Troops deployed to clear wild animals from Mattala

Mattala MRIASri Lanka has deployed troops and firecrackers to clear deer and wild buffalo from a sprawling airport, officials said today, drawing attention to a largely redundant vanity project built by a former president, the AFP news agency reported.

Mattala airport, which services just one flight a day, was built in the home district of former strongman leader Mahinda Rajapakse, 250 kilometres by road from the capital Colombo, at a cost of USD 210 million.

This week some 350 troops, police and volunteers spent a day driving out about 150 deer and 50 buffaloes that had apparently become trapped when an electric fence was set up to prevent wild elephants straying into the facility.

An airport official involved in the operation said animals regularly got in the way of flights at the site, which lies in the middle of two wildlife sanctuaries and on an avian migratory path.

“We used fire crackers to scare the animals and push them out of the perimeter, but it was not very successful,” he told AFP on condition of anonymity, adding that a bigger operation was planned shortly.

There have been no accidents involving deer or cattle at Mattala, but the first flight to land there was struck by a bird, shattering its windshield.

Another aircraft had to be grounded after one of its engines was destroyed when a peacock flew into it.

The airport employs 550 workers and is only used as an alternative when aircraft cannot fly into Colombo’s international airport.

Faced with a huge white elephant, the authorities last year turned some of the air cargo terminals at the Mattala airport into rice storage to accommodate the bumper harvest in the region.

Former president Rajapakse spent lavishly on infrastructure and was criticised for ignoring feasibility studies and environmental warnings.

His projects included a deep-sea port, six-lane highways, an international conference centre, a cricket stadium and a dry-zone botanical garden.


  1. The mistake is done and it is pointless crying over spilled milk. It Is dangerous to operate an
    airport with such risks as anytime an aircraft on an emergency may wish to land with short
    notice and the runway should be free of obstacles at all times. The best suggestion is to spend some more money and fence the runway area with barbed wire, to save closure of the airport and the taxi exits should be manned by security personnel to chase away animals
    approaching the runway. from the Terminal area, which will be rare due to aircraft engine noise and movement of men and vehicles. Airlines and other aircraft operators will not list Mattala as an alternate airport, if such hazards exist.

    The damage is done and now, the Govt. should make every effort to use Mattala as a working airport by making it operational with all safety measures in place. To make it work
    profitably, they should lease it to enterprises, like the aircraft manufacturing companies
    or aircraft leasing companies or for that matter, lease it to a friendly country,( not the super power countries), to have an Air force base. with permission to use the airport as an alternate airport and use a section of the airport, for commercial operation, like what happened at Katunayake airport in the 50s..
    Today the Mattala airport is considered a white elephant but in 10 years time, it could become a busy airport, if all safety measures are in place as there is greater demand for
    air travel & tourism in the coming years.

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