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Ampara, the leader in development

Ampara which get battered during most parts of the year alternatively by scorching sun and by heavy rains was considered since the ancient times as the golden land and the food basin of the country. Ampara District situated in the Southern part of the Eastern Province is rich in fertile soil and covers a land area of 44314 sq.k.m.

The district has a population of 610,719 persons and Muslims are the majority population in the district. Muslims represent 43.99 percent of the district population while Sinhalese account for 37.49 percent and Tamils 18.34 percent. There are 20 Divisional Development Secretariat in the District and 503 Grama Niladhari Divisions. The total number of villages in the district amounts to 828. A large area of the district is covered with forest land, which amounts to 201,135 Hectares. The prime livelihood in the district is agriculture and the agricultural lands cover 134,624 acres. Fishing, animal husbandry and small industries are also considered as the livelihood of the people.

It was only during the last four years the focus of development turned to Ampara District. The people of the district was trampled under the scorch of the terrorist menace and suffered without any development whatsoever. The farmers who suffered from the hazards of elephants and from the peril of tiger terrorists brought their produce to market places trekking miles and miles in the muddy pathways beaten by rains and scalded by pitiless sun.

The government's development in the district started with the improvement of road structure. Accordingly the number of road development projects carried out in the Ampara district from 2006 - 2009 amounted to 2,708 projects at a cost of Rs. 1,401,762 million. The expenditure incurred for Siyambalanduwa-Ampara road, Siyambalanduwa-Pottuvil-Akkaraipattu road was Rs. 2,250 million. These road structures constructed with assistance from the World Bank, the Department of Expressways Construction, European Union, and assistance under Maga Neguma programme has converted Ampara District as a massive web of roads.

Under these development works, 14,785 k.m. of A grade roads, 802 k.m. of B grade roads, and 2519 general roads have been constructed in the district. Also there were four large bridges constructed on these roads. Addalachchenai Bridge and Arugam Bay Bridge are two such bridges constructed during the last four years. In addition to these large scale bridges, 47 small bridges were constructed.

Current growth

Irrigation occupies the prime position among the development work that was carried out along with road construction development. Four hundred and thirty eight irrigation projects were implemented in the last four years. Of which the Rambukkan Oya Irrigation Project is very significant. These projects provide a new facelift to the district which has 13 very large reservoirs, nine medium scale reservoirs, and 250 small tanks. The new projects will enable cultivation of 2,450 acres and the amount spent by the government for this purpose stands at Rs. 140,194 million. Under the new irrigation projects implemented by the government there are 151 reservoirs, 11 tanks, 27 k.m. of cultivation land routes, 42 small-scale tanks, and 23 culverts. 28,312 farmer families will benefit from these projects.

Cultivation projects

Similar to expenditure made by the government on roads and irrigation, the government spent Rs. 28,856.56 million during the last four years for development of agricultural produce. The government spent a massive amount for providing fertilizer subsidy alone for 34,486 farmer families in 115 projects. The government also constructed 16 fertilizer storage facilities, five Agri Stores, an Agricultural Training College, and 302 agricultural wells in the Ampara district which accounts for 20 percent of the country's paddy production.

New avenues in education

The expenditure incurred for educational development in the Ampara district during the last four years was Rs. 1,627.17 million. This development work was carried out to benefit 153,890 students under 1,271 projects which included construction of six University buildings, seven buildings for industrial training, 183 classrooms, 108 computer training centres, 40 teacher hostels, 61 school laboratories, 28 school playgrounds and 24 other buildings. The educational development activities were carried out as development of 401 projects in 2006, 296 projects in 2007, 284 projects in 2008 and 290 projects in 2009.

The dream of having a roof over the head was shattered in the Ampara District because of the Tsunami disaster, which was very unkind to the people of this district. Thousands of houses built by the fishing community as a result of their several years of hard labour were washed away by this disaster waves. The number of houses built by the government for these unfortunate people last year amounted to 37,929. These houses erected under seven service divisions and already distributed, benefited 38,000 families.

Around 24,729 of these houses were constructed by the government while 5,093 houses were constructed with foreign assistance. Additionally, 203 fishing community houses and 431 houses for Samurdhi recipients were erected. 13,675 houses were erected in 2006, 13,675 in 2008 and 1,479 houses were erected in 2009.

Nursing College

During the last four years the government allocated a sum of Rs. 1,243.97 million for developments in the health sector in the Ampara district. With the involvement of 13 service sectors 204 health development projects were implemented in the district.

Among the projects so implemented for the benefit of people in the whole district, the construction of the largest Nursing College in the island takes a prime place. Rs. 180 million was spent for this project. This Nursing College will perform a significant service for the government's plan of training 15,000 nurses. The College which provides residential facilities for 300 nurses have courses in Sinhala, Tamil and English. This is a giant service received by the Ampara district.

In addition to this Nursing College, the Akkaraipattu Base Hospital was also modernized during the last four years. This work included provision of Specialist Doctors Centres, Special Children Units, Ward complexes, Water tanks, Rooms, Stores and Maternity Units. Rs. 260 million was spent for this purpose.

Numerous health development projects were also implemented within the 20 Divisional Development Secretariats last year. This include construction of 23 hospital ward complexes, two administrative buildings, nine public health research offices, 14 Gramodaya health buildings, 21 residential quarters, three Medical stores, and two ENT Units. For these construction works, the government spent Rs. 622 million in 2006, Rs. 83.77 million in 2007, Rs. 416.87 million in 2008 and Rs. 120.49 million in 2009. For provision of drinking water for 476,400 persons and for health protection activities the government spent Rs. 18,174.18 million during the last four years. These activities were carried out under 496 projects, and 32,400 families in the Ampara district benefited. The value of these services cannot be measured in monetary terms alone.

These projects implemented in the areas of Ampara, Karativ, Lahugala, Pottuvil, Ilakkamai, Oluvil, and Uhana consisted construction of 16 water towers, 30 water supply centres, 324 drinking water wells, 7821 toilets etc. The expenditure incurred amounted to Rs. 4,522.45 in 2006, Rs. 10,557 million in 2007, Rs. 4,522 million in 2008, and Rs. 1,039.95 million in 2009. A further additional amount of Rs. 2,054.73 million was also provided in 2009.

Provision of electricity

The government has spent Rs. 674.71 million for provision of electricity in the Ampara district during the last four years. 92 projects were implemented benefitting 38,476 families. There were 39 large scale electricity supply projects. 134.33 k.m. of power lines, 350.53 k.m. three face power lines, and 57 k.m. of general power lines were laid.

Fisheries industry

Ampara District has a coastal area of 115 k.m. stretching from Kalmunai to Panama. The percentage of fishing community population in the district is very high. These fisher folk lost their habitats by the Tsunami disaster. The government implemented 131 projects at a cost of Rs. 421.48 million during the last four years for the benefit of these affected people. These projects were implemented under purview of seven service sectors and work carried out included construction of 203 housing units, 873 toilets, 8 k.m. of fishery roads, seven cold storage facilities, two resting places for fishermen, four Fishery Banks, 249 power boats, and 234 fishing vessels.

Over 12,725 families benefited from these projects which were implemented by the government expending Rs. 15.40 million in 2006, Rs. 112.6 million in 2007, Rs.224.28 million in 2008 and Rs. 69.64 million in 2009.

Livelihood development

Development of livelihood immensely helps in the progress of the masses. The government which soundly realized the importance of this factor spent Rs. 634.69 million during the last four years for the development of economic standards of the people in the Ampara district. 24,500 families benefited under this scheme which was implemented under the purview of 11 service sectors.

Under this scheme employment avenues were opened for 8,340 apprentices for self employment, 2,324 families were trained in cattle breeding, 1,983 families in goat breeding, 5,412 families in poultry management, 3,288 families in small scale trading, and 1,493 families in the fishery industry. The government granted Rs. 61.32 million in 2006, Rs. 56.98 in 2007, Rs. 105.09 in 2008 and Rs. 411.30 in 2009 for these activities.

Social development

The amount granted by the government for social development activities in the Ampara District during the last four years was Rs. 549.75 million. Under the supervision of nine service sectors 848 social development projects were implemented which benefited 610,719 persons.

Thirty eight multi service buildings, 14 information technology centres, 12 service centres, 17 trade complexes, five shopping complexes, two administrative centres, got developed under this scheme. The expenditure incurred by the government for these activities amounted to Rs. 22.29 million in 2006, Rs. 108.79 million in 2007, Rs. 108.79 million in 2008 and Rs. 261.78 million in 2009.

The amount spent by the government for strengthening the virtuous rule was Rs. 252.08 during the last four years. The value of this activity carried out under the supervision of two service sectors is very much felt now after the elimination of terror period that prevailed for almost 30 years. Under these activities construction of 10 District Secretariat Offices, one building for project implementation, three planning units, one residential complex, one Government Agent bungalow was carried out.

In this regard the government spent Rs. 55.47 million for five projects in 2006, Rs. 29.42 million for three projects in 2007, Rs. 94.01 million for eight projects in 2008 and Rs. 73.18 millionfor 15 projects in 2009.

Oluvil Harbour project

The government implemented the aforementioned road construction, irrigation, cultivation, educational, water supply, housing, health, electricity, fishery, economical development, social upliftment, administrative projects while the country was enmeshed in a horrendous war. With the end of the war, many projects were allocated to the Ampara district, estimated to cost several thousand million rupees. Construction of the Oluvil Harbour, which has already been started takes a prime place among these projects.

The estimated cost of this harbour project will be over Rs. 7,000 million. The government anticipates that many shortcomings faced by the population of the Ampara District could be overcome with the completion of this project which would cover a land area of 175 acres.

This harbour project will be completed as a dual purpose fishery and commercial harbour. The harbour will provide facilities for anchoring 200 fishing vessels, and two large ships. It will consist of cold storage facilities, a marketing centre for fish, and goods storage facilities. Work on the construction of 30 metre deep Commercial Harbour Jetty and the three metre deep Fishery Jetty is nearing completion.

The writer is the Director General, Media Centre for National Development, Ministry of Mass Media and Information

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