Making Colombo the ‘Miracle of Asia’ :- The Changing Facade

Published : 9:56 am  June 11, 2015 | No comments so far |  |  (2884) reads | 

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A recent MasterCard study ranked Colombo as the fastest growing tourist city in the world with a staggering 21 per cent surge in terms of total annual spending by international overnight cross border visitors. Experts attributing this growth to the recreation of the city’s colonial identity said that it needs to be preserved. Colombo was also identified as a city with 1.5 million people commuting everyday and 600,000 people living in the city.

The emergence of high rises, the disappearance of slums and shanties, improvements in the infrastructure and the beautification of the environment is changing Colombo’s landscape. To document these changes the Daily Mirror Metro took to the streets to recreate facades in the past and ask experts if Colombo is headed in the right direction.

 


Changes Taking Place

A number of projects proposed by the previous government have contributed greatly to the change in landscape. The World Bank funded Metro Colombo Urban Development Project (MCUDP), Urban Regeneration Project, Port City and a number of mixed development projects are some of the major contributors to the new look.
These projects were initiated with the vision of making Colombo the ‘Miracle of Asia’.


Some of the projects like the Port City and the Urban Regeneration Programme have been temporarily halted as they are being reviewed by the new government. However, proposals made under the MCUDP and most mixed development projects are being implemented.
Economists noted there was nothing unusual about this pattern of change and Colombo is heading in the same direction as other capital cities. They also said that it is good for the combination of people and economic activities in the improvement of the country’s connectivity with the rest of the world. However, it was pointed out that there might be inflation if there was no economic growth or foreign investment.

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Concerns

 Both residents and experts pointed out the lack of consultation and exclusiveness when projects were being implemented. Meanwhile, town planners noted that developments are not being done to match available resources like water. Another concern raised was managing tree cover as trees cut down were not being replaced. It was further noted that mixed development projects and the Port City would lead to an increase in land value where it would come to a point when citizens cannot afford to buy land in Colombo. Officials from the CEPA added that evictions of squatters were not in line with the National Involuntary Resettlement Policy in Sri Lanka and disadvantaged the people who were relocated.

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Solution

Town planners said that the structure of the city needs to change to function as a commercial city with high-end services and not a residential one. They suggested the formulation of a development guide that can steer the activities taking place in the right direction. They further suggested the creation of posts for town planners and architects in municipalities for better management. Encouraging public transport, infrastructure development, increasing walk-ability, shifting industries and certain functions to the outskirts of the city, increasing public spaces where all people can enjoy the facilities provided, were some of the suggestions made with regard to making Colombo a sustainable city. To ensure that evicted people were not disadvantaged, officials from CEPA suggested the formulation of a standard resettlement policy.

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