Roads and Highways in Sri Lanka

Project Result / Case Study | 27 January 2015

An extensive network of roads and highways in Sri Lanka is helping to drive the economy and move people and goods faster.

Nelson Wickramasekara has sold fruit for nearly 30 years along the Kandy-Mahiyangana national highway in central Sri Lanka.  

Not long ago, it was not much more than a dusty road with limited traffic and very few tourists.

Today, it is a modern highway with steady traffic, including a growing number of tourists who use it to get to the historic sites in the area.

The 55-year-old vendor has seen a 30% increase in his sales since the road was improved and he has invested that money in buying a van that his son uses to operate a school transportation service, which generates additional income.

“I have been able to pay off my debts,” he said. “I can build a financial foundation so that my children grow up without being in debt.”

The road was upgraded by the ADB-supported National Highways Sector Project and is part of a vast network of roads and highways that has been built or improved in the last decade.

“ADB’s work in the transport sector has focused primarily on upgrading national and provincial roads, and improving the country’s premier container port in Colombo, the commercial capital of Sri Lanka,” said Aruna Uddeeptha Nanayakkara, a senior project officer with ADB’s South Asia department.

Between the years 2010 and 2013, ADB has helped build or upgrade 634 kilometers of expressways and national highways. In addition, 1,707 kilometers of provincial, district, and rural roads have been built or upgraded.  

Kanapathipillai Manikkawasan, a farmer in the small town of Aithyamale, felt the impact of an improved road system in the remote area near where he farms rice and vegetables.

“Without the extra income, we could not have kept up with the increased costs of education and electricity. This is helping us to pay our bills.”

Kanapathipillai Manikkawasan, a farmer from Aithyamale

The 55-year-old farmer used to spend an entire day getting his rice harvest to the market. The old Hensman Road, in nearby Batticaloa town, which was used to transport his goods, was in such rough condition that he needed an elaborate system of trucks and ox carts to get to market. He had to pay separately for each mode of transport.

Today the road has been upgraded through the ADB-supported Eastern and North Central Provincial Roads Project, and it has made a major difference in the lives of farmers in the area. Now what used to be a day-long journey takes about 45 minutes with a single tractor that can reach the area near his farm and drive direct to the market.

His family of six relies on the farm and the added income from the reduced transport costs has helped to pay for his children’s education.

“Without the extra income, we could not have kept up with the increased costs of education and electricity,” he said. “This is helping us to pay our bills.”