Friday, May 8, 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.


Deveniya said...

The model you have shown in your post is the Terminal 3 of the Dubai airport. You can see the Emirates flights on contact stands and they are A380s.
We need an anlternative to katunayake and Down South is one of the best locations for tourism. I have driven from katunayake to Dickwella almost everytime I visted Sl and it takes almost 6 hours (even via Rathnapura-Embilipitiya road). If we can land somewhere in Downsouth you have all the links to tourism sites all over the island and can avoid going through Colombo.

Arkitekton said...

Actually the image of the airport was published in Asia tribune(You can see the link to Asia Tribune when you hover over the image)
As for the air port, you may have a valid point in saying that the Hamba terminal can act as a local air port for internal flights. However I very much doubt it will take that much time to travel to Hambanthota when the southern expressway comes through.

Arkitekton said...

Unfortunately it seems that Asia tribune has removed their post on the Hamba terminal. In my post what I have tried to say is that its ridiculous to have models of the air port when even the design hasn't been awarded to a consultancy, let alone being finalized.

Deveniya said...

I agree with you regarding the Southern Express way. Since the war is over I hope the Civil Aviation Authority may allow Srilankan to commence interior flights soon and this will reduce the burden but it cost more than Rs 110,000/- per passenger to travel by Srilankan airtaxis.
We have submitted a comprehensive proposal for Weerawila airport two years ago and still no word from them. I brought a Joint Venture from Scandinavia with possible funding but as you know the government redtapes and other political stuff put a stop to all those things.
They have to start small, like a runway and associate facilities with a basic terminal and then they can expand. thats how we do airports (in the third world)but if your vision is marred by pitty plotics you cannot realise mega projects...
Please keep on reporting regarding Hambanthota port...I know some people working there who graduated from Moratuwa after us...some did work for me overseas too....

Arkitekton said...

I am not sure which proposal your talking about, but as per my knowledge the design for the hamba terminal is supposed to be granted to The Design Group Five International since their the only architectural practice in Sri Lanka which has sufficient exposure to Airport design.(Even though nothing solid has been achieved yet)