A catalyst for Southern development | Daily News
Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport:

A catalyst for Southern development

Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport (MRIA) is a catalyst for the development of the entire country, especially the Southern and Uva provinces. A second international airport in Sri Lanka was a crying need for several decades. But when it was sidestepped by many governments, President Mahinda Rajapaksa, during his tenure, knowing the importance of a second airport in the country, constructed this new airport under the Mahinda Chinthana concept.

This airport was not built in isolation; it is surrounded by a port, a conference hall suitable for international events and a modern playground. With a revolutionary change in the political field in Sri Lanka, the opening of the international airport in Mattala marked the dawn of a new era in the country.

In a developed country like Japan, one could see more than a thousand seaports due to its geographical location. The Mattala airport is a valuable asset and a legacy for the country. This airport was built on the principle that the leaders of today should think prudently. The people of Sri Lanka could reap many benefits from a project of this nature, and the younger generation of this country would benefit the most.

At a time when the country is moving towards a new development era, this international airport would be a money-spinner for the regime of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and fellow citizens as well. This milestone would provide a backbone in developing the tourism industry as well. We needed a second international airport with the expansion of the tourism industry.

During the period of President Mahinda Rajapaksa, several foreign airlines such as Air Arabia and flydubai operated to and from the Mattala airport. The MRIA is the only airport with a strip that could land the world’s biggest aircraft – the Airbus A380. Although SriLankan Airlines joined hands with Lufthansa to make the Mattala airport as its maintenance centre, it was not possible due to the change of Government.

This airport will make a major contribution to the country’s wellbeing, focusing on the neglected areas in the deep South, providing a long-awaited boost for international trade, tourism, exports and agriculture. It will also create a large number of new employment avenues for those in the Southern and Uva regions.

Combined with the Hambantota international seaport, this new international airport will be an important catalyst for the expansion of economic activities of the country. This is also a great new stride ahead for the country, especially Hambantota, bringing many international links to the southern region.

This airport was commissioned on March 18, 2013. With the establishment of the MRIA, Mattala village which was a thick jungle three years back started to develop. This airport was built using local designs and construction skills and its successful completion was an important milestone for the country’s engineering sector, making it the first international airport built by Sri Lankans.

The Hambantota district which had long been deprived of the overall benefits of national development underwent major transformation during President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s regime. The Greater Hambantota Development Plan envisaged the establishment of a commercial centre for the Southern region and these include plans for the establishment of administrative complexes, a seaport and an airport among other things.

This coincided with the establishment of a new second international airport. The task of implementing the construction work and the operation of the airport was entrusted to Airport and Aviation Services.

This historic project was launched in 2009 and it was the then President Mahinda Rajapaksa who broke the ground to commence construction work accompanied by the then Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa, Minister Mahinda Amaraweera and Parliamentarian Namal Rajapaksa.

The estimated initial cost of the first phase of the airport project was US$ 209 and it took three years and four months for the completion of the first phase. In the quest to make the new airport capable of catering to high capacity modern aircraft, the Airbus A380 was chosen. This meant that all infrastructure constructed eventually would be of adequate capacity to match the operational parameters of the aircraft, according to an aviation engineer connected with the construction of the airport who wished to remain anonymous.

The Hambantota district is a region gifted with wildlife resources; it is where the Yala and Bundala National Parks are located. Hambantota has beautiful sandy beaches with sunshine all the year round. The Colombo – Matara Expressway which is also known as the Southern Expressway with an extent of 126 kilometres has connected Colombo with Matara.

Commuters can travel to Colombo from Matara in one-and-a-half hours. The new Southern Highway has been completed from Barawakumbuka via Hambantota to Mattala. This highway will be connected with the Matara highway soon under the present regime led by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa. The construction of this stretch of highway is progressing steadily.

Road and Highways, Ports and Shipping Minister Johnston Fernando who made an inspection tour of this stretch of the highway said that it has not been constructed according to the required standards.

Apart from it, the Matara – Beliatta railway line inaugurated by the previous regime has a lot of shortcomings even though it was opened for the public. Remedial measures will be adopted by the present regime to make it a fully-fledged people-friendly railway station.

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