A number of key ministries are gearing up for large-scale development and welfare programmes in the North and the East over the coming months. Many of the ministries are looking to the government and donor communities for funding for these development programmes.
Most of the reconstruction plans focus on infrastructure development and the provision of basic facilities for communities to be settled.
The ministries are presently focused on establishing minimum service levels to facilitate the 180-day resettlement programme. Medium-term programmes will be spread over a two to three year period and will focus on investment and infrastructure development.
The Ministry of Education, seen as a key player in the resettlement process, has been active for some time already, providing education for children living in resettlement camps. The setting up of permanent schools will soon follow, according to guidelines set by the government.
“Schools will be reconstructed as people are resettled,” said Education Ministry secretary N. Bandara. “Some 60 schools are earmarked for reconstruction in Vavuniya, Mannar and parts of Jaffna. Children will then be able to get back to classes. The cost of rebuilding the schools will be about Rs. 100 million. We will also be using the 35,000 classroom units already installed in the camps”
It will take up two years or more to have schools in Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu up and running again.
“There are 96 schools in Kilinochchi and 103 in Mullaitivu,” Mr. Bandara said. “We will have to wait for government and military clearance before we can restart these schools. The military have to clear the area of mines.” Meanwhile, the Ministry of Housing and Amenities will get to work with an initial building project covering a total of 500 new houses.“We plan to build 100 houses in Mannar, 175 in Vavuniya, 175 in Jaffna, and the balance in Mulaithivu and Vavuniya,” said Housing Ministry secretary S. M. A. L. Gunathilake. “This is a priority, and will coincide with the 180-day resettlement project. The cost is an estimated Rs. 45 million.”
In a separate home-building programme, the Housing Ministry plans to construct another 1,300 new houses and upgrade 4,250 houses at a cost of Rs. 972.25 million.
The Housing Ministry’s medium-term plan involves the construction of 3,750 new houses at a cost of Rs. 1,221 million and the upgrading of 8,250 houses at a cost of Rs. 1,238 million, for which the NHDB is committed to providing a loan of Rs. 625 million.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Fisheries plans to provide fishing equipment for war-affected fishing communities. “Under the 180-day plan, we will provide fishing equipment and fishing craft,” said Fisheries Ministry Secretary G. Piyasena. “We are also looking at helping in the repair of damaged craft and providing canoes and nets for inland fishing. Cold-storage facilities and the building of 22 small-scale purchasing centres are on the agenda.”
The Ministry of Transport is well on its way with its own rebuilding agenda, with work on the Vavuniya-Kankesanthurai railway. The cost of the rail project is estimated at more than Rs. 14 billion. The ministry is looking to the “Uthuru Mithuru” fund for much of the financing.
Citizens’ groups and private organisations have committed to building railway stations along the way. “The people of Hambantota have offered to build the Jaffna station, and a civic organisation in Galle has pledged to build the Manikulam station,” said Transport Ministry secretary T. Kollure.
During the 180-day building programme, the ministry will renovate five bus depots and reconstruct two more in Mullaitivu and Kilinochchi, at an estimated cost of Rs. 2.1 billion. Two hundred new buses will be launched, and another 50 will be repaired.
The Ministry of Highways and Road Development has undertaken the building of a 94-kilometre road. The first 12 km have been given out to independent contractors and the balance 82 km will be given out as building contracts once the army has cleared the area of land mines. “The entire project is estimated at Rs. 4 billion,” said ministry secretary S. Amarasekara.
The rebuilding of the A9 road will be a priority once the de-mining is completed. The A9 and roads in Jaffna will be surveyed early next month. A sum of Rs. 800 million will be required to complete the Murunthan-Silawathura road. Work has begun, with a loan from the Asian Development Bank.
The Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications plans to reactivate 41 post offices in the North, at a cost of at least Rs. 630 million. The bulk of the funding will have to come from outside of the ministry, according to ministry secretary K. G. Leelanada.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Agrarian Services is advertising vacancies for 500 agriculture field officers and 500 agriculture officers to 1,470 Grama Niladari divisions.
The Central Bank has approved the opening of 67 banking outlets in the Northern Province.