments affects the smooth flow of storm water through the drainage system.

“Having noted that, the UDA had commenced a survey and identified encroachments and unauthorized constrictions. At present, it is in the stage of removing them from such locations and clearing the canals,” Dr. Munasinghe explained.

He said, the Sri Lanka Land Reclamation and Development Corporation (SLLR&DC) is the execution authority. On the eve of the floods the SLLR and DC commenced the demolition of unauthorized structures built into the canals in the Kolonnawa and Dematagoda areas. In the wake of the Wellawatta building collapse, the UDA accelerated the project and is now planning to clear all canals within this year.

Dr. Munasinghe said, besides clearing canals, there is a major improvement to the drainage system in Colombo which commenced some time back with the support of World Bank funds, and includes the augmentation of the existing drainage lines, installation of pumping stations and forming retention ponds. The project, titled, ‘Metro Colombo Drainage Improvement Project’ is progressing well. The project is directly under the Ministry of Megapolis and Western Development.

The UDA is reinstating the flood affected urban facilities. While road improvements are looked into by the RDA, PRDAs of the relevant provinces and the local authorities, the UDA supports recovery of public facilities such as bus terminals, fairs and markets.

“What is more important is climate and disaster resilient planning of urban areas.

Long term solutions

“They need to look into long term solutions which can sustain floods, landslides and other similar situations. The UDA is already in the process of preparing development plans for 43 urban areas within this year, including major cities such as Colombo, Kandy and Kurunegala. They will adopt the concepts of resilience and sustenance,” Dr. Munasinghe said.

The Ministry of Megapolis and Western Development Secretary, Nihal Rupasinghe said, under the long term Megapolis plan to complete activities in 2030, steps will be taken to raise the flood incident rate in Colombo from the current one in 10 years to one in 50 years.

He said, a program has been launched with aid from the World Bank to double the capacity of discharging water to the sea, from Dehiwela, Wellawatta and Mutwal to the sea by building a tunnel in Mutwal.

‘A pumping station will be built at Grandpass to discharge water to the Kelania river. Pumping stations will also be built in Kolonnawa and the Beira Lake and a tunnel from Bauddhaloka Mawatha to Bambalapitiya, in order to double the water flow capacity from lakes and rivers to the sea,” Rupasinghe said.

The Ministry plans to complete work on the project within three years. “We have called for tenders for most of the projects. Each would cost around USD 20 million,” he said.

The Ministry of Megapolis and Western Development supports the Colombo Municipal Council to improve the roads and the drainage systems coming under the Municipality.

“We have identified over 100km canal systems which need to be maintained regularly. Unauthorized structures along canals will be removed. With a sound road and drainage system we hope to increase the flood incident rate to one in 50 years,” Rupasinghe said.

In the meantime, the government held discussions with development partners last week, to obtain medium to long term assistance to carry out restoration work in flood and landslide hit areas in the country.