Transport links key to SAARC prosperity
COLOMBO: The time has come for SAARC nations to give due
emphasis to public transport for reducing fuel consumption as well as
ensuring rural development, Transport Minister Dullas Alahapperuma said.
Addressing the first SAARC seminar on Public Road Passenger Transport
in Colombo, the Minister said South Asian countries have depended and
promoted private modes of transport for too long resulting in high
energy costs today.
“In Sri Lanka, we spend 10 per cent of our GDP on fuel imports for
transport. Therefore, we envisage that promoting public transport will
result in major saving in fuel consumption, and reduce urban congestion
as well as environmental pollution.
My Ministry has already embarked on many projects to improve quality
of public transport and to encourage persons using private vehicles to
switch to public transport,” he said.
Alahapperuma pointed out that public transport is also used as a
means of rural and regional development in Sri Lanka through programme
like Gemi Seriya and Sisu Seriya which are focused on uplifting the
living standards of rural communities by providing affordable and
reliable access to markets and services.
“South Asia is one of the fastest growing economic regions in the
world. Even then no economic development effort will be sustainable
unless the transport networks are also developed together.
“Transport is the bridge that will close the gap between SAARC which
is the world’s most populated region and the developed countries. In
this respect we have to especially note that more than 400 million
people still live below the poverty line in our region despite the fact
that incidence of poverty has been declining over the years.
“Therefore in developing our transport networks, we have to be
mindful of the dual role it should play in contributing to economic
progress as well as equitable social development especially that of the
poor and in under-developed areas.
“We are attempting to see if public transport vehicles could be
converted to use gas instead of petrol and diesel.
“We are also examining the use of Jethropa for producing bio-fuels
for the use of our railways.”