Writer: Risidra Mendis; Photographer: Chanaka Nalin
I’m 25 years old. I’m not working now but was working earlier. I used the bus to travel to work and back. Traveling on these roads was a nightmare. The time wasted on the roads was unbearable. I came home exhausted and didn’t have the energy to do anything else. I live with my father, mother, sister, and brother. My father works at Mobitel, my brother is employed at the German Technical Training Institute. My sister works at the Megapolis Ministry.
The OCH (Colombo Outer Circular Highway) goes from near my house. This is the Kadawatha town. About nine years ago, I heard that a highway was to be built in this area. I was skeptical, like the rest of the people in this area. When people heard that a highway was to be built in this area, they were not happy. They put up boards saying that we don’t want a highway in this area, and they protested over it. But after the Kadawatha bus stand was built, the highway was built up to Malabe, and then expanded to Kottawa and Galle.
When the Highway was to be built in Kadawatha, people began to understand what a highway was. A calculation was made by the relevant authorities, and villagers who were losing land were paid up to ten years of the value of the property. People were happy and the highway was finally built. Some villagers had paddy land, some had bare lands. All those who had any type of land were compensated well. I can’t say the number of people who were compensated, but there were many.
The land value in this area has gone up since the highway was built. This is a positive thing for people who own land in this area. For example, if a perch (a unit of measurement used by land surveyors, equal to 25 square metres) of land was valued at Rs three lakhs(USD 1,652.96 dollars), after the highway was built, the land value of a perch went up to Rs six lakhs (USD 3,305.83 dollars). Businessmen have improved their businesses, and vendors who had small shops near the Kadawatha bus halt (bus stop) have now built big shops and restaurants. From the poor man to the rich man, everybody has benefitted from the building of this Expressway. Bus operators have also benefited from this highway.
There are hundreds of thousands of people who come to the Kadawatha bus stand every day to travel to various parts of the country. From Kadawatha, you get buses to Galle, Matara, and Ingiriya. Thanks to the highway, we now have a bus route from Ingiriya to Kadawatha. I have never heard of a bus route from Ingiriya to Kadawatha in this country. But now we have one because of the highway. There are many new bus routes, such as the Kadawatha Badulla and Kadawatha Kalutara route. From the Kalutara bus stand, there are about 12 new bus routes for people to travel to all parts of the country, such as Matugama, Panadura, Horana, and Moratuwa.
For me to go from Kadawatha to Colombo, it took me about one and a half hours. Now, I can travel much faster. The building of the Highway has saved people a lot of time on the road. It has made life easier for me and others. Using the Expressway is very convenient, and I can travel fast. From Kadawatha, I can go to Kandy. The Katunayake Kerawalapitiya highway was also opened recently. People can now go to Kerawalapaitiya and to Peliyagoda from Katunayake. I can go to Kaduwela and Maharagama in 20 minutes now. Before, it took me 45 minutes.
People who used their private vehicles to go on a long trip are now using the buses on the highway. Many people use the highway because of the convenience. A 40-minute ride has now become a 15-minute drive because of the expressway. I would like to see more highways coming up in the country and want the Chinese to help the Sri Lankan government to build more expressways for the country.