Pothuarawa residents protest alternative route for Rajagiriya – Athurugiriya Highway | Daily News

Pothuarawa residents protest alternative route for Rajagiriya – Athurugiriya Highway

‘Plan would force resettlement of 1,010 families’

A group of residents from Pothuarawa in Malabe staged a silent protest in front of the Central Environment Authority yesterday, urging them to construct the elevated highway from Rajagiriya to Athurugiriya through the proposed route instead of making last-minute changes.

Pothuarawa residents said they had received information suggesting that a group of influential people were trying to force the authorities to change the proposed route and seek an alternative route over Pothuarawa, which could displace a large number of families who have lived there for decades.

Letters were handed over to the Secretary of the Road Development Authority, Secretary of the Ministry of Environment, and the Project Director of the Elevated Highway Project, requesting not to change the proposed route, which goes over the Akuregoda paddy fields.

“We are not against the construction of the highway as we know the importance of the minimisation of traffic flow. However, the authorities must concentrate on minimising its social impact as well. People who would be affected by the alternative route have been living here for ages; where are we supposed to go if we lose our lands?” Kamal Nanayakkara, a Pothuarawa resident and Chairman of the ‘Surakimu Pothuarawa Sanvidanaya’ said.

The four-lane elevated highway, which would be 17.3 km in length and would stretch from Orugodawatte to Athurugiriya, was proposed in 2015 and is to be constructed under two phases. Phase One was planned from Orugodawatte to Rajagiriya, while Phase Two was planned from Rajagiriya to Athurugiriya.

Phase Two, which covers 10.4km, if constructed via the alternative route, would require the resettlement of 1,010 families and the demolishing of around 34 shops, 42 shop-houses, and 42 self-employed businesses. The government would have to acquire 750 land lots to build the elevated highway, and this would leave 106 structures partially affected and 634 fully affected.

Meanwhile, the authorities stated that construction of the elevated highway over the initially proposed route (the Akuregoda paddy fields) would not cause any adverse environmental impact or property damage.

Protesters opposite the Central Environment Authority building. Pictures by Roshan Pitipana and A.S.M. Irshad, Colombo Corr.