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Shared Heritage

Sri Lanka historic fort to be conserved with Dutch aid

by LankaBusinessOnline, February 6, 2010

A project concept paper said the Jaffna fort conservation work would also help generate employment in the former war zone.

A Dutch fortress in Sri Lanka built to withstand solid shot artillery in colonial times but which was damaged by Tamil Tiger guns in a modern insurgency is to be conserved with aid from The Netherlands.

The Dutch government has pledged 62.1 million rupees as a grant from the Shared Heritage Fund to conserve the 300-year-old fort in northern Jaffna, media minister Anura Yapa told a news conference.

The project total cost has been estimated at 104.5 million rupees, with the balance funds coming from the Sri Lankan government.

The first phase of the project, aimed at restoring the fort and turning it into a tourist attraction, is scheduled to be done during the period November 2009 to December 2012.

The Jaffna fort is said to be the second largest surviving fort in the island and had been well-preserved until the outbreak of the ethnic conflict in the early 1980s.

The fort served as an army garrison from the inception of the war.

Troops based inside the ramparts used to fight regular mortar duels with the Tamil Tiger rebels.

As the insurgency gained strength, the Tamil Tigers laid siege to the fort, cutting off supplies and eventually forced the army to withdraw.

The Tigers later demolished parts of the ramparts.

A church inside the fort has been reduced to rubble.

Originally built by Portuguese colonial rulers in 1619, the fort was rebuilt and expanded by the Dutch who succeeded them during the 17th and 18th centuries.

Built in the shape of a pentagon, the fort’s defence works consist of thick and high ramparts and bastions surrounded by a wide, deep moat.

A project concept paper said the Jaffna fort conservation work would also help generate employment in the former war zone.

Nineteen conservation projects are being done with financial aid amounting to 702 million rupees from the Netherlands government under the Sri Lanka - Netherlands Cultural Cooperation Programme, in force since May 2006.