The A-9 highway, a lifeline in Sri Lanka

The A-9 highway in Sri Lanka plays a symbolic role connecting the central and northern parts of the island. The road - which connects the city of Kandy, in the central hills of the island, with Jaffna, a city on the Northern Peninsula - runs through locations like Omanthai, Kilinochchi, Paranthan, Elephant Pass and Chavakachcheri, where fierce battles took place during the country’s long civil war.

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The A-9 was the site of military operations by both government forces and the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE); its opening and closing was often an indicator of the state of the war.

The road and the surrounding areas were heavily mined during the last battle of the war, which ended in May 2009. By July, after demining, A-9 had re-opened for civilian use.

Today, the A-9 is a lifeline for the people of northern Sri Lanka.

The highway still requires reconstruction at many points, and many returnees from displacement camps have found work as road labourers. Others try to cultivate their own land or work at nearby farms; their produce is transported along the A-9 to southern consumers. The highway also offers a route southwards for those seeking employment.