Honorable Minister of Megapolis and Western Development, Mr. Patali Champika Ranawaka, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen:
It is an honor to be here this morning at the ground-breaking ceremony of this timely project to manage floods in Colombo.
One of the main causes delaying Colombo’s economic potential has been its ill-preparedness to deal with frequent floods. The worst in recent times has been the 2010 floods with significant damages to economic and productive assets in the city. The annual flooding events during the last few years continue to add to the costs.
This groundbreaking - a much awaited event for the largest single contract under the Metro Colombo Urban Development Project or the MUDP – is also a fresh example of the long and productive partnership between the Government of Sri Lanka and the World Bank.
This storm water drainage tunnel, which will prove to be critical for flood mitigation, was made possible through the implementation of the MCUDP.
The MCUDP commenced in 2013 with an objective of reducing flooding in the catchment of the Colombo water basin. It is financing large and complex flood management investments across the city. A dedicated Project Management Unit has been working to design and implement flood mitigation infrastructure. This infrastructure includes a network of pumping stations, canal bank protection, and small scale and larger scale drainage tunnels – such as Mutwal where we are gathered today. The cumulative effect of this infrastructure will help meet the MCUDP objective of reducing flooding in Colombo.
A complex project of this nature required the team to take a multi-pronged approach to mitigate the effect of floods and to lessen the negative socio-economic impacts on people. Selected priority canals and drains have been rehabilitated, while a path to integrated flood management has also been followed. Similarly, the project is enhancing flood discharge capacity of the system by constructing new diversion paths through tunneling, open cut channels, and flood controlling structures and maintaining the wetlands. The New Mutwal tunnel is an important new outfall in the system and this groundbreaking ceremony is yet another step forward for the Project.
The project has already made a lot of headway, the true results and benefits of which will be seen in the years to come. I would like to share some of these achievements with you. The MCUDP has:
· Built and rehabilitated approximately 45 kilometers of roads including improving Galle and Duplication Roads;
· Strengthened on-the-job capacities of local authorities in procurement, contract management, and quality and safety standards of municipal roads;
· Designed and opened Colombo’s first urban wetland park at Bedeganna;
· Rehabilitated Viharamahadevi Park, Crow Island Beach Park and the Linear Park alongside Beira Lake;
· Initiated and facilitated the development of the urban wetland strategy, legal protection of remaining wetlands in the Colombo Metropolitan Area and making Colombo the first South Asian Ramsar accredited wetland city.
· Over 20 sub-projects to improve drainage capacity and canals, and reduce risks of localized flooding have been completed; and
· 3 Large pumping stations; Ambatale, North Lock, and St Sebastian South and this tunnel contract have been awarded and are now all under construction.
I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the MCUDP team and the Government of Sri Lanka for these achievements and thank them for their continued dedication to make Colombo more resilient.
On this happy occasion, I sign off by also reminding all of us of an inconvenient truth. As the world faces the consequences of climate change and global warming, as weather patterns turn unpredictable and we face more and more natural disasters, the only way forward is to build the resilience of a country and its people.
That is what we aim to do, for which we will continue to proudly partner with the Government of Sri Lanka.
Thank you, and my very best wishes.