Airports, Airports every where, but nor Airport for Kandy
Posted on August 18th, 2010

Dr. Sudath Gunasekara (SLAS) 18.8.2010.

It has been aired out in CDN of 18th August that the Ports and Aviation Ministry will renovate 13 inland airports to boost the inland air transportation system. The 13 airports listed were Polonnaruwa, Hingurakgoda, Palali, Rathmalana, Koggala, Katukurunda, Weeravila, Trincomalee, Sigiriya, Batticaloa, Ampara, KKS and Vavuniya. (In addition now we have airports in Hambantota and Iranamadu as well)

It is also said that these domestic airports were constructed many years ago. Under the proposed renovation programme the runways of these air ports will be lengthened and widened to accommodate medium scale aircrafts. This is welcome.

But it is sad we don’t have made this facility available to people in places like Kurunegala. Mahiyangana, Nuwara Eliya and most of all Kandy, the second most important city in this country. Kandy was also the last capital of the Sinhale Kingdom and for that reason and its historical, political, cultural and scenic value it should have been given top priority in providing this facility long time ago. I don’t think any other city in the periphery attracts so many people through out the year. More over the congregation of people for Sri Dalada Perahera in the months of July-August has no parallel. The location of the Temple of the sacred Tooth of Lord Buddha, the palladium of the Buddhist world , temples of the two Buddhist spiritual leaders of the nation, Malwatta and Asgiriya, the world famous Peradeniya Royal Botanical garden, the University of Peradeniya and the scenic beauty of the city and its environs also attract millions annually to this city.

The present access by road from Colombo or Katunayaka the International Airport to Kandy takes almost four hours. Rail three hours or more. Isn’t it shocking and a crime for a person to waste four hours on the road in this age of interplanetary travel to cover 115 km. There has been lot of lose talk on highways being built and railway improved. But most of them are like fairy tales narrated to little ones to make them sleep in bed.

To make development a reality rapid and safe transport in this modern world is a sine qua non. Apart from the dire need for development it also constitutes a fundamental human right of the people who live in these areas. Efficient and good transport will increase mobility and it also minimizes congestion in urban centers. It will also minimize rural -urban migration that creates innumerable environmental,                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 health, housing and social problems in cities. An improved network of transport is the quickest answer for this problem.

With some of these problems in mind and the development needs of the region, I had proposed as far back as 1979 to open up an airport in the Pallekele area in the Dumbara valley. But no one took it seriously, may be since I was not a politician. In mid 1990s the then Chief Minister of the Central Province also had called for an airport for Kandy. He is no more there to agitate for it now. I do not know whether he had copied my idea and presented it as his own brain child. Nevertheless it is extremely sad to note that up to date nothing has happened. Since 1979 much water has passed under the bridge. District councils, Provincial Councils, Pradeshiya Councils and many Authorities have come. The number of political and administrative institutions has multiplied by many folds. Number Politicians and Public officials have multiplied at the ratio of 1 to 15 or 20. Modern buildings have come up to house them and public expenditure has increased by leaps and bounds. But when one looks at the actual increase in real development that increases the quality of human life the story is really deplorable.

The people of the Kandyan Kingdom were the men who fought against three colonial super powers for three centuries and ten years (1505-1815) to save the motherland. They were the people who sacrificed and lost every thing dear and near to them, including their land, forests the heritage and their very lives. Heir lands were grabbed by the British and they were made paupers and destitute on their own motherland. Their paddy fields, gardens, cattle and places of religious worship were set ablaze and their irrigation canals, tanks and structures were all ravaged and destroyed in the 1818 so-called rebellion. All young men over the age of 18 years were killed. Even white men such as John Davy have left appalling accounts on these devastations and crimes of the colonial invaders. After that their henas, grazing lands, gardens and sometimes even paddy fields were acquired for coffee and tea and were chased down to the valley bottoms hemmed in between mountains and reduced to abject poverty.  Thereafter their watersheds protected by their fore fathers from the dawn of history, that provided water for the paddy fields in the entire country were razed to the ground by the British to plant their coffee and tea plantations. The indentured labour brought from South India as slaves to work on these newly opened up plantations over a million of them today have become the virtual owners of lands once owned by the natives.

In 1949 a commission called the Kandyan Peasantry Commission was set up to study the plight of these people and to propose ways and means of alleviating them. But after 60 years of self rule by our own people today their problems like landlessness, poverty and other social problems like roads, sanitation, education are worst than they were in 1949. Therefore they were the people who suffered worst in history and even today they are the most neglected lot in the country.  Majority of them are below the poverty line. Even today most of these villages in the hill country have no proper access or even drinking water for most part of the year.

It is in the context of this historical social injustice and pathetic background politicians, policy makers and planners have to plan for development of these regions. Obviously in this scenario an airport to Kandy or Nuwara Eliya is only a drop in the mighty development ocean. Many more things have to be done. An overall master plan need to be drawn up incorporating all sectors of physical and social development and implemented with the least amount of delay in order to rectify the historical injustice done to them both by the British and our own governments since Independence. Because the whole country owe them so much, so difficult to be repaid, even for generations.

In this backdrop I call upon the government to give top priority for an Airport to Kandy at the earliest. I have no doubt that it will serve as a gateway for rapid development of the hinterland of Kandy city in particular and the hill country in general..

2 Responses to “Airports, Airports every where, but nor Airport for Kandy”

  1. Sri Rohana Says:

    Sudath are you serious? Is this a high priority agenda at this moment?
    You can propose a Shinkansen train from Colombo-Kandy, Tube trains, monorail and sky trains, Disney land in Pallekele, Las Vegas type casinos in Hantane, Twin towers, Eiffel tower, Formula Car track, Race course, Golf field, Gondolas in Mahaweli River etc. How creative you guys? Excellent!God bless Sri Lanka’s clerical service!If senior clerical staff is this caliber need not to say about juniors!

  2. Kamal Says:

    I hope the Sri Lankan drivers learn to drive one after the other in a single lane road.
    That will sort out the necessity of a airport in Kandy. It is only 100 Kilometres.
    Ay 60 K/H speed or rather 50K/H average it should take only 2hrs.
    They are all in a mighty hurry and end up in 4Hrs exhausted.

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