But the new bridge construction project over the Kelani river financed by JICA (Japan International Cooperation Agency) gave an opportunity for them to build their lives. The new bridge runs parallel to the existing bridge, and bridge piers will be located at Sedawatta and Wadullawatta. The communities have to relocate if the bridge is to be constructed. The relocation is carried out in accordance with the National Involuntary Resettlement Policy and JICA’s guidelines for social and environmental considerations. Accordingly, project affected communities are compensated based on the principles of replacement cost to enable them to have an equivalent or better living standards.
The Road Development Authority (RDA) which is the implementing agency for the bridge construction project, with close cooperation from the Urban Development Authority (UDA) secured apartments for the over 400 households in UDA’s “Laksanda Sevana” housing complex in Salamulla. The 2nd apartment block in the complex was ceremonially opened by President Maithripala Sirisena on 2nd of March 2017.
The complex is located just a few kilometers away from the bridge, so the changes to their traveling times and surroundings are minimized. Almost the entire community opted to live in the complex, so the community ties can continue in the new site.
The project affected families receive ownership of their individual apartments on vacation of their existing premises. The apartments are larger than the houses they currently occupy and equipped with amenities including electricity and water connections. The Project Management Unit (PMU) provided them with guidance and assistance on furnishing and maintaining their apartments, operating equipment and mobilized community leaders to assist and sustain the process.
In order to ensure their living standards improve, an income restoration programme is currently in progress. Through this, the householders received training, equipment and micro-finance facilities to start or expand home based industries such as shoe-making, incense sticks, dress-making etc. The PMU continues the support them to expand sales, diversify and improve quality of products and be self-sustainable.
A Montessori and day-care center is being set up and selected residents are being trained to operate both. The PMU assisted the families to move their children to the closest school to the housing complex, such that children could now walk to school instead of a longer commute they had earlier.