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Sri Lanka told better public transport can prevent gridlock

Nov 04, 2014 (economynext) – A top transport official from Hong Kong, which topped this year’s global urban mobility ranking, has advised Sri Lanka to improve public transport and traffic management to avoid gridlock from rapidly rising private car use.

Dr Dorothy Chan, Chairperson of the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT) International said what was required was a clear, long-term mobility vision, changing travelling habits through land use patterns, an integrated transport system and a pedestrian friendly environment.

"There’s been a lot of talk on promoting Colombo as a logistics hub but this will not happen easily if you cannot maintain a smooth road and transport network to maintain mobility in the city," she told the annual conference of the CILT Sri Lanka branch Tuesday.

Saying she’d already heard of complaints of congestion and more cars on the roads, Chan, former Transport Commissioner of Hong Kong, said: "How to manage city mobility is important if we are to enjoy the benefits of economic growth."

With the volume of traffic exceeding the capacity of roads, she warned that congestion will get worse as the city develops. "Road traffic grows faster than road capacity. Gridlock can happen in Colombo if you’re not careful."

Key challenges were the increase in private vehicles, incomplete public transport networks, insufficient management of road space and regulations not good enough to develop integrated transport networks.

"The more roads you build, the more traffic there’ll be to fill up that space," Chan said. "It’s simply not possible to match the building of roads to meet unrestricted traffic growth."

She cited the example of China where cities are growing fast and so is the people’s purchasing power with car ownership growing to 33 million in 2008 from one million cars in 1994. As a result, Chinese cities experienced serious traffic congestion and bus speeds fell by 60% and bus punctuality fell by 88%.

"There were also important impacts on the environment with increased greenhouse gas emissions, more accidents, more delays, and deterioration in urban mobility which indirectly increases costs of production of goods and services."

Hong Kong’s experience was relevant to Asian cities, she said, describing how the 1,104 square kilometre city state with 7.2 million people avoided gridlock with taxes restricting private car ownership and good traffic planning and management.

Hong Kong’s three guiding principles were continuous improvement in transport infrastructure like roads, rail, buses, airports, ports and bridges, expansion and improvement of public transport, and encouraging efficient use of road space by giving priority to "economic carriers" like buses.

Traffic management using surveillance cameras, automatic vehicle detectors and tolls, remote-controlled traffic lights, and area traffic control systems, helped shorten journey time 20-40%, increased road capacity by 17-25%, reduced accident rates by 15-50% and reduced fuel consumption by about 40%.

"Many of us prefer to use public transport and leave our cars at home," Chan said. "Hong Kong is served by a variety of public transport that’s probably unparalleled in the world. We are spoiled."

Hong Kong’s policy is to develop rail as the backbone of its transport system with buses being the other main carrier and trams, ferries, minibuses and taxis also used.
Rail’s market share of the public transport system has increased to 43% today from 39% in 2013 because of a shift from cars to rail.

Although Hong Kong does not have Bus Rapid Transit, Chan said BRT will help Colombo in building up a good public transport network, noting how such systems elsewhere reduced congestion caused by cars and equals light rail in mass mobility but at much less construction cost.


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India supports Sri Lanka Coast Guard to boost maritime security

ECONOMYNEXT – India has given 1.2 million US dollars’ worth spare parts to Sri Lanka’s Coast Guard to be used in a vessel also gifted to the Indian Ocean Island on an earlier occasion, the Indian High Commission in Colombo said.

“Handing over of the large consignment of spares symbolizes India’s commitment to support capability building towards addressing the shared challenges of Maritime Security in the region,” the Indian High Commission said

The spare parts were brought to Sri Lanka on the Indian Coast Guard Ship Sachet, an offshore patrol vessel that was on a two-day visit to the island.

The spares were formally handed over to the Sri Lanka Coast Guard Ship Suraksha which was gifted to Sri Lanka in October 2017 by India.

India has gifted spare parts for the ship in June 2021 and April 2022 and also provided assistance in refilling of Halon cylinders in January 2024. (Colombo/June23/2024)

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Sri Lanka Water Board makes profits, tax-payers inject Rs28bn

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s state-run National Water Supply and Drainage Board has made a profit of 5.2 billion rupees in the year to December 2023, after a tariff increase despite not getting money for 25 percent of its water it pumps out.

Total revenues went up to 61.8 billion rupees in 2023 from 35.4 billion rupees, a Finance Ministry report said.

Water revenue surged to 58.5 billion rupees from 33.1 billion rupees, cost of sales also went up to 32.8 billion rupees from 23.14 billion rupees, helping boost gross profits from 12.3 billion rupees to 29.0 billion rupees.

Finance costs surged to 14.9 billion rupees from 3.9 billion rupees,

NSWD reported net profits of 5.2 billion rupees for the year, against a loss of 2.7 billion rupees a year earlier.

The Treasury had given 28 billion rupees from tax payer money to settle loans.

During the Rajapaksa administration, macroeconomists who ran the Finance Ministry made state enterprises borrow money from banks through Treasury guarantees listing them as ‘contingent liabilities’, claiming they were ‘off balance sheet’.

The Road Development Authority, which had no revenues to speak of borrowed large amounts of money from banks which were listed as ‘contingent liabilities’ though they were a responsibility of the state from day one, allowing macroeconomists to understate both the budget deficit and national debt, critics say.

The water tariffs were raised by 81 percent after macroeconomists printed money to supress interest rates for flexible inflation targeting/potential output targeting. The currency collapsed after macroeconomists tried to float the rupee with a surrender rule in place.

Non-revenue water for which no money is collected was 25.2 percent. The agency was supposed to reduce non-revenue water. In some districts religious establishments are responsible for non-revenue water, according to an official who said it on condition of anonymity.

The water board is also unable to collect money from some services like common toilets for underserved communities. (Colombo/June23/2024 – Update II)

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Sri Lanka will expedite Indian projects: President

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka will expedite Indian-backed projects in the island, President Ranil Wickremesinghe told Indian business people after a visit by Indian External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar this week.

“I discussed with Prime Minister Modi the need to accelerate the joint program that we have decided, agreed on. So the major ones are identified, and Foreign Minister Jaishankar came down today [20] to have a discussion. Now this will show the new path we are taking,” president Ranil Wickremesinghe said.

“It won’t be individual projects. We’ve discussed a fair number of them. First is the grid interconnection between Sri Lanka and India, so that sustainable energy can be transmitted to India.

“We have the Sampur solar power project, which is a Government to Government (G2G) project, and a three island project, which is where we hope the ground breaking can take place in July,” he told Indian business people at the 31st All India Partner’s Meet 2024 (AIPM 2024), held at ICT Ratnadipa in Colombo.

The AIPM 2024 which was organised by KPGM Sri Lanka and India provided a platform for both countries to reaffirm their commitment to collaborative projects that promise to redefine bilateral relations and propel socio-economic growth.

“It’s a great pleasure and a privilege to have you in Sri Lanka, in Colombo, holding this meeting. It shows on one hand the close friendship that our two countries have, and on the other hand, the confidence that you have in Sri Lanka.

“Having now survived two difficult years, I must acknowledge that this was possible because India gave us a loan of $3.5 billion. All that will be repaid.”

Cooperation between the two nations needed to be enhanced, particularly in the energy sector, aiming to foster new development for the Northern region, Wickremesinghe said.

“We are looking at developing Palk Straight for wind energy and solar energy, both countries to get together and have a large farm for solar energy, for renewable energy. It also means that we will have a new economy for the northern province, which was worst affected by the war.”

Several Indian-backed projects in Sri Lanka have stalled due to protests from some parties, with some going to courts.

India is helping expand the Kankesanturai port, and is discussing development of the Palali and Colombo airports.

The National Livestock Development Board of Sri Lanka, in collaboration with India’s Amul Dairy Company, is involved in a project to enhance liquid milk production in the country.

The two nations are also considering establishing land connectivity.

Discussions have also taken place regarding expediting the Trincomalee Development Project, which encompasses industrial investment zones and tourist areas.

“Plans are underway to construct a multi-product oil pipeline from Nagapatnam to Trincomalee, pending the final observation report. Trincomalee is poised to become a hub for oil refining, with the development of ports and investment zones, transforming Trincomalee Port into a significant hub on the Bay of Bengal.

“Today, the entire East Coast is being opened up for tourism, with additional land earmarked for hotels in Galle and southern areas. Moreover, there are plans to establish more investment zones across the country, alongside expanding our professional training programs. In these endeavours, we are collaborating closely with India.” (Colombo/Jun22/2024)

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