Peace and Prosperity in Sri Lanka

Feature | 14 July 2014

Basic services and livelihoods have been resored in war-torn parts of north-east Sri Lanka with assistance from ADB.

For the Kandiah family, who live in the small town of Karaveddy in the Jaffna district in Sri Lanka, having access to clean water is a matter of life and death.

"We used to get water from our garden well, but it was not suitable for drinking due to high salinity. But now we have good quality potable water on tap," says Mrs. Kandiah, whose husband is a kidney patient and for whom good quality water is crucial.

The Kandiah family benefited from a water improvement project that was part of the North East Community Restoration and Development Project.

Support for conflict-affected communities

During the civil conflict in Sri Lanka's northern and eastern provinces (1980-2009), thousands of displaced persons were settled in areas with little or no basic services.

In October 2001, ADB responded to this urgent situation and the plight of the people through the North East Community Restoration and Development. The project was designed to help conflict-affected communities by restoring basic services, such as health, education, shelter, water supply, and sanitation, and their means of livelihood through support for agriculture, irrigation, and fisheries.

Subprojects were implemented in all eight districts of the northern and eastern provinces of Sri Lanka: Jaffna, Mullaitivu, Kilinochchi, Mannar, and Vavuniya in the north, and Trincomalee, Batticalao, and Ampara in the east. All of them were affected by the war.

"ADB's objective in the project implementation was to provide basic needs for the affected population," said Kamal Dahanayake, an infrastructure project officer in ADB. "The conflict had almost decimated economic activity in the northern and eastern provinces. What was needed was help to move the internally displaced persons away from dependency to a normal, productive way of life as possible. The trust built between parties of conflict by the project team was the key driver for successful project implementation."

One million beneficiaries

Even amid a very fluid ground situation where security conditions changed constantly, the project succeeded in bringing long-term assistance to a war-torn area. It is estimated that about 1 million people benefited from the project, restoring basic services, shelter, and livelihoods for 500,000 people, and providing indirect support to another 500,000.

This far-reaching assistance helped bring normalcy to people's lives and the economy of the conflict-affected provinces.

It is estimated that about 1 million people benefited from the project, restoring basic services, shelter, and livelihoods for 500,000 people, and providing indirect support to another 500,000.

In the area of health, 159 subprojects were completed. This included the reconstruction of hospitals in Jaffna, Trincomalee, Kilinochchi, and Mullaitivu districts. More than 800 health workers, including field staff, were trained.

In the education sector, 18 schools were reconstructed and emergency repairs were made to others. More than 900 classrooms were rebuilt in 165 schools, which benefited an estimated 83,823 students - more than half of which were female.

Sixteen water supply systems, including the Karaveddy Water Supply scheme, were constructed under the project and about 216 kilometers of rural roads were rehabilitated.

Livelihood assistance

To improve agriculture in the area, agriculture training centers, veterinary offices, and a livestock farm were rebuilt.

A total of 158 Women's Rural Development Societies were reactivated and their members' livelihoods enhanced through grants and loans. This created self-employment options for more than 1,500 women.

The community development aspect of the project focused on the poorest households. More than half of those who benefited from the project were women. This included providing houses to widows and single mothers.

A total of $141.8 million was spent on the whole project. ADB assistance, comprised of a $70.4 million loan and $13.6 million grant, covered 59% of the total expenditure; 23% or $33.1 million came from other development partners, such as the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA), Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), and the governments of Australia, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, and Finland; and the remaining $24.7 million was contributed by the Government of Sri Lanka.

Reconstruction of Kilinochchi hospital

One of the most visible and powerful impacts of the project was the reconstruction of the Kilinochchi District General Hospital, which served people affected by the conflict. As the fighting intensified and people fled the area, the hospital and its staff moved with them, often operating in makeshift clinics to serve the people.

The hospital was rebuilt under the project. In December 2009, it reopened with new equipment, including an intensive care unit, furniture, doctors' quarters, a wastewater and sewage treatment plant, and a dialysis unit.

Dr. P. Karthikeyan, director of the 222-bed Kilinochchi District Hospital which serves more than 600 outpatients a day, says: "Today, the hospital is considered a model regional hospital, visited by many health care professionals from around the world."

For more articles like this, read Together We Deliver, a publication highlighting successful ADB projects across Asia and the Pacific that demonstrated development impacts, best practice, and innovation.