Survey on squatters along Kelani Valley rail line

Transport and Civil Aviation Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva yesterday found fault with the Railway Department and the political leaders of governments of past 25 years for not taking action against unauthorised dwellers on either side of the Kelani Valley rail track.

Addressing a meeting at the Ministry to inform Colombo District politicians of a proposed socio-economic survey to be conducted by the UN-HABITAT on the shanties along the rail track, the Minister said: There are around 3,000 families living along the two sides of the Kelani Valley track. They have erected houses and shanties near the track. They started building those unauthorized structures some 25 years ago and continued throughout the period up to now. The Railway Department and the political leaders of governments of past 25 years did nothing to prevent them. Today they have become the main hindrance for the development of the rail track. Roofs of many of those shanties are jutting towards the track and have become vary dangerous. Their houses needed to be removed to make the Kelani Valley a double track in order to reduce traffic congestion on the High Level Road from Avissawella to Colombo.

The Minister said the Asian Development Bank had pledged USD 600 million loan for the project to double track the Kelani Valley Line.  "Before commencing the project, we are planning to conduct a socio-economic survey with the assistance of experts from the UN-HABITAT. This survey will start from Friday (19). This survey could give a wrong impression among people living along the rail track and I need political leaders to be aware of the project and inform the people of what is taking place".

The Minister said that the survey would take six months and would be conducted from Colombo to Padukka, a press release issued by the Ministry said.

Among those present were Western Provincial Council Members Gamini Thilakasiri, Hector Bethmage, Rodney Fraiser, Sumith Zoysa and Susil Kindelpitiya, Secretary to the Ministry Nihal Somaweera and General Manager of Railways  BAP Ariyaratne were also present.



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