By Nishel Fernando
Sri Lanka’s revised National Physical Plan for 2018-2050 is expected to be gazetted shortly and the plan proposes to develop Colombo-Trincomalee as the main economic corridor along with three other sub-corridors, while Anuradhapura and Kandy also to be developed separately as metropolitan areas, aiming for future agglomeration of economies and to draw investments.
Speaking to Mirror Business, Urban Development Authority Chairman and National Physical Planning Department (NPPD) Director General Dr. Jagath Munasinghe said the National Physical Plan for 2018-2050 has been developed by the NPPD under the Megapolis and Western Development Ministry, with the consultation of various stakeholders, during the last 18 months.
The plan is likely to be gazetted within this month following the approval of the National Physical Planning Council (NPPA) chaired by President Maithripala Sirisena.
“The draft plan was earlier presented to the Cabinet in December 2017 and was presented to the NPPA last month. We were asked to provide the draft copies of the plan to all relevant representatives of the NPPA at the last NPPA meeting.
We have provided the requested drafts and consequently we have received their feedback by the end of last month. After studying the feedbacks, we are currently finalising the plan to be presented it to the council for the final approval and then it will be gazetted,” Munasinghe revealed.
He highlighted that the proposed Colombo-Trincomalee economic corridor, consisting one-thirds of the island’s population, is the key element of the plan.
According to him, the corridor is expected to draw over US $ 4 billion worth of investments from local and foreign investors and the government is expected to invest US $ 400 million for initial infrastructure developments over the 30-year period.
Munasinghe said the NPPA has identified the Colombo-Trincomalee economic corridor as the most potential area for development activities while speculating that it would draw most of the future investments to Sri Lanka and majority of the export-import activities would happen through the corridor.
“We have conducted a preliminary study and based on our study, ADB has been conducting a detailed study, which will be expected to come out within this year,” he noted.
According to the draft plan, the future development initiatives in the corridor, such as industrial estates, cultural development zones, tourism zones, urban service centres will be concentrated on six major population centres in the corridor—Colombo Megapolis, Gampaha Metro Region, Negombo Metro Region, Kurunegala Metro Region, Dambulla Metro Region and Trincomalee Metro Region.
Meanwhile, Munasinghe said the work on the Colombo Port City project and Colombo Port Development Project are progressing simultaneously while the Trincomalee Harbour Project is being studied with the assistance of the Asian Development Bank (ADB), of which development work is expected to begin shortly.
The National Physical Plan is proposed to be implemented in three time horizons: 2018-2025 (short term), 2025-2035 (medium term) and 2035-2050 (long term). However, Munasinghe pointed out that several key infrastructure developments are already underway in the economic corridor.
“For example, the expressway from Colombo to Dambulla and railway electrification project from Colombo to Veyangoda, are already underway. We have also proposed railway electrification to be extended up to Dambulla during the 2025-2030 period.” he said.
Munasinghe revealed that three other sub-economic corridors would also be developed parallel to the main economic corridor—Jaffna-Kilinochchi, Batticaloa-Ampara and Galle-Tissamaharama, which would also include Embilipitiya.
In addition to the development of metro regions of Anuradhapura and Kandy, it has also been proposed to develop nine moderate-sized cities—Mannar, Mullaitivu, Vavuniya, Polonnaruwa, Puttalam, Mahiyanganaya, Wellawaya, Ratnapura and Nuwara Eliya— on the basis of concentration of essential services. Munasinghe noted that the National Physical Plan would be implemented through various government agencies and commenting on financing of infrastructure projects he said “each agency will have to find its own financing, mainly supported by the Treasury”.
However, he stressed that some of the projects would be developed as public-private partnerships (PPPs) and through foreign funding.
“Infrastructure has to be developed by the government anyway. However, when the government is not in a position to do so, we will be calling for PPPs.
There will be some foreign donor agencies and multilateral lenders. For example, if a project is identified as a priority project, the government will seek loans on concessionary interest rates from lending agencies such as ADB, WB, IMF, JICA, AIIB,” he added.
Munasinghe reasserted that the main purpose of infrastructure development is to attract foreign and local investments to these areas for individual developments. He noted that the National Physical Plan for 2011-2030, which was gazetted in 2011, was outdated as several key national and international developments have taken place since then. Hence, the government decided to revise and update the plan.
Munasinghe affirmed that international developments such as the Chinese-backed One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative have been taken into account in preparing the National Physical Plan for 2018-2050. According to the Town and Country Planning (Amendment) Act, No. 49 of 2000, the only required approval is the NPPA to formulate and implement the National Physical Plan. The approval of the Cabinet of Ministers is not required.