Master Plan for Hambantota in the works | Sunday Observer

Master Plan for Hambantota in the works

10 June, 2018

The Sri Lankan Government last week took an important step towards buildingeconomic activity around the island’s Southern region which in the longer term is likely to alter the prospects of the two current major ‘white-elephants’ in the region, the Hambantota Port and the Mattala Airport. Amidst plans already announced to establish a Special Economic Zone (SEZ) in Hambantota, the Cabinet of Ministers gave approval, to hire Singaporean state-owned consultancy firm, Surbana Jurong (Pvt) Ltd. to conduct a consultancy for the Greater Hambantota Regional Structure Plan and detailed Master Plan for key growth centres in the region. The decision is subject to the approval of the Attorney General.

The Government has identified the growth in Foreign Direct Investment and exports as critical factors in its development plan ‘Vision 2025’. In fulfilment of this, a Special Economic Zone (SEZ) is planned to be set up in Hambantota with the assistance of the Chinese Government.

‘It is now prudent and timely to prepare a Master Plan for the urban development of the Hambantota district in view of the expected development in the area to ensure a planned urban development with regional structure and master plan for key growth centres,’ a Cabinet Memorandum submitted by the Minister of Youth Affairs, Project Management and Southern Development, Sagala Ratnayake stated.

Accordingly, Surbana Jurong, one of Asia’s largest urban, industrial and infrastructure consulting firms is to be paid US$ 990,000 (around Rs. 158 million) for the latest assignment. The Cabinet has authorised the Secretary, Ministry of Megapolis and Western Region Development to sign the Consultancy Service Agreement with Surbana Jurong and to pay the Agency a total consultancy fee of US$ 990,000 through the funds allocated to the Southern Development Board for the year 2018.

‘The Southern Development Board which requested for a proposal from Surbana Jurong received an initial quotation of US$ 1.48 million on March 17 2018. However, following the subsequent negotiation on the scope of work and the consultancy inputs, Surbana Jurong has agreed to reduce the consultancy fee from US$ 1.48 million to US$ 990,000 (Around Rs. 160 million),’ the Cabinet Paper seen by the Sunday Observer noted.

The Government had earlier announced plans to establish a Sri Lanka – China Supplies and Industries Zone in three stages in the Hambantota and Monaragala Districts through a joint venture with China Harbour Engineering Corporation (CHEC). It is learnt that CHEC has also appointed Surbana Jurong, to draw up the Master Plans for Phase I and II of the Zone which will include social infrastructure such as housing, schools, entertainment and community infrastructure. The Zone is proposed to be constructed in a land area of 12,500 acres.

Surbana Jurong had already completed two Master Plans for the Western Region Megapolis and Trincomalee District.

‘It is advisable to utilise the same consultant for both the SEZ and the Hambantota region, to avoid duplication and provide a seamless plan for both areas.

Surbana Jurong is completing the Trincomalee District Master Plan and are able to immediately mobilise this saving valuable time,’ Minister Ratnayake outlined in his proposal.

He said that the draft Consultancy Service Agreement signed for the Trincomalee Project which was approved by the Attorney General will be used as a template with the final agreement being submitted to the Attorney General for approval.

Although in the past, there had been reports of protests staged by residents in Hambantota alleging that private lands are to be given to the Chinese firm, the Cabinet Memorandum has not stipulated on the proposed compensation in the event private lands are taken over.

Scope of work for Surbana

According to the Cabinet proposal, the consultancy firm is expected to prepare a regional structure plan for an indentified land extent of 1,130 square km covering the Hambantota Urban Council, Hambantota Pradeshiya Sabha, Lunugamvehera, Tissamaharama and a part of Moneragala. In addition, Surbana Jurong is tasked with preparing the detailed Master Plan for the key growth centres covering an area of approximately 500 sq km and urban design proposals and guidelines for 100-200 ha area for start-up development. The detailed master plan has to provide detailed land use plan, schematic transportation and infrastructure plan and zoning plan with regulations for the area, the proposal noted.

In implementing the tasks, the Cabinet last week also gave approval to the Urban Development Authority (UDA) to form a Project Management Unit, recruit project staff on acting basis under a Project Director and to set up a Project Office in Hambantota with provision for a co-ordinating office in Colombo. The estimated budget for the establishment of project offices including office equipment, staff salaries, fee of local experts, hosting all the stakeholder engagements, is Rs. 59.059 million.

“The Chairman of the Western Region Megapolis Planning Project (WRMPP), Ajita de Costa, who was also the Project Co-ordinator of the Trincomalee District Master Plan has been appointed the overall co-ordinator for the Hambantota Project along with the same local planning team that executed the Trincomalee district and Western Region Megapolis Master Plan Project,” authoritative sources told The Sunday Observer.

On the other hand, the source, who did not wish to be identified noted that the Government has also decided to appoint a ‘Project Steering Committee’ consisting of designated representatives from the UDA, National Physical Planning Department (NPPD), Central Environmental Authority (CEA), Sri Lanka Ports Authority, Ministry of Project Management, Youth Affairs and Southern Development and relevant ministries and high level decision makers to oversee the planning process and provide strategic direction on the Master Plan under the supervision of the UDA.

“Cabinet approval has been granted to release the required officers on full time or acting basis from UDA, NPPD, SLPA, SDA and CEA as recommended by the Project Director to be appointed subject to the approval of the Secretaries of the relevant ministries,” the source identified.

Established in June 2015 with the merger of Surbana International Consultants and Jurong International Holdings, Surbana Jurong (Pvt) Ltd is wholly owned by Temasek Holdings and has a global workforce of over 14,000 employees across more than 120 offices.