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Development Plans for the City of Colombo - City Development Adjoining the South Harbour

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Development Plans for the City of Colombo
Future Development Thrust
The Development of Community Housing
City Development Adjoining the South Harbour
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City Development Adjoining the South Harbour

While urban regeneration is the common theme of all the projects mentioned so far, the Government also intends to further develop Colombo by creating new city space. Along with the Colombo South Harbour Development project, plans are being drawn to create a new city on land reclaimed from the sea. This project will see the creation of a brand new city area nearly 400 acres in extent.

Because this reclaimed city will be planned entirely afresh, it will have all necessary infrastructure, public facilities and services from the very beginning. Nearly half of the reclaimed area will be set aside for common facilities that will promote recreational activities and tourism. These could well include open parks, water features, a sea front promenade, a marina, an open-air theatre, and even an underwater recreational facility. The other half of the city space will be dedicated for commercial and tourist developments as well as high quality residential facilities.

Transportation within this city space will be through a proper road network that will include many shaded pedestrian only zones. High quality public transport will be provided to minimise the number of vehicles in the city, and a supplementary elevated monorail system is also being considered. Because the quality of services and facilities to be provided needs to be at a very high level, a separate city council for its administration is also being considered. Once this project is completed, it will vastly enhance Colombo's image as the dynamic, modern urban centre.

Improving Services

Before Colombo reaches this status however there are several facilities and services that need to be improved and developed.

The Development of Waterways Foremost among these is the solution to the present flooding problem. This is being undertaken in several steps. First, all the unauthorised structures that blocked the drainage system are being removed. It is not only the low-income segments that have erected unauthorised structures along these reservations, but businesses, the middle-class and high-income segments as well. All of these structures are being demolished, and along with the relocation of settlements on the sides of the waterways, this will greatly improve the efficiency of the drainage system.

Further, since last year, the Sri Lanka Navy has been engaged in dredging and developing the canal system in the city. Unlike in previous years, when this work was undertaken on a section-by-section basis, this time around the dredging of the entire canal system has been undertaken. Close to 80% of the work in this regard has already been completed.

Along with the development of the canals, water retention areas within the city such as the Beira Lake are being dredged. New reservoirs are being developed in the general area of Battaramulla, which will prevent the flooding of the parliament area. The reservoir already created at Peliyagoda already proved its worth during the recent rains. These measures will improve the drainage system by providing more areas within the city for water to collect before being sent out. In addition to solving the flood problem, these measures will also help to beautify the city by creating more water spaces and open areas. Colombo should not be a concrete jungle, but a green city with a pleasing environment. By improving the quality of the water retention areas, the overall environment will be greatly enhanced.

A final additional benefit of the clearing of the waterways and improvements to the water retention areas is that there will be scope to develop more water based recreational activities. Windsurfing, sailing, water skiing and even punting or paddle boating can easily be developed. This will further increase the services available in Colombo.

Developing a Clean City

Another area that needs attention has been the collection and disposal of solid waste. The immediate problems have been rectified by regularising the collection of garbage through police supervision, and by improving the dumpsites for Colombo's garbage at Meethotamulla in Kolonnawa. It is essential that a proper system of collecting and disposing garbage will continue to be enforced. Converting the present garbage dumps into proper sanitary landfills is another project that will be prioritised.

Keeping the city clean also involves a lot of civic discipline, and this is an area in which the citizens of Colombo need to improve. Whatever attempts made to improve the garbage collection system will not be enough if people randomly dump trash on the streets. Similar disrespect can be seen in the way people paste posters at random locations, rather than on the public notice boards that have been set apart for them.

The amount of graffiti sprayed on the city walls is another eyesore caused through the indiscipline of some misguided individuals. The signboards and billboards in the city also need to be standardised and regulated better. These issues will need to be addressed through a combination of civic education and stricter enforcement if Colombo is to become a truly clean city.


Yet another area in which Colombo needs improvement is in its transportation facilities. There are several areas that need attention, including improvements to the road network, improving road discipline and the provision of alternate public transport. Several measures have been taken in the recent past to address these issues.

The road network is being enhanced through the improvements to Galle road, the completion of Marine drive, and the expansion of the one-way system. The introduction of bus lanes, the creation of more dedicated parking spaces, better facilities for pedestrian crossings including disabled crossings and overhead bridges, and stricter enforcement of road rules will help improve road discipline. Finally, with the improvements to the waterways, it has become possible to provide alternate transportation through ferry services. This is already being introduced in certain waterways through the Sri Lanka Navy.

Implementation of Zoning

One other key issue facing Colombo is that existing zoning regulations have not been properly implemented. This has created many problems in residential areas, some of which have virtually been destroyed by the setting up of commercial structures. The exising zoning regulations will be strictly implemented, while adequate warning and time will be given for the relevant businesses to relocate. Zoning rules will be strictly enforced for all new developments in future.

Long Term Solutions

The projects and measures that I have discussed so far are immediate, practical methods of transforming Colombo from its present status into a world-class city. Alongside this project-oriented approach, it will also be necessary to introduce long-term measures to prevent the causes that led to the haphazard growth of Colombo. In terms of regulation, the different sector policies that result in overlapping and contradictory laws and regulations will need to be streamlined. Responsibilities must be clearly delegated amongst the central, provincial and local bodies that regulate land allocation, utilisation, zoning and other administrative functions. Solving this problem will require some reengineering within Government.

It is very important that all the relevant agencies such as the Municipal authorities, the UDA, Water Supply & Drainage Board, land reclamation authorities, and the utilities and infrastructure development authorities work with great dedication, commitment and coordination to improve the metropolitan areas. It is also important to note that Colombo cannot be considered in isolation, but the Dehiwala-Mt. Lavinia, Kotte and Kolonnawa municipalities must all function collectively. Ultimately it is necessary to establish a single central authority to coordinate these various administration functions.

Along with this administrative streamlining, the ad-hoc planning methodologies that were observed in the past will need to give way to proper strategic planning processes that analyses available resources, conceptualises a bold vision for the future, and generates a proper integrated, dynamic structural plan for future development. It is essential that all future plans ultimately uplift the living standards and income levels of the people. Through greater consultations with all relevant stakeholders and with some capacity enhancements, it will be possible to move to a comprehensive strategic planning process that will maximise the use of resources and accelerate economic growth.

Concluding Thoughts

The development plans, projects, and policy proposals I have outlined during the course of this oration stem from the Government's sincere commitment to develop Colombo. However, if we are to be truly successful in this endeavour, the state cannot work alone.

There are many areas in which the private sector, academic institutions, civic bodies and ordinary people can contribute. These stakeholders must get involved in the planning and implementation of new initiatives. It is important that these various sectors of society are empowered to do so, and that a culture of discourse and consultation is fostered in the planning processes. Towards this end, the state agencies concerned need to reach out to society at large and encourage greater public participation in these activities. The private sector and civic bodies also need to take the initiative to generate further proposals for future developments.

As importantly, the private sector must take the lead in capitalising on the opportunities that will arise through the present and future development plans. Although as a developing economy Sri Lanka needs foreign investment to help fund future growth, it is the domestic private sector that must drive the activities that will generate prosperity. It is vital that we create domestic assets to capitalise on future growth opportunities if the foundations we lay today are to lead to a better tomorrow.

All of us desire a better Colombo; a city that is clean, green, attractive and dynamic. Let us work together and work hard to achieve this. Together, we can transform Colombo into a world-class city, globally recognized as a thriving, dynamic and attractive regional hub that is the centrepiece of 21st Century Sri Lanka: the Miracle of Asia. Let us make this vision a reality.



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