By Shezna Shums
The celebrated Galle Fort is in the process of getting a Rs. 167 million facelift funded entirely by the Government.
The Dutch Fort in the town of Galle regained the limelight with the Galle Literary Festival and today continues to attract large crowds of local and foreign tourists.
Being a major tourist attraction, moves are being taken to give the fort a facelift and bring back the grandeur of its colonial heritage.
Within the fort are smaller roads where just about one to two cars may pass and in some instances just one car. Currently the Galle Heritage Foundation is carrying out a project where stone paving is being carried out on all the internal roads within the Galle Fort. This project was started in March this year and is expected to be completed in March 2012.
Chairman Galle Heritage Foundation (GHF) Parakrama Dahanayaka stated: “The contracted cost of the project is Rs. 167 million, but the actual cost will exceed this amount with ancillary work such as raising of Water Board manholes, shifting of lamp posts, etc.”
The project consultant is the Road Development Authority and the contractor K.D.A. Weerasinghe & Co.
The entire cost of the project is borne by the Sri Lankan Government through the Ministry of Economic Development and the Ministry of Ports and Highways. No foreign funding is involved for the present renovation work.
The project is being carried out on the initiative of Minister of Economic Development Basil Rajapaksa. Hambantota District MP Namal Rajapaksa and Galle District MP Manusha Nanayakkara have been assigned to monitor the project.
The project is being coordinated by the Galle Heritage Foundation.
A special feature of this project is that throughout its implementation period, it is subject to a public consultation process. Requests, suggestions and complaints of the community are entertained and already a number of adjustments have been made as a result of this process.
Concurrently, the GHF is also involved in a number of activities to enhance the quality of the heritage site, such as landscaping and trimming of grass and repair of the flights of steps and ramparts. The Department of Archaeology is also supporting this work. GHF has obtained local donor funding for a number of projects such as installation of specially designed road name boards and litter bins and two guide maps at the two entrances to the fort.
“Once the road project is completed, it will give a considerable facelift to the site,” added the Chairman.
This is the second major project carried out during the last five years. The earlier project which comprised four components was funded by the Government of the Netherlands.
The components were the repair of the rampart walls and the underground sewerage system, conservation of the old Dutch warehouse building and establishment of a Maritime Archaeology Museum in this building and conservation of 55 privately-owned houses. This project was implemented from 2006 to 2010. The implementing organisations were the Central Cultural Fund and the GHF.
The GHF was awarded a Merit Award under the UNESCO Asia Pacific Award presentation for heritage conservation 2010, for the private houses project.
Although Dutch funding was expected for the second stage of the project, that funding has been diverted for work on restoration of the Jaffna Fort, which was destroyed by the war.
The Government has decided to fund the road project because of its policy to develop the Galle Fort as the focal point in promoting Galle District as a major centre of cultural tourism.