Bridge to peace
PRESIDENT Mahinda Rajapaksa has
described the newly-opened Manampitiya Bridge as a bridge to
peace. In addition to being the country’s longest bridge, it has
the unique distinction of linking two provinces - the North
Central and the East.
In a physical sense, the Manampitiya Bridge was a long-felt
need. Manampitiya has one of the only two bridges in the country
with a combined road-rail configuration. No road traffic is
possible when trains use the bridge.
Traffic woes are compounded by the fact that it is a single
lane bridge, so two heavy vehicles cannot move in opposite
directions at the same time.
The new bridge is an answer to the traffic congestion at the
old bridge. Motorists will not have to worry about the train and
the two-lane bridge will expedite the traffic flow. The time and
fuel savings will be considerable.
The opening of the new bridge has coincided with the
implementation of the Eastern Resurgence programme which the
Government initiated after liberating the province from the LTTE.
It will be a happy coincidence for Eastern residents, denied the
fruits of progress for nearly two decades.
The new bridge will ensure faster transport of building
material and personnel to the East which in turn will expedite
That brings us to the vital issue of people-to-people
contact, without which development will be virtually
meaningless. The new bridge will allow the free movement of
people between the two provinces, increasing the bonds between
all communities. For example, farmers in the East emerging from
decades of agricultural neglect, will now be able to reach the
market in the North Central Province faster.
This bridge would not have become a reality without the
support of the international community, particularly Japan,
which funded the construction.
This is one way in which the international community can
contribute to peace building and nation building efforts in Sri
Lanka, without necessarily imposing various conditions tied to
human rights and other issues.
It was also significant that local expertise was used in
building the bridge. This proves that Lankan personnel and
contractors are competent to handle any major project.
With seven more bridges under construction in the East alone,
we hope there would be a new era of development in the province.
It will also have a spillover effect in Southern, Uva and
North Central Provinces which all have a long way to go to catch
up with the Western Province in terms of economic growth. We
thus need to build more bridges that would lead to peace and
Popularising fresh milk
MILK POWDER prices are soaring
in the world market and consumers in Sri Lanka are feeling the
pinch. The authorities resisted a price increase for a long time
but market trends are such that a rise was inevitable at some
It would not be incorrect to say that almost every household
in Sri Lanka uses some form of milk powder. The country spends
billions of rupees every year for milk powder imports, as the
only local manufacturer cannot cope with the demand. Besides,
most consumers tend to think that the imported variety is
superior in quality.
The Government took various steps to cushion the blow,
including the removal of VAT on milk powder, but it is not a
long-term solution. The only viable long term solution is the
popularisation of fresh liquid milk, which is not as easy as it
One of the main reasons that milk powder attained popularity
decades ago was the lack of refrigeration facilities. This
problem has been solved to a great extent with the advent of
relatively affordable refrigerators and the ‘cool box’ is not a
luxury anymore, even in remote areas. Yet, the milk powder
mentality lingers on.
A simple price comparison shows that litre per litre,
powdered milk was cheaper than the liquid variety until just a
couple of days ago. A quality brand of liquid milk costs around
Rs.80 per litre. But a 400 gram milk powder pack contains the
equivalent of 3.5 litres of milk.
Thus the dairy industry faces two challenges: increasing
production and reducing prices.
The dairy industry has to be totally revamped to make this
goal a reality. This calls for a massive expansion of the
industry, which will be a major investment. The Government must
seek foreign assistance for this endeavour. A rise in production
along with better transport and storage systems will
automatically bring liquid milk prices down.
The other challenge is changing the ‘milk powder culture’.
The steep price rise will compel consumers to seek alternatives
in the long term. The public must be educated on the benefits of
liquid milk while efforts are made to increase its availability