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14th March 1999

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New stretch on A4 road

By Hiranthi Fernando

Naketiya in Koslanda has been the site of several massive landslides over the years. The very name Naketiya suggests a history of landslides. Within the last two years, major landslides have occurred three times at this same location, making the road from Beragala to Wellawaya impassable. Image

Although a Baily bridge was built and the road reconstructed many times, it has been of no avail. During the rainy season, earth from the hill comes tumbling down, completely destroying the road.

Deputy Director, Traffic & Planning of the Road Development Authority Mr Nagodavithana says that a 48 kilometre stretch between Balangoda - Beragala - Wellawaya on the A 4 route, Colombo - Ratnapura - Wellawaya - Batticaloa (CRWB), is sinking and prone to landslides.

Twelve landslides have been activated between the section 168th km to 200 km on this route. There has also been a large rockfall between Beragala and Naketiya. All these landslides are above 500 meters MSL (above mean sea level).This section of the road is located on the southern slope of the escarpment of the central highland. It slopes steeply from 2000 metres above MSL to 400 metres. Lorries and buses travelling to Moneragala prefer to take the Embilipitiya, Tanamalwila, Wellawaya road although it is longer because of the steep curves.

The Road Development Authority (RDA) has now identified an alternative trace to construct a completely new road bypassing the landslide prone areas.The proposal has been approved by the Consultative Committee in Parliament. The next stage is the preparation of a pre-feasibility study by the RDA. This report will be forwarded by the Ministry to the donor agencies.

"For the last fifty years, we have given temporary solutions to this problem," Mr. Nagodavithana said. "In 1947, two extensive landslides had been activated in Beragala. Exactly fifty years later, another massive landslide occurred 200 metres away from the original site. The Naketiya, Lemastota, catchment is very unstable. The location was detected from aerial photographs taken in 1953"

The proposed new road starts at 162 km from the Pambahinna clock tower and will be routed through Muththetuwegama, Kosgama, Wedawela, Maradola, We-eliya, Ranwanguhawa, Kirawanagama, Akkaraseeya, Kalkanua, Kalipanawela to Uva Gampaha. The road ends at 210 km on the Colombo -Wellawaya - Batticaloa road. The new road will be about 40 km which is shorter than the old route by 8 km, and has an average elevation of about 400 MSL.

Although there are roads and footpaths along the proposed route, most of the earth roads are not motorable. The alignment of the existing tarred roads is not up to the standard of a national highway. The road passes through a few ancient villages and reforested areas. Mr. Nagodavithana stressed that the road does not pass through any forests, reserves, sanctuaries and protected areas. "The new road goes through underdeveloped areas of Uva which we want to develop," he said. It is proposed to have new townships along the route.

At Kosgama, We-eliya, Kirawanagama, Akkaraseeya, and Kelipanawela, existing roads will be developed to connect to the main road. Connecting roads will also be developed from Koslanda to Kelipanwela, Nikapotha to Akkaraseeya, Beragala to Kirawanagama, Marangahawela to Kosgama and Haldemulla to We-eliya to give access to existing townships.

"We are looking at the problem on a macroscopic aspect," Mr. Nagodavithana said. "Haldemulla town on the CRWB Road is under the threat of a landslide. It is proposed to shift the infrastructural facilities to a new township at We-eliya which is a flat area. It is also proposed to develop Kirawanagama school to take in the students of Walhaputenne school which is situated within a landslide area which can get reactivated during the rainy season. This school is already in a state of near collapse due to the land sinking.

The construction of the road is proposed in four stages. The first stage is from Akkaraseeya to Uva Gampaha, with development to Nikapotha- Akkaraseeya road. This section will bypass the landslide area at Naketiya and is estimated to cost Rs.350 million. The stabilisation of the Naketiya landslide is estimated to cost Rs.600 million. The construction of a new road is thus less costly and more beneficial since it is a permanent solution.

The second stage involves the realignment and widening of the We-eliya, Kirawanagama, Akkaraseeya road with improvements to some existing roads. It is proposed to deviate the present Kirawanagama Akkraseeya road which is on the unstable slope, to a stable slope. This stage is estimated at Rs.150 million. The We-eliya, Kosgama-Medawela road will be undertaken in the third stage along with improvements to Marandagahawela, Kosgama-Medawela road. This section, estimated at Rs.600 million is the most costly. A vast amount of land which is now under developed due to the lack of an access road will be developed with the construction of this stage. The last stage is the construction of a new road from Muththetuwegama to Kosgama-Ihalwela, and the development of Kosgama-Ihalawela -Medawela road at an estimated cost of Rs.250 million. The estimated cost of the entire road is Rs.1,500 million, including the development of roads and townships.

According to Mr. Nagodavithana several alternatives were studied before a route was selected and the proposal made to Parliament. "While we were studying alternatives, we had the 1997 landslide. We wanted a fast road", he said. "We have a problem in that we cannot go through Samanalawewa due to security reasons and we cannot go through Udawalawe because of the sanctuary. People living along the road trace welcome the new road. There were some objections from the Uva Provincial Council and some ganja mudalalis who were cultivating it in the jungle at Welaniwita. When the RDA proposal was given, the relevant authorities were called to Parliament on February 11 to explain the proposal to the Consultative Committee".

Mr. Nagodavithana said the estimates have been prepared, based on costs for local contractors. If foreign contractors come in the costs will escalate. For example, the Mattakkuliya bridge which was constructed by the RDA as a turnkey project, cost Rs.300 million, while upstream, the Japanese Friendship Bridge constructed on a Japanese loan cost Rs.1000 million. "Our main idea is to do it ourselves in stages, with our own engineers and save foreign exchange," Mr. Nagodavithana said. However, if there are financial constraints it will have to be given to donor agencies for a feasibility study in which case foreign contractors will have to be brought in"

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