Probe into Central Expressway plans | Daily News
Gampaha Floods:

Probe into Central Expressway plans

Chief Government Whip and Highways Minister Johnston Fernando yesterday instructed Ministry Secretary R.W.R. Pemasiri to investigate immediately whether there was any truth in claims made in certain quarters that some areas in Gampaha were inundated owing to the construction work of the first phase of the Central Expressway (CE) from Kadawatha to Meerigama.

Minister Fernando also issued instructions to the Secretary to study the master plan of the construction work and make adjustments to the plan if the necessity arises to control the floods in the Gampaha area, ministry sources said.

The Minister gave those instructions during a meeting held at the Ministry to ascertain the veracity of statements by some MPs and ministers from the Gampaha District that the ongoing construction work of the Central Expressway had resulted in blocking arterial waterways in the area and thereby inundated several law-lying fields. The blockage of waterways had been caused by temporary roads put up in a haphazard manner to transport heavy machinery and construction equipment needed to construct the Central Expressway, the MPs pointed out at the meeting.

The Minister said: “There is an opinion that some areas came under water as a result of the construction work of the Central Expressway. I have discussed this issue with Gampaha District leader Minister Prasanna Ranatunga, State Minister Nimal Lanza and other MPs including Kokila Gunawardena, Nalin Fernando and Upul Rajapaksa. Gampaha District Secretary and top officials of the Irrigation Ministry were also present. We want to check whether this allegation is true. I ordered the Secretary of my Ministry to study the matter and submit a report within two days. We are also planning to meet the affected people and listen to their views. We must keep in mind that the highest rainfall within three consecutive hours in the known history in the weather and climate statistics was reported from this area, and that was one of the causes. We must learn from this experience and call on people to put up with temporary inconveniences because the highways are built for the greater good and the problems they are facing now are only for a short time. In the meantime we do everything possible to alleviate the difficulties and inconveniences faced by people. We are not a Government that runs away in the face of problems.

We have already initiated a plan as suggested by the officials of the Irrigation Ministry to clear some canals in the area to help receding waters clogged in some fields. We know that there is no point of development if people, the main beneficiaries of such development, are not happy.

During the time when Basil Rajapaksa was the district leader of Gampaha and a Cabinet Minister he not only developed the district but also had a special project to clean and clear the canal network. That good work had been suspended after the 2015 regime change. If those projects were continued without attaching political identities to them, Gampaha would have been one of the most developed districts in the country today. Certainly there would have been no flood problems.

The Yahapalana government changed some sections of the master plan of the Central Expressway to help their contractors and on the request of some local politicians. They changed the development plans to accommodate and facilitate the corrupt plots that had been rampant then. We are yet to find whether such changes caused the present situation. It is funny that it is the very same people who are now giving advice and instructions on TV on how to run the country and its economy.”


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