Mushrooming Mt. Lavinia condos and woes of local residents

Published : 8:55 am  July 25, 2017 | No comments so far |  | 


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Development is meant to raise the quality of people’s lives.Since the country is heading towards becoming a developed country, the condominiums have become one of the modern ways that bring in investments into the economy. However,  the standards of the condominiums should not be ignored in the haste to complete the constructions due to competition.  

Residents in the Mount Lavinia coastal area are troubled due to certain apartments that are being constructed in their neighbourhood. Mount Lavinia is famous for the most attractive beaches in Sri Lanka. Thousands of tourists arrive in Mount Lavinia and the town is highly residential.   

With the increase in the number of tourists and commercial value of the town, demand for apartments and hotels also increase. Private business entities compete to purchase lands to establish their business in Mount Lavinia as a good investment.   

However, locals who have been living in the city for many years speaking to the Daily Mirror said that they were experiencing problems with water supply, natural sun light, ventilation, noise pollution, garbage collection, lack of maintenance of drainage system, prevalence of dengue menace and traffic congestion as apartments were being constructed like mushrooms next to their residences. They claimed that they had lost the peace of mind due to activities of high rise buildings.   


However, locals who have been living in the city for many years speaking to the Daily Mirror said that they were experiencing problems with water supply, natural sun light, ventilation, noise pollution, garbage collection, lack of maintenance of drainage system

When queried, the management of a major apartment company that is said to have given the worst troubles to residents said that they were proceeding with the constructions on the approval of the UDA. But,  the residents question as to how the UDA was able to give a nod to such constructions which were allegedly destroying lives of the residents.  

Residents in Lilian Avenue, Mount Avenue, Simon Abeywickrama Avenue, Cross Road, De Saram Road, off De Saram Road, Hotel Road, De Alwis Avenue, Samudra Mawatha and Beach Road of Mount Lavinia were protesting the ‘illegal’ constructions and had formed a ‘Save Mount Lavinia’ campaign through the Mount Lavinia Residents’ Association.



“Last resort is legal action on constructors”

A teacher of a leading school in Colombo on  condition of anonymity said her last resort was legal actions against the construction company.“Cracks started appearing on the walls of my house after the construction started three months ago. A structural Engineer, called by me, observed my house and outlined that the cracks had appeared as they had constructed the apartment complex on a wall that was leaning towards my property. This is why the cracks had appeared,”the teacher said.

The Engineer had stated that a thermal expansion in the concrete structure had occurred, leading to the cracks. According to him, this was a permanent damage which could not be repaired.

“The contractors build apartments to earn money. But, I have built my house from my hard-earned money. I used to maintain this house very nicely. My flower garden has also been destroyed after cement and pieces of concrete fell on the ground.Some doors of my house cannot be opened. After informing, the contractors sent a team of Engineers and later took action to repair the cracks. Cracks had occurred repeatedly despite the repair work done twice.I will get a report on the soil structure of the house from an engineering company to be submitted to the contractors to demand compensation which we can use to purchase a new land and house or rebuild my house entirely. We can’t just sit and watch until our houses collapses,” the teacher said. 


“Don’t make Mt. Lavinia another Wellawatta”

DM_20170725_A016Thilak de Alwis a retired banker residing right opposite the house of Amal Wjayamuni said that they were not against condominiums and development in Mount Lavinia, but they were against the illegal procedure of developers and destruction of the neighbourhood.
“This is a highly residential area which provides a peaceful and enchanting environment. We were living like families here. Many houses located in this area are quite old. All houses  have greenery and a good air space.If you observe Wellawatta, there are a large number of apartments because of which the residents do not get sufficient sunlight and there is inadequate ventilation as well. Wellawatta area is now known to be having one of most traffic congested areas. We are afraid that our beautiful Mount Lavinia too will soon become another Wellawatta,” he said.   “People here are facing many problems including low water pressure and issues with sewerage and electricity. The voltage of electricity supply is coming down. These developers are going to create concrete jungles here.The tourists visiting here don’t want to see concrete jungles, but houses with greenery. Very soon, we will lose the sunlight to dry our clothes and fresh air to breathe as high rise apartments are coming up everywhere like mushrooms.Why can’t they look into the human side and the environmental angle? Development is not all about having so many high rise buildings. 



Thilak de Alwis a retired banker residing in Mt. Lavinia said they are not against condominiums but destruction of the neighbourhood. 


DM_20170725_A016“Constructors violating laws”
According to Amal Wjayamuni, a Former Chef at Marriott Hotel, a resident of Simon Abeywickrama Avenue, Mount Lavinia, some construction sites had become mosquito breeding places. He said there were several individuals in the neighbour hood who had suffered from dengue. 

“In Mount Lavinia, there are 34 apartment buildings, some of which are still being constructed. However, we are facing the biggest issue from the apartments which belong to a particular private construction company who call themselves the best in town.They are violating all laws. Some construction sites have become mosquito breeding grounds. Several people in the adjoining roads were affected by dengue. Mount Lavinia residents are very saddened by these illegal constructions coming up in the area,” he said.  
“The Wellawatta residents have already faced this problem, yet we won’t let it happen to us. 





Amal Wjayamuni, a resident of Simon Abeywickrama Avenue said contractors violate all kinds of law. 



A thermal expansion in the concrete structure had occurred, leading to cracks in a house located right next to apartment construction.  


DM_20170725_A006-11“My kids got dengue four times because of mosquito breeding construction sites” 

Asiri is a mother of four kids, who had suffered from dengue. 
“Construction vehicles are so huge. Narrow roads make construction vehicles difficult to turn. Every time, they turn vehicles, they almost knock on our gates because we are located at the junction. One day in fact, they knocked our gate down.When we confront them, they say. “You complain to anybody you want, but we don’t care.” Of course, we can’t fight with these big companies. This is where we have lived all our lives. Whereas who is going to be responsible for the safety of our children? Everything has been changing. Roads and drains are also damaged.   
My kids got dengue four times. More than anything else, nobody seems to have taken action to address this issue in a proper manner. How are they going to have 10-15 floors of apartments and how are the future residents of apartments going to travel on roads which are just 15 feet wide? The number of vehicles will also go high, increasing the traffic. Continuous noise from the construction sites on every side disturbs our lives even at nights.   
Mount Lavinia beach is now the only accessible beach in Colombo where people can relax and enjoy the waves and the beach itself as Galle Face beach will be gone with the Port City. There is a rich culture with traditions surrounding Mount Lavinia. We don’t have a problem if they build the apartments after planning thoroughly. The authorities should take action before the situation 
became worse.   
The construction company had paid huge sums of money for some people just to purchase the lands. It is not fair because it our houses that have been damaged. Just because somebody’s building had come up next to our door, we can’t pack our bags and leave our houses where we lived for years.  

Asiri is a mother of four kids, who have suffered from dengue.


DM_20170725_A006-11Residential and cultural landmarks should be preserved: 
Mount Lavinia Residents Association

Mount Lavinia Residents Association Co-Convener Kishan Ratnayake is leading the campaign against the apartment constructions. Kishan said they needed a preservation order from the government, preserving natural beauty of the area by imposing regulations so that important residential and cultural landmarks of Mount Lavinia will be protected amidst all development activities.  
“We had been living happily and peacefully. Suddenly, our lifestyle is disturbed by these constructions. We have protested to the UDA, the Municipal Council, the Development Committee Meeting of the Ratmalana Divisional Secretariat and some politicians including Western Province Development and Megapolis Minister Patali Champika Ranawaka.   
A survey was carried out to find buildings that don’t conform to the UDA regulations by UDA inspection team following our complaints. We were informed that some construction sites were asked to halt pending investigations, but not all got the order.   
We need a preservation order from the government, preserving natural beauty of the area by imposing regulations so that important residential and cultural landmarks of Mount Lavinia are protected.


 Mount Lavinia Residents Association Co-Convener Kishan Ratnayake is leading the campaign against the apartment constructions.    


People are jealous and working on an agenda of a big hotel: Blue Ocean Construction Company Management

Giving an exclusive interview to the Daily Mirror, an officer representing the management of Blue Ocean Companies, the main construction company,  the company on which the residents have the most number of issues, rejected all allegations.
The officer said they had got the approval from the UDA for the constructions, but when requested, the Blue Ocean management didn’t agree to send any approval document received from the UDA.  

“Up to now, we didn’t have any problem. The UDA didn’t inform us to halt the constructions as we went through the standard procedure in obtaining the approval. Residents can say whatever they want.”   

What people say appears to be a story fabricated by residents who must have been teamed up the huge hotels located in Mount Lavinia as these hotels will lose income with tourists and locals buying apartments in our apartment complexes. This is called jealousy.


High rise buildings are a nuisance: Chief Incumbent of Dharmendraramaya Temple, Mt Lavinia

Chief Incumbent of Dharmendraramaya Temple, Mount Lavinia Venerable Meerigama Gothama Thera said the high rise apartments had become a nuisance to the lives of residents.  
He said even the walls of the temple had experienced cracks as huge construction vehicles had knocked on walls when trying to take a turn in the narrow roads. 

Residents have lost peace of mind: Sociologist Prof. Siri Hettige

DM_20170725_A006-11Prominent Social Scientist Professor Siri Hettige said problems arising due to condominiums are not confined to Mount Lavinia but many cities in Colombo.  

“There are many unauthorised buildings in Colombo. Sadly in Sri Lanka, there is no agency guiding urban housing and infrastructure development. Local Government bodies should have an overall plan for each city. Areas of a big city should be declared as industrial zone, residential zone, commercial zone and leisure zone etc.   

Since there are no such plans or detailed programmes functioning in Local Government level, people are compelled to face situations leading to hazards. Housing and construction planning divisions in councils should be made stronger and those who work there should be technically qualified. The officers should be guided by a code of criteria.   

When it comes to Mount Lavinia, it seems that these residents have lost peace of mind. It is a responsibility of the particular constructing company to pay attention to the fact that people who have been living in the neighbourhood can be heavily affected due to the constructions. Open space is mandatory for a quality life.  

Dehiwala-Mount Lavinia Municipal Commissioner Dhammika Muthugala said he is at the moment awaiting a report from the Audit Unit regarding the new apartments being constructed in the Municipality area. He was unable to comment further.



UDA passing the ball

The officials of the UDA pass the ball by avoiding speaking about the matter. We tried to get a comment from an official for several days.   
Finally, the Director of the Enforcement Unit of the UDA Ms. Swarna Kusumseeli was available on the phone. When we were to give addresses of several apartment construction sites located in Mount Lavinia to inquire whether they had the approval from the UDA, she was not ready to give details. Instead of the addresses, she asked for numbers of the files which belonged to the ongoing apartment constructions as the files are piled up in the UDA. Files are compiled by the UDA.  

“I don’t remember them. You need to give us file numbers of them. Otherwise, it is difficult to find their files. They are dozens of such ongoing apartment construction files here,” Ms. Swarna said.