World Bank visits Batticaloa, deplores project

[TamilNet, Friday, 16 March 2001, 14:47 GMT]
The World Bank is not satisfied with the progress of the development work it is funding in the Batticaloa under the ëNortheast Irrigation and Agriculture Projectí (NIAP) said Bank officials Friday, winding up a three day visit to this eastern district. ce.

The World Bank team had informal discussions with officials of the Liberation Tigers at Karadiyan Aaru, about 24 kilometres northwest of Batticaloa, which it visited Wednesday to inspect the NIAP projects in that region. NIAP is a 32 million US dollar program by the Bank intended to develop 400 irrigation schemes in the islandís Northeastern Provin

The world bank delegation at the conference with government officials in the Batticaloa Kachcheri Friday morning. World Bank's Country Director, Ms.Mariyana Todorova (right), the Batticaloa GA, Mr.R. Mounagurusamy (right) and Mr. Nihal Fernando (centre). (Photo:TamilNet)[-related story-]
The five-year World Bank project started in Batticaloa fifteen months ago. A senior government official in Batticaloa told Tamilnet that the slow progress of the project is largely due to restrictions by the Sri Lanka army on taking cement, iron rods and other constructions material and machines to areas where all the targeted irrigation schemes except one lie.

Responding to requests from the public for health, education and transport during a meeting arranged for the World Bank team at Karadiyan Aaru, on Wednesday, the Government Agent for Batticaloa, Mr. R. Mounagurusamy, said that any development work in such areas of the district which are not controlled by the army could be implemented only if the government permits it.

He told the farmers, village officials, teachers and other civilians who were gathered at the Karadiyan Aaru school hall that he had proposed to the government many schemes for developing the ìunclearedî (not controlled by the Sri Lanka army) parts of the district. He said that the Sri Lanka army does not allow heavy machines to the Karadiyan Aaru region for road repair work.

Ms.Mariyana Todorova, the World Bankís country director for Sri Lanka, Mr. Nihal Fernando, project director (Sri Lanka) for Irrigation and Agriculture, Mr. S. Ramanathan, director of NIAP had discussions about the progress and problems of the project Friday with the Batticaloa GA, the Divisional Secretaries of the district and other government officials. A representative of the ICRC and A.S Vinotharaj who is in charge of NIAP in Batticaloa were also present.

Mr. Nihal Fernando told officials that the people in the projectís target communities whom they had met during their visit had asked the World Bank team to provide them housing and relief. It was therefore evident that the awareness and social mobilisation programs related to the project have not borne any results, he said. NIAP develops irrigation schemes to help communities around these to become sufficiently self reliant, availing themselves of the agricultural opportunities to improve their lot, according to him.

The need to make the public aware of the project so as to help them reap its benefits by keeping the press abreast of the developments was emphasised by the Bank officials.

The World Bank gave funds for the social mobilisation and awareness project of NIAP to Sareeram, one of the NGOs that mushroomed and prospered in Batticaloa as a consequence of the war and the social and economic deprivations it has engendered in the district for more than fifteen years, exacerbated in no small measure by the acutely discriminatory policies of successive Sri Lankan regimes.

Mr. Nihal Fernando told the government officials that agricultural and irrigation programs under NIAP too have not progressed satisfactorily and that the people in the target communities were not even aware of them. The Bank, as consequence, might have to reconsider funding NIAP in Batticaloa, he said.

He also pointed out to the officials that although the project began fifteen months ago, in December 1999, little headway has been made so far; and that a progress report has to be submitted to the Bank in July this year.

Fourteen irrigation and agricultural schemes were undertaken in the Batticaloa district by NIAP for 2000-2001. Thirteen of these lie in the paddy producing western hinterland and the northern part of the district. The SLA has no control over both which together constitute more than 70 percent of the districtís land mass.

A Divisional Secretary from this region explained to the World Bank team the problems officials face in getting permission from the SLA to take material and machinery across.

Another major development scheme in Batticaloa funded by Norway stalled two years ago when the SLA refused permission to implement it in most parts of this war scarred district.

The conference in progress (Photo:TamilNet)


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