RDA Chairman cites technical reasons

Rs.36 b increase in Southern Expressway cost:

Road Development Authority (RDA) Chairman Nihal Sooriyarachchi yesterday cited technical reasons for the increase of Rs.36 billion in the cost of the Southern Expressway project.

RDA Chairman Sooriyarachchi responding to COPE Chairman JVP MP Sunil Handunetti’s allegation that there was a loss of Rs.36 billion incurred due to an extension, explained that the road extension was a result of their soil investigations in the area and environmental concerns.

In addition, he said the road was initially planned to be built on a soil embankment but had to be later changed to be on elevated columns.

Handunetti had charged that the project was initially launched with an estimated cost of Rs.243 billion; a loan from the Chinas EXIM Bank.

The government had also agreed to bear 15 percent of the cost of the first and second phases of the project. Later on the Chinese company constructing the expressway; FSDI had asked for an additional estimate of Rs.36 billion to extend the flyovers by 2.78 km,”the COPE Chairman said.

“Environmentalists pointed out that we needed to keep space for animals to cross over and in addition, there was a flood in the area and the road got flooded, so we had to change the plan to have the road built on elevated columns,” the RDA Chairman further explained.

“There is a big difference between a road on a soil embankment and elevated columns, so yes it is true that we have changed the plan and the cost, but that was due to technical reasons,” he added.

“With regard to extending the road by 2.78 km, he explained that while the elevated section was indeed extended thus, sections on soil embankments were reduced to compensate for the increase.

He also denied Handunetti’s claims that the RDA had granted permission for the Chinese company to hire foreign employees without first checking their qualifications.

“The Chinese company asked that certain Chinese advisors be brought into the project. We have checked all qualification, we would not be able to work with them otherwise,” Sooriyarachchi said. The RDA Chairman however assured that he had directed their audit department to conduct a fresh audit of the project in order to investigate further into the claims made by Handunetti.

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