Rehabilitation, Reactivation and Operation of the Elephant Pass Saltern

Saturday, 22 November 2014 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}


The Elephant Pass Saltern was functioning successfully from 1938 to 1990 producing a major portion of the requirements of salt for domestic consumption as well as industrial use of the country. It is reported that prior to 1990s the Elephant Pass Saltern has produced 60,000 – 80,000 metric tons of salt production per annum. During such period, the Elephant Pass Saltern has met 30 to 40% of the total salt requirement of the country. The total acreage of the Elephant Pass Saltern is 1946 acres of which 1169 acres are in the Northern section in Kurinjathivu and 777 acres are in the Southern section formally called ‘Elephant Pass’. Location of each saltern lies in the sea side between Paranthan and Iyakkachchi. Hence, both locations fall in the Kilinochchi District. The Southern section known as the Elephant Pass Saltern is in Kandavali Divisional Secretariat Division and the Northern section known as Kurinjathivu Saltern is in Pachchilaipalli Divisional Secretariat Division.  

Operations were abandoned in 1990s

The saltern before 1990s produced high quality pure white salt. The success of the saltern was attributed to the natural conditions that prevail in the Elephantpass area such as high sunshine, low rainfall, high temperature, high wind speed, low humidity and dry air. Ministry of Traditional Industries and Small Enterprise Development Secretary V. Sivagnanasothy informed that the Elephant Pass Saltern which commenced its operation in 1938 was very successful in producing high quality pure white salt. However due to the conflict situation, the saltern operations were abandoned in 1990 and closed down for the last 23 years.  

Export potentials and the national significance

Currently the requirement for salt in Sri Lanka is 150,000 metric tons per annum of which 80% is for domestic consumption and the balance consumption is for industrial unit. Out of this total demand, 97% is currently fulfilled through the existing salterns. It is noted that 4,500 metric tons of purified salt which uses pure vacuum dried technology is also imported on an annual basis to meet the total requirements. Further, high quality salt of 65 million metric tons valued at Rs. 500 billion is required in the world market especially by USA, Japan, China, South Korea and other countries.  

Reactivation under the Mahinda Chintana ‘Uthuru Wasanthaya’ program

The Government under the ‘Uthuru Wasanthaya’ program of the ‘Mahinda Chintana’ National Development Framework decided to support the renovation of the saltern. On the request of Minister of Traditional Industries and Small Enterprise Development Douglas Devananda, the Minister of Economic Development Basil Rajapaksa released a sum of Rs. 100 million in May 2014 to the Ministry of Traditional Industries and Small Enterprise Development to initiate the rehabilitation work of Elephant Pass saltern. Sivagnanasothy informed that the initial funding is being used for the rehabilitation of the phase I programme which covers 330 acres. It is expected that the reactivation of phase I will lead to a production of 20,000 to 25,000 metric tons per annum. Accordingly, 15 nos. of evaporation pans, 267 nos. of crystallisation pans sea water ubtake cannels, reconstruction of spill ways, canal systems, flood protection bunds, rip-rap protection for reservoir, earth bunds and 30 nos. of saltern platforms and other related infrastructure including access road, electricity, buildings and facilities are being upgraded and developed. Under the reactivation of Elephan Pass Saltern Project, the construction of sea water intake canal, renovation of reservoir outer earth bunds, rip rap protection of reservoir, renovation of flood protection earth bunds, construction of spillways, electrification, renovation of buildings and purchase of tractors and trailers, tools and accessories are being carried out.  

De-mining completed

As the Elephant Pass Saltern location was in the middle of the conflict area, there were large numbers of mines in this location. The de-mining activity of the saltern has been completed by Delvon Assistance for Social Harmony (DASH) with the support of the Australian Government. Sivagnanasothy informed that the de-mining clearance certificate has been formally handed over to the Ministry by DASH in August 2011.  

Community based Implementation Modality

It was decided to actively involve the Kilinochchi District people and the community in implementing the saltern infrastructure development. Accordingly, the bids were called by the District Secretariat, Kilinochchi for the different packages from the Rural Development Societies (RDS) and Women Rural Development Societies (WRDS). The following RDS/WRDS that are currently actively involved in the development of infrastructure work includes RDS, Thadduvankoddi; WRDS, Kumarapuram; WRDS, Paranthan ; MPCS,Thiruvaiayaru; Fishermen Cooperative Society ,Karachchi North; RDS, Kumarapuram; WRDS, Iyakachchi; RDS, MASAR; Mahalir Group, Raththinapuram; and RDS, Iyakachchi.    

Completion of Phase I and Moving towards Phase II

Sivagnanasothy informed that the special feature of this project is that the implementation is being undertaken by the 10 Rural Development Societies/Women Rural Development Societies in the Kilinochchi District. More than 300 nos. of society members are employed in the rehabilitation work. Therefore, the people of Kilinochchi District and the communities are greatly involved in the rehabilitation and are benefitted during the implementation of this project. The project has built strong ownership and community involvement at the time of planning and implementation of the project. About 300-400 workers have been employed from the Kilinochchi District. All infrastructure development work including the procurement of tools and accessories are to be completed by end of this year for the operation and commencement of the first phase. It is envisaged that the rehabilitation of phase I saltern will lead to a production of 20,000 to 25,000 metric tons of salt per annum. The second phase of the Elephant Pass Saltern of 447 acres will commence in 2015 and is expected to be funded under the Treasury funds. Additional 30,000 metric tons are expected and the total employment opportunities generated will be over 3,000. After completing the entire infrastructure development of the saltern, it is envisaged that the salt production will be around 70,000 to 100,000 metric tons of salt per annum. The Elephant Pass Saltern development project will also expand its activities to cover iodisation of salt, packaging of salt, distribution of salt and development of linked chemical based industries including eco-tourism. These are also interest expressed by foreign buyers to buy their salt, which is of a very high quality pure white salt. These interrelated activities will lead to the development of ‘Salt City’ covering the Elephant Pass area.