Sri Lanka is attempting to move towards a safer country by recognising the Tsunami as an opportunity for sustainable development, despite the devastation. The Disaster Management Centre, under the Ministry of Disaster Management, declared its Road Map in December 2005, called ‘Towards a Safer Sri Lanka: Road Map for Disaster Risk Management’, a key Government policy document, which aims to provide an overall framework for disaster risk management in the country and is an effort to unify efforts of different agencies focusing on seven thematic components (Jayawardane, 2006). This document has made a clear attempt on identification of development and improvement of infrastructure in future vulnerability reduction (MoDM, 2006). The progress towards rebuilding Sri Lanka, up until 2006, in four major infrastructure sectors is discussed below, along with the major challenges and constraints encountered.
Transport (roads, railway and bridges)
The beginning of immediate restoration work on roads and bridges was implemented within two weeks of the Tsunami. By the end of 2006, 135kms of national highway neared completion on the Southern coast. Tenders had been awarded for a further 149kms of national highway, with procurement scheduled to finish by March 2007. Over 1,000kms of national B and C roads had begun or were about to start construction (RADA, 2006a and RADA, 2006b). The reconstruction and redevelopment of major roads in the North and East were at a more cumbersome situation, particularly in areas beyond the Ampara district due to ongoing conflict. Large infrastructure projects require a long process of planning and preparatory work before the construction work actually starts. Therefore most of the reconstruction of roads was unlikely to complete in 2008/2009 (RADA, 2006a and RADA, 2006b).
Five major bridges in the South were in the final stages and others were at the tendering or design stage. It was expected that 5 more bridges would be completed in 2007, 12 in 2008, and 1 in 2009 (RADA, 2006a and RADA, 2006b). Damaged railway tracks on coast lines, namely, Colombo-Matara line, Trincomalee line and Batticaloa line were restored within two months of the Tsunami. 40% of the railway signal systems had been restored, 2 locomotives and 3 coaches recovered and in use, and another 3 coaches were recovered and being used as monuments. By the end of 2006, 75% of the buildings associated with railway infrastructure had been reconstructed (RADA, 2006a and RADA, 2006b).
Image: Tsunami affected railway lines in Sri Lanka
Local contractors’ lack of capacity in terms of numbers of contractors, equipment availability, size and skills of the labour force and management practices were identified as major constraints in transportation infrastructure reconstruction (RADA, 2006a). Because of its size and the number of public authorities involved, transportation was a complex sector to manage and the source of numerous controversies at a local level. Nevertheless, new transport infrastructure will impact on the lives of key categories of the population, such as women, the disabled and children. One issue already appearing on the horizon is whether the relevant departments will be accorded the resources required in the future to adequately maintain the roads that will be constructed (ADB, 2005).