Weerawila International Airport will generate more jobs
WEERAWILA: A second International Airport had been a long felt need
in Sri Lanka. Its need became more intensive with the introduction of
the free economy. Its construction was postponed due to various reasons
in spite of International Civil Aviation Organisationâ€™s (ICAO) repeated
ICAO on several occasions pointed out that in the event of an
emergency, the danger of taking a long air route of 3,000 air miles to
reach an airport in India.
This will result in an extra expense to air service companies because
it involves carrying an extra stock of fuel when ever a plane calls over
at the International Airport in Sri Lanka.
President Mahinda Rajapaksa, having understood this drawback took
steps to lay the foundation stone for the construction of a second
International Airport in Sri Lanka at Weerawila in the Hambantota
Even after laying the foundation stone, the construction work
Having understood this, the President appointed Sarathkumara
Gunaratnea, a political leader with 30 years of political experience and
a resident of the area as the Deputy Minister of Airports.
He has the responsibility of enlisting the support of other
experienced politicians in the district and accomplish this task of
The protest of land owners against acquisition of their lands was the
major obstacle to implement this project. That obstacle has been
overcome now. This project has the blessings of all, especially Buddhist
monks in the area.
A special discussion at the coordinating office of the Southern
Province Chief Minister became significant in bringing about this
This discussion under the Chairmanship of Hambantota District MP,
Irrigation and Water Management Minister Chamal Rajapaksa was attended
by politicians, Hambantota District Secretary R.M.B. Meegahamulla and
Government officials comprising Heads of Ministries and Government
Departments. Since all problems regarding this issue were discussed and
instant solutions were found at a single table, the project received
This project estimated to cost US$ 120 million expects to create
4,000 direct employment opportunities and 10,000 indirect job
About 1,150 families will be displaced as a result of this project
and these families will receive compensation at Government expense under
a scheme in addition to alternative accommodation in a specially built
town complete with temples and schools.
At the discussion it was decided to pay compensation for paddy lands
at the rate of Rs. 42,000 per kanna (season) for an area of one acre
subject to a maximum period of three years.
Irrigation and Water Management Minister Chamal Rajapaksa said it is
expected to complete this project entirely by March, 2010.
â€śNo development project can be carried out without causing minimum
environmental damage.The need for a second International Airport is a
pressing need of the hour. If itâ€™s to be called an International Airport
it has to be constructed at international level,â€ť he said.
â€śProjects of this nature cannot be carried according to political
decisions. I instruct the officers to carry out their work without
heeding the party or colour. They must be thoroughly prudent regarding
valuation. Otherwise there will be public protests once again.â€ť
Aviation Deputy Minister Sarathkumara Gunaratne said the present
arrival of air passengers to Sri Lanka is close upon 4.5 million a year.
After the construction of the Weerawila International Airport this
figure is expected to be around eight million. Out of the foreign
tourists visiting Sri Lanka only about 300,000 come to Hambantota area.
Within this year, four million tourists have visited Sri Lanka by
now. With the opening of the Weerawila International Airport, foreign
tourists visiting Hambantota area is likely to increase.
Because there is no second international airport in Sri Lanka, the
planes coming from foreign countries have to fly to selected airports in
India like Chennai, Trivandram, and Male airports which involve about
3,000 miles extra in case of an emergency, he said.
â€śTherefore they have to carry an additional stock of fuel. This costs
the airlines an additional expenditure.
Therefore they hesitate to visit Sri Lanka. In view of the intended
International Harbour at Hambantota, a parallel Airport necessarily
The cooperation of the people is extremely essential for the
Presidentâ€™s development programme centering Hambantota,â€ť Gunaratne said.
Ven. Varagama Gnanathilake Thera, Viharadhipathi of Dahaya Colony
Viharaya said so far we did not have a clear understanding of the
construction of an airport or the relief to people who lose their lands.
â€śBut now it is clear to us that the Government is acting on proper
understanding. At the same time we are confident that the Government
will not do any injustice to the masses. Owing to our concern for the
people we protested against the construction of the Weerawila
International Airport. Since the people are entitled to redress, now as
members of the Buddhist clergy, we bless this project.â€ť
H.M. Premachandra of Kuda Gammana Dahaya said justice and fairplay is
expected in respect of payment of compensation.
â€śSpecially it has to be so in respect of valuation. So far we were
not pleased on the point of compensation. Payment of at least Rs. 50,000
per acre is deemed fit,â€ť he said.