Writer: Risidra Mendis; Photographer: Chanaka Nalin
My name is Aruna Priyanga Mallikananda. I’m 45 years old. I live with my wife and two sons, aged 13 and 16. I’m a businessman and have my own business. As a businessman, I have to travel daily. I have my own vehicle. I spend a lot of time on the road because of the traffic congestion. When I first heard about plans to build a highway in this area, I was not happy. The villagers in the area put up black flags and protested over this issue because somebody had told them that their land was going to be taken away from them and they would be given a low price for their land. They protested, saying not to do this.
When the Sri Lankan government undertakes projects like these, the people are never compensated well. Their land is taken, and they are given a price that is below the market value. But for the highway project in our area, the Road Development Authority (RDA) gave people good compensation for their land. This changed the mindset of people in the whole country.
When building the Southern Expressway, the village was divided into two. People were separated because the highway went in between the village. Even animals had a problem because they couldn’t cross to the other side. But when the other highways were built, they didn’t make the same mistake. They made sure villagers didn’t get separated to two sides and there was no damage to the environment.
This highway is very convenient for me. I save a lot of time on the road when I use the Outer Circular Highway. I have more time to spend with my family. For example, if I were to use the Galle Matara route, it will take me one day to go and one day to come back. It takes me at least five hours on the road. Now it takes me only two hours to go to Matara and Galle and come back. There is no traffic when I use the highway, unless there is an accident. I can save money and time by using the highway. The cost of travelling is reduced because I spend less time on the road. I personally feel there should be more highways built in Sri Lanka to make the lives of the people easier. Highways should be built all around the country.
 The Southern Expressway is a 126-KM highway that links the Sri Lankan capital Colombo with Galle and Matara. Construction of the highway began in 2003 and completed in 2014. The construction was jointly funded by the Japan Bank for International Cooperation and the Asian Development Bank.