Role of Engineers in development
Dr. Priyath B Wickrama makes keynote
Development could be defined in different ways in different concepts.
For me, development is the enhancement of the quality of life. It could
be the combination of external physical development as well as internal
personal development. For most, development means the development of
infrastructure only. But I think to achieve sustainable development we
should have the infrastructure development as well as development of
attitudes of the people.
When we consider the ongoing infrastructure development works, I
think my institution, the Sri Lanka Ports Authority is playing a leading
role. At present SLPA is involved in four mega Port development projects
simultaneously with the total investment of more than 1.7 billion US
Dollars. This is the first time in port history such a big investment
has been made in the port sector.
The development projects are given below:
* Hambantota Port Development Project,
* Colombo Port Expansion Project,
* Oluvil Port Project
* Galle Port Development Project
Hambantota Port Development Project (Phase 1)
We were able to commence the construction works within a very short
time compared to other projects.
Vessel Size 100000 DWT, Breakwater 920m
Approach Channel 210m width at 16m depth, Turning Circle 600m
diameter at 17m depth, Service vessel Berth 105m long, Oil Terminal
Birth 310m long at 17m depth, Quay wall (General Cargo) 600m long at 17m
The present progress of the construction works of the Phase 1 are
ahead the schedule and we hope to complete the work by the end of next
I will briefly indicate the development activities of other projects
which have been undertaken by the Ports Authority.
Length 6.83 km
5.6 m Cu m
15.5 million Cu m
285 Ha at -18 m depth
Cost - US $ 345 million
Funded by -
ADB & SLPA
Completion - Apr 2012
Breakwater construction work in progress and reach more than 1000 m
Dredging and reclamation works too in progress
Oluvil Port Project
Vessel capacity 5000 DWT - STAGE I 16000 DWT - STAGE II
Break waters 1215 m
Quay Wall For Cargo Handling 330 m
Port Access Road
Fising Quay wall and Other Facilities
Construction work in progress
Galle Port Project
200m long, 14m deep Passenger Berths, Yard area of 27 ha.
(Reclamation), Yacht Marina and Other Facilities, Yacht Repair
Facilities, Apart from port sector, government has commenced a large
number of development projects in right round the country in all
sectors. Here I have listed some of those. Southern Highway Project:
Upper Kothmale Hydro Power Project, Norochcholai Coal Power Project,
Moragahakanda Irrigation project, Outer Circular Road Project, Flyover
Project, All Island Road Development Projects, Hambantota/Katunayake
Airport Projects, Railway Extension Project, North East Rehabilitation
Project, Kerawalapitiya Fisheries Harbour Project, Refinery Expansion
The total investments in all these projects are over billions of
The people who are responsible in all these projects are the
It is the responsibility of engineers to ensure that the projects
will be completed in time, in good quality and within the given budget.
So the role of the engineers is important.
Role of engineers
Engineers must lead this new industrial revolution. To lead it, we
need leadership by professional organizations such as universities,
engineering institutions to make sustainable development with priority
in engineering and business, both in practice and in the education of
future engineers. They should promote codes of practice, education,
monitoring programs, researches and policy changes that will encourage
the engineering profession to lead this revolution.
What the country needs from its engineers today?
On the eradication of the long standing terrorist problem, which cost
more than 30,000 lives and billions worth of assets, now we have come to
the golden era of development. We have to rebuild the entire nation
which was destroyed by the terrorist activities in all aspects,
infrastructure, health, education and cultural. The leading part belongs
to the engineers. While the infrastructure development takes place all
other professionals could get involved in the development process.
Port Development Project
A current fundamental problem among the engineers is the underlying
assumption that in order to undertake the major development work,
services of foreign consultants and contractors are essential. This
outdated assumption took the entire engineering profession in Sri Lanka
few decades back.
It is the duty of the engineers today, to be ready to undertake as
many tasks as possible without the assistance from foreign consultants
and contractors. We should come forward. I am sure we have the required
knowledge and expertise, only thing that we did not get was an
opportunity in the past, but today with the policies of the Government
we have got an opportunity to play a major role in development.
So we must use this opportunity to use our initiative skills in
development process. It helps the country in number of ways; such as
saving a large amount of foreign currency, we can get the things done
the way we wants.
Most of the time when foreigners are invited in these projects we do
not get what we really require, other than repeating the same thing they
had done in other countries.
We thought on these lines even before the worst period of the war in
2006, we initiated action by involving the design works of major
Hambantota Port Project with the assistance of our own engineers at
SLPA, Officials at LHI and engineers at your institution.
We completed the designs jointly with the contractor and commenced
the works and now the construction supervision works too is fully
undertaken by our engineers. By this we saved a large amount of money -
US $ 20 million and to develop a well- experienced set of engineers,
technical officers who could undertake and carryout similar projects
independently in future.
Sometimes you have to get the foreign consultant services and it is
compulsory when you get the financial assistance from donor agencies.
But we should always try to minimize these or else we must actively
involve in their consultancy work.
We too have some bad experiences in using foreign consultancy
services. I do not think this is a good forum to disclose those.
The second important factor of today is context is the low
involvement of engineers in research activities. For a country like
ours, university research and development should mainly be application
oriented and directly focused to meet the requirements of the country.
It has been a serious mistake not to give due consideration to
develop the country's education system beyond undergraduate level. It is
only recently that the postgraduate level research-based education has
received some attention. This has caused a massive gap between our
country and many other countries in terms of homegrown technology.
University-Industry Cooperation should be one of the strategic
directions for the country's higher engineering education reform.
National universities, industries, external research institutes and
Government development agencies should be closely connected to and
cooperate with each other rather than separate from each other, for the
common goal of pursuing social development.
This is the only way, intellectual resources of universities could be
used to better serve the society, improve the innovation system in
research and industrial practice and then, greatly promote the
development of country's productive forces.
It is time that the country's development strategies are planned. The
Faculty of Engineering of the University of Moratuwa can make a
difference by contributing, their expertise.
It is a common now for the young engineers not to work in real
practical sites, workshops, yards, but prefer to work in an office. My
strong belief is that you cannot become a good design engineer without
having practical experience in a construction site.
We have good examples, Dr. A.N.S. Kulasinghe, D.J. Wimalasurendra and
Mr. Rampala who devoted their entire life to develop the country.
They were practical engineers. So what the country needs today a
similar practical engineers, not one or two, but by the thousands.
Therefore, all engineers should be far more practical.