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New Authority for Sri Lanka small islands’ development

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The Government will soon set up a Sri Lanka Islands Development Authority to harness maximum benefits of more than 60 small islands around the country developing these as tourist destinations to generate much needed foreign exchange, Urban Development Minister Prasanna Ranatunga said . A cabinet paper for this purpose will be submitted to the cabinet of ministers soon.

He noted that the country has missed opportunities on a number of occasions due to inappropriate economic policies, continuous political violence including insurgency, North East war, Easter Sunday bomb attacks and, the recent economic upheaval and wars. The present administration has to leapfrog from the present mismatch of development strategies in terms of tourism, although the country had potential to attract a record number of tourists, he said.

The construction of hotels such as water bungalows in island countries similar to the Maldives would increase the potential to attract local and foreign tourists, he added.

The Urban Development and Housing Ministry plans to develop physical and social infrastructure of those islands in accordance with a proper project plan under the purview of the new authority.

As an initial step measures will be taken to attract investors develop several selected islets forming public private partnership ventures or leasing out these islands under the strict guidance of the proposed Sri Lanka Islands Development Authority.

Proper official procedure including Environment Impact Assessment will be followed by the authority in vesting these lands with investors on long term lease basis without causing damage to sensitive ecosystem and environment, a senior official of the ministry said.

The Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) has already signed an agreement to lease out Uchchamunai island to a Swiss investor allowing him to obtain approval from the relevant authorities.

This US$417.5 million project will be implemented under the Kalpitiya Tourism Development Master Plan (KTDMP) of the SLTDA.

However leading environmentalists noted that the project’s overall environmental impact on the highly sensitive eco-system around the Kalpitiya peninsula was highly damaging.

However the new authority will look into such complaints before giving the green light for development projects.

When considering the northern islands locations like Pungudutivu, Iranativu, Kachchatheevu, Neduntheevu (Delft), etc have been identified for potential development, in addition to a number of islands in northwest Mannar and in Puttalam

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