Urban development sham in Batticaloa

[TamilNet, Thursday, 24 April 2003, 13:11 GMT]
Batticaloa is a picturesque place. The town’s population has more than doubled in the last decade, largely owing to families moving in from the war-ravaged hinterland of the district. This is forcing a creeping crisis on the town’s urban development. Yet Colombo spares no money to address Batticaloa’s problem although the town has been under the purview of the Sri Lankan government’s Urban Development Authority (UDA) for more than 18 years.

“The UDA has spent millions to modernise several provincial towns outside the northeast. To the best of my knowledge the UDA has not spent a red cent on Batticaloa town”, said a senior government official in the eastern district.

“The UDA, however, spent about 200,000 rupees on a grand function for the laying of three foundation stones by Minister for Urban Development in 2001 under the People’s Alliance government”, he added.

At the time the UDA was tasked to build a shopping centre, a modern bus station and a public park in the heart of Batticaloa town.

The fanfare over the laying of the foundation stone was aimed at strengthening the hands of Mr. Somasundaran Ganeshamoorthy, a PA strongman in the area.

Colombo said at the time it had allocated 58 million for UDA project to modernise Batticaloa town, including a gabion wall along the lagoon by the town centre.

A faded hoarding by the Batticaloa bus stand describes the UDA project details in Sinhala, Tamil and English.

“Grandiose promises were made on many occasions in the past by ruling party politicians from Colombo - invariably closer to general elections or aid group meetings”, the official said.

The only remnants of these promises are the memorials proclaiming the projects on stone, which lie abandoned in many parts of the district.



“If are to go by the experience of Batticaloa, the recent visit of the UDA to Jaffna is a publicity sham to show western donors that Colombo is concerned with urban development in the northeast too”, said Mr. Gnanamuttu Krishnapillai (Vellimalai) Tamil National Alliance MP for Batticaloa.

 

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