Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Creating Ghost Towns? - Hambanthota Development

Just looking at the image above gives you an insight on the idiocy of Sri Lankan Town planning. Just take a look at that weird looking building in the middle. Isn’t that the Jumeira Hotel in Dubai!!!...........this was published in the daily news 24th March 2009( Suddenly out of the blues Hambantota is the hippest town in Sri Lanka!

It is agreeable that Sri Lanka does need to develop a city apart from Colombo that can take the tourist/commercial pressures, but finding the suitable city is some what problematic giving the situation that Sri Lanka is at present. To develop a city there should be a pre determined purpose. It can be based on commercial issues, it can be based on industrial issues, and it can be based on tourism. We have seen marvelous examples internationally, take for instance bibao, spain. Frank Ghery’s Gugenheim museam transformed bilbao into a booming tourist hot spot.

Frank Ghery’s Gugenheim Museam, Bilbao

To develop a city you either need a focal point/a catalyst such as the gugenheim museum or you should introduce infrastructure, like what the GOSL trying to do at the moment. So in a certain perspective GOSL is on the right track.

The construction of the Hambantota Port, one of the biggest development projects to be undertaken by the Government. A Chinese consortium comprising China Harbour Engineering Company Ltd and Sino Hydro Corporation Ltd would be in charge of constructing of the Hambantota harbor. Under the first phase of the project, an industrial port with a 1,000m jetty and an oil refinery estimated to cost US$1 billion will be constructed at Hambantota. The proposed port will stimulate development of harbour-related industries such as ship repairs, ship building, bunkering, break bulk, power generation and a free trade zone. I was under the impression that this was developed into a marina where tourist cruise ships would make a intermediate stop point at, and there after tourist attractions would be developed within the city, such as safaris, traditional villages, the bundala national wild life park, the sand dunes of bundala, ( Did you know that Bundala was the village of Andare?)

There is also another theory on why china is backing such a large project. China is increasingly depending on oil import from middle east countries. The sea route for oil imports is of great importance to China and China wants to have a control over this sea route. Sri Lanka, situated in the Indian Ocean is closer to the Marlaca Strait and has a strategic location for the protection of the oil route. Hambantota is located at the southern end of Sri Lanka.

A report from U.S. Joint Forces Command confirms that the commercial-shipping container port at Hambantota being built by Chinese contractors is part of China’s so-called “string of pearls” strategy to gain political influence and be able to project power in the Indian Ocean region. Read more from Lanka Business Online.

However, China has clarified that its backing for the Sri Lankan Hambantota port and bunker terminal project is for commercial purposes only and not as part of a strategic plan to project its power in the Indian Ocean region. Read more from PortWorld.
Are we just pawns in a larger chess board far beyond the comprehension of our 3rd world mindsets?

Proposed Hambanthota Air port

The funniest project by far how ever in the Hambanthota development project is the Air port project.
The Asia tribune reports on 8th March 2008 as follows,
The construction of the second Sri Lankan international airport at the picturesque ancient township of Hambantota is making rapid progress. It is a gigantic undertaking being built at a record pace. The ceremonial laying of the foundation for the airport was made in October 2006, and the spectacular project is now visible to everybody as it rises from bare gound. Weerawilla in Hambantota, the constituency of Sri Lanka's President Rajapakse, will soon be the proud inheritors of a modern airport with all its facilities. The international airport is constructed in an area of 150 hectares with four km runways. It will start operating by 2009 creating a new chapter in the history of the country.

The funny part however is the fact that even though models of the project have been displayed in various forums including Deyata Kirula 2007 ( Very different from the one in the picture above) The design hasn’t been even awarded yet. And some where last year A Rajapakse brother was bold enough to actually make the call to change the location of the proposed site after briefly visiting the site. He literarily made the call through his mobile phone and instructed to change the location. This was even shown on Swarnavahini. (Though I might quote swarnavahini a lot in my posts, please note that I am not paid by the company not work for it.) Who will actually fly via Hamba Air port? If the marina was there it would have been logical to assume that the sudda’s ( a affectionate pet name Sri Lankan’s give White skinned tourists) would travel to Colombo, Sigiri, Pollonnaruwa via Mihin air from Hamba.

Refere here for more blabber on the airport

Apart from these gigantic projects Hambantota is to receive an Administrative Complex and an International Convention Centre with Assistance from Korea. The Government of Korea has agreed to provide a loan equivalent of US$ 20 million (Rs 2,000 mn) for the construction of an Administrative Complex in Hambantota. The total cost of the project is US$ 25 mn (Rs. 2,500 mn) of which US$ 5 mn (Rs. 500 mn) will be provided by the Government of Sri Lanka.

Who will use all this? It is logical to assume that once the infrastructure is in place that people will move in, similar to the situation that we see at the moment along the new constructed (Awesome!) road running from Hamba to Katharagama.

I hope that this new Hambanthota development will not become a ghost town, alien to its inhabitants (similar to what happen in corbusiers chandigargh) and alien to our culture: a mix of charities, looking for their own gains.


Anonymous said...

First i suggest the government to focuses on the areas which are affected by the war, and the rural areas. your point is some how correct,we can earn money by the tourism.Politicians shouldn't put that in their own pocket...

matchu if i say the real truth, there are people who didn't see the electricity in their life but at the same time we are in high tech world and enjoying all facilities.

Anonymous said...

They are talking about this more than two years?Are they really going to build?

Arkitektonic said...

Your completely correct in saying that the government should focus on the areas affected by the war, but you should also realize that these areas were only liberated recently and the Hamba project has been dragging on since about 2005-2006. I saw in the Sunday observer last weekend that they were restarting the pallekele cricket stadium which was half done and stopped some time back due to the lack of funds.( Who's funding this time? cricket board?) and also their refurbishing dambulla and ketththarama stadiums, all these to use for the world cup. I have nothing against cricket but i believe that without going begging for money from the IMF, the government should really get their priorities straight

Anonymous said...

//begging for money from the IMF, the government should really get their priorities straight//

lets pray the god :)

Arkitekton said...

lets hope praying helps :)

Anonymous said...

Now Its BUILT!!
What are say now?

Arkitektonic said...

We still await for the people to come and settle down in hambanthota