Lanka’s economy to ‘Take Off’ | Daily News


Southern Expressway:

Lanka’s economy to ‘Take Off’

The inauguration of the Southern Expressway (limited access) Project could be considered as a significant step forward in Sri Lanka’s entry into the stage of “Take-Off” of the economy in its accelerated forward march towards “Drive to Maturity,” said Economist/Chartered Town Planner and Former UDA Director General Nettikumarage Don Dickson, in his paper highlighting the long term contribution of the Southern Expressway project towards sustainable development of the Southern region.

Here is the full text of the paper:


W. W. Rostow’s Stages of Growth is one of the major historical models of economic growth that can be adapted to the present Sri Lankan context, having taken into consideration, the vision for the future, as envisioned in “Mahinda Chinthana” to highlight the development significance of the Southern Expressway Project. Rostow’s model postulates that the economic modernization of a country occurs in five stages of varying lengths:

1. Traditional Society

2. Pre- conditions for Take off

3. Take-off

4. Drive to Maturity

5. Age of High Mass Consumption

The inaugural opening of the Southern Expressway scheduled for next month, constitutes a significant landmark in the sustainable development of this country and accelerated “take-off” of the economy towards “drive to maturity” as envisaged in Rostow’s Model. In an accelerated economic development process, time saving is a financial gain which can be quantitatively measured. Therefore when travel time by motor vehicle from Colombo to Matara is reduced from 3.5 hours to 1.5 hours, the time saved for a businessman is a substantial financial gain. Therefore the speedier and easier accessibility will promote development in proximity to interchanges and in areas linked to interchanges of the Southern Highway.

This highway in the south-easterly direction will link Matara while in the northerly direction will link Colombo Outer Circular Road at Makumbura.

According to UDA plans, this highway will finally extend to Hambantota, where there will be a new township based on the development of its industrial port. This township, designated as “Magampura”, is based on its industrial port and eventually will be developed as a fully fledged regional center.

Economic Feasibility of the Southern Expressway Project:

Project Cost:

Being the first limited access highway project in Sri Lanka, the highway authorities have limited experience in the design, construction management and implementation of limited access highway projects. Therefore, particularly the sections implemented with the funding assistance of ADB and JICA, the original cost estimates have escalated from Rs. 8,700,000,000 to Rs. 24,100,000,000 and from Rs.9,585,869,449 to Rs.20,000,000,000 respectively.

Some of the additional costs have to be incurred in order to replace the collapsed/settled Metal structures and for Pile Cap rectification etc. The total project cost (revised) inclusive of land acquisition amounted to Rs. 86,832,179,556 which had been met from the funding of the Govt. of Sri Lanka, ADB, JICA, and other donor agencies.

It also has to be mentioned in this connection, that some of the locations which have been identified for interchanges are basically very rural areas consisting of jungles or rubber estates which have no urban characteristics. Availability of unencumbered land may be the main criteria that has been applied for the selection of such locations, due to the urgency for the commencement of the project. For example Lewwanduwa Interchange is located in a flood-prone area. Galanigama interchange is located in a paddy field.

In order to develop such areas for urban activities, it will need heavy investment, requiring substantial State participation in order to overcome the existing physical constraints to create satisfactory conditions for the private sector get interested.

Cost Recovery:

The Government envisages meeting the routine maintenance and management cost of the Highway by the levy of following tolls on all vehicles entering the highway from different inter-changes located from Kottawa to Godagama:

Light vehicles eg. cars, vans and jeeps Rs.400 per trip 
Heavy vehicles eg: buses and lorries Rs. 700 per trip 
Heavy vehicles with 10 wheels Rs.1,500 per trip 
Heavy vehicles with over 10 wheels Rs.2,000 per trip

These charges need to be periodically reviewed having taken the actual maintenance and operational cost into consideration.

Real Estate Development in Proximity to Highway Inter-Changes

The Government through the UDA has already taken steps to acquire one and half kilo meters (1 ½ km) of land located on either side of the highway for real estate development according to a well conceived development plan as a means of cost recovery and also to bring about a functionally sound and aesthetically and environmentally pleasant area development. However, it has to be mentioned that the full cost recovery of a project of this magnitude is a highly far-fetched task.

The long term economic gains through land development and indirect benefits that would be accrued to the community at large by this project will be examined in detail subsequently.

Southern Highway and the Long-term Development Perspectives for the Western Region

Accessibility is a crucial factor which contributes to sustainable regional development of a country. It has to be mentioned that still most parts of Sri Lanka’s hinterland areas including South-Western Province, are not adequately accessible due to undeveloped road network.

In many rural areas, there are only foot paths and cart tracks, due to hilly terrain and areas interspersed with water bodies, wet lands and paddy fields. The development has not penetrated into the hinterland area due to these factors.

Accordingly, particularly in the Western Province, all economic and social activities are confined to the coastal belt which is served by the Colombo- Galle- Matara Road, where most of the urban centers are concentrated. This linear or ribbon form of development has many disadvantages in terms of traffic congestion and high rates of accidents. Furthermore, the linear form of urban development is most inefficient and uneconomical in terms of the provision of infrastructure services and parking facilities.

The Southern limited Access Highway is the first major attempt to bring about an integrated development to the land locked hinterland areas of the Western Province by promoting a set of new growth centers and satellite towns linked to existing regional centers.

In this connection, together with the construction of this highway, a comprehensive study, a Land Use Plan and an integrated set of projects that can be implemented within the areas which come within the impact of this Highway Project have been formulated. (ADB funded –(TA 7065 SRI) Integrated Area Development Plan – Southern Highway Corridor).

This report, which consists of six volumes is a quite comprehensive document. The UDA which prepared the TOR for this study is also responsible for the implementation of recommendations of this report. As this total project is an outcome of “Mahinda Chinthana”, the country is hopeful that the total project will be successfully implemented which will significantly contribute to Sri Lanka’s “Take Off” of the economy.

Problems of Coastal Erosion and the Coastal Railway Line

The existing coastal railway which is regularly affected by coastal erosion is also to be improved with the assistance of the Government of India but present alignment and the location of the railway line is unlikely to be changed. The present coastal railway line is located with no adequate reservation to the coast and is protected by embankments and coastal protection structures provided by the Coast Conservation Department.

Mahinda Chinthana is based on a long-term vision for the future and it could never endorse a short-sighted and irrational move of upgrading the existing coastal railway line on the same location and alignment. As a long term measure, not only that railway line need to be shifted adequately landwards, but also that it has to be raised well above the ground level, having taken into consideration the future sea level rise and problems of coastal erosion.

If the Govt. has serious plans regarding the use of electricity energy as a motive power to provide a fast moving coastal train service, when the country could generate sufficient electricity through cheaper energy sources, provision has to be made now itself in our long-term plans to install such a facility, which would be environmentally friendly and economically sustainable. It will also make a substantial contribution for Sri Lanka in its “drive to maturity” as envisaged by Rostow.

Sea level rise and Problems of Coastal Erosion:

Another significant factor that has to be born in mind when the Government decide on upgrading and improving the coastal railway line on the same alignment and same level, is the serious consideration it should give to the observations made in the Coastal Zone Management Plan – 2010, according to which, the Melting of the Ozone Layer, together with sea level rise and the consequent problems of coastal erosion will cause serious problems in regard to the development of the coastal belt of Sri Lanka. Many environmental and physical problems are bound to occur in the future, affecting particularly the western coastal areas of Sri Lanka.

According to this report, the sea level up to last year has risen by 17 cm and is expected to rise further up to about 90 cm towards the end of the century. This is a crucial factor that requires priority consideration when we formulate an ecologically sustainable regional development strategy for the South Western Quadrant of Sri Lanka.

The future role of the Southern Expressway has to be examined in the above context in order to open up the hinterland area of the Southern Region for orderly and environmentally sustainable long term development.

Observations on the land Use Plan of the Southern Highway Corridor and the Project Profiles of Inter-Changes Prepared under ADB Project No:TA7065 SRI

With the funding assistance of the ADB, ‘egis bceom’, in association with Infotec IDEAS Pvt. Ltd. has carried out a detailed study on the Southern Highway Corridor taking into consideration its immediate impact area consisting of 1.5 km. from the center line of the highway.

Having taken into consideration, resource profiles and the socio economic data, soils/sub-surface soil fertility data and the location advantages, proximity to markets etc, the detail projects that have been identified and developed are really commendable.

Although the study has taken the form of an academic exercise, assuming that, each of the area around an interchange will take the form of a satellite town around a growth center or linked to a growth center.

The regional impact on a wider area located outside the 1.5 km. corridor has not received much attention. Nevertheless the projects that have been identified in detail with cost estimates and benefit target can be pursued by the respective agencies with the guidance of the UDA.

The following shortcomings of this study were also noted:

1. The problems of the coastal environment including the present Galle Road and the coastal railway line have received no attention

2. Galle Fort Conservation and development Project has not received much attention.

3. The potential of this highway corridor project has not been dealt with in a wider regional context.

4. The travel patterns and area development implications in the future needs greater attention

Long-term Regional Development Impact of the Extension of the Southern Highway to Hambantota “Magampura” New Town which will form a Counter-Magnet to Colombo Metropolitan Area

The accelerated development phase of a country has to trigger off from a vibrant master- project, which will generate multiplier effects, embracing all sectors and integrated geographical regions.

The development of the Southern Highway from Colombo to Hambantota where an industrial port based township will be developed as a counter-magnet to Colombo, will promote a development corridor and the region it supports shall play the pivotal role in ushering Sri Lanka’s march towards drive to maturity. When the total highway corridor from Colombo to Hambantota is accomplished it would provide the potential for an accelerated economic development encompassing the whole of Western and Southern Provinces.

The townships that will develop along the interchanges of the total highway corridor will form the growth centers which will be integrated to the hinterland areas. The location advantage that would be derived for the South Western Quadrant by the new highway provides economically potential areas for various types of intensive agriculture as well as for agro-based industries. Appropriate areas also could be identified for tourism and recreation. Areas for labor intensive manufacturing industries also could be identified closer to the inter-changes. There also may be suitable areas for coastal as well as inland fisheries (mangrove farms). Resource development through enhanced accessibility will make the southern region comparatively stronger and it would enable Southern Region to attract more investors.

These pre-conditions provide a unique opportunity to plan out the entire Southern Region based on a new development perspective for the future. It is most likely that when the Southern Expressway becomes fully operational, there will be intra-regional migration based on the new job opportunities, land availability, travel convenience etc. Apart from the major concentration of population in the port and industry based township at Magampura, Hambantota where there will be a major regional center (counter-magnet to CMR), there will be new population centers in relation to the nodal points and inter-changes and the regional development plan that has to be prepared can provide for specialized centers and sub-centers based on functions such as industries, health, education, administration, commerce, banking and services, tourism, recreation, fisheries and fish processing. Depending on the economic base and the direct and indirect job opportunities that they could generate, they will form centers and sub centers of the Province.

New BOI supported export processing and industrial townships could be established at advantageous locations. Enhanced income generating economic opportunities could be created for enterprising and educated youth to remain in the country and make their contribution to the national development, with little state intervention. History has shown that the Southerners were the enterprising people who migrated to Colombo as well as to other parts of the country and became leading businessmen.

Some of them, who were more educated and adventurous, migrated to other parts of the world also and occupy leading positions in business as well as in science and technology. The new economic opportunities that would be created in relation to the new development corridor in the south will attract more patriotic Southerners back to their home land, to usher a new development era for the country.

In my opinion, the overall positive impact of the spatial transformation that the Southern Highway Project will bring about, in the long term, within the framework of a Regional Development Plan for the Southern Province will more than compensate for the initial investment that the Government had to incur to meet the cost of the total highway project including payment of compensation for the land and property. This project will contribute in no small measure to take the country forward towards “Drive to Maturity” and also to fulfill the Vision for the Future as envisioned in Mahinda Chinthana.


1. Walt Whitman Rostow – The Stages of Economic Growth, Cambridge University Press,1960

2. Land use Planning of the Southern Highway Corridor from Kottawa to Godagama, Vol: 1 to VI ,March, 2009,

Asian Development Bank, Project No: TA 7065.

3. Southern Highway Corridor, Interchanges from Kottawa (Makumbura) to Godagama, Ministry of Highways, 2007

4. Southern Transport Development Project, Project Monitoring Unit, Ministry of Highways.

5. Coastal Zone Management Plan, 2010, Coast Conservation Department.

6. National Energy Symposium 2010, Sri Lanka Sustainable Energy Authority, 2010

7. “Mahinda Chinthana”, A New Sri Lanka

8. The Need for a Long-term Regional Development Perspective for the Integrated Development of the Southern

Region, Nettikumarage Don Dickson, “Sanvardana” June 2009.

9. Central Bank of Sri Lanka Annual Report, 2010

10. Sri Lanka in 2030 Guide to Urban Physical Infrastructure Development and Environmental Conservation, National Physical Planning Department, 2008.

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