Programmes to be implemented by Colombo Mayoral candidates

Published : 10:29 am  January 25, 2018 | No comments so far |  |  (498) reads | 

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Life-2The dawn of 2018 is marked with local government election and the political stage is set country wide to compete in the local poll.  Candidates have already begun the slow process of door to door campaigning in an attempt to win over residents who unlike other elections, are more inclined towards candidates who have provided or are likely to provide solutions to mundane issues they face each day.   Set in this back drop, the  will publish a series of articles on selected local government bodies in the Colombo district which will focus on issues relevant to local government bodies complete with comments and opinions of mayoral candidates of the area.The series will kick off with Colombo municipality area and some of the major issues faced by its residents and those that would have to be dealt by the new Council once elected at the February 10 election. Speaking to the  Colombo Municipality Commissioner V. K. A Anura highlighted three main issues that are plaguing the smooth functions of the city and that which if not nipped in the bud it will have dire consequences in the years to come.   


Slums and shanties in land with high commercial value


While Colombo is home to the affluent and middle class living in large houses and condominiums it is also home to a large number of residents living in shanties and slums across the city. While most are unauthorized settlers some are part of plans by past governments to deal with the increasing population in the city and such have deeds dating back decades.   


Such slums, highly dense pockets residents, have cropped up across the city over the years with the blessing of politicians and are now home to at least 50 percent of Colombo’s population. A hot bed for crimes, these pockets are home to the poorest of the residents in the city living in unimaginable poverty.   


Unfortunately or fortunately, these clumps of badly and illegally built houses are situated on commercially viable land in the city. “The shanties and slums that we have in Colombo are some of the biggest problems that we have. These lands have high commercial value but a left unused as they are occupied by low income dwellers who will be left homeless if the lands were to be used. To make matters worse the standard of living of those in the area are horrible. We have to change these while also using these lands commercially,” Anura said.   


Improving the standard of living of these residents while also using the land they occupy to its full potential will be some of the biggest issues that would be faced by the new Council. Anura explained that many of these locations were initially schemes set up by past governments as a provision to the increasing population in the city.   


“As the years went by and families grew people started to illegally make additions to the original houses that were provided by the government. If we look at the rates payments from these locations, which are worth millions today, would be Rs. 500, 1000 or 2,000. It is something that we can put to good use,” he said.   


 When questioned about the issue, all candidates the Daily Mirror spoke to said they had plans to improve the standard of living of the residents living in these areas. While all believed that residents in these highly dense areas should be relocated to better living spaces in the same land, a majority believed that land could be commercially used.   


JVP Mayoral candidate Dr. Ranil Jayasena while stating that better housing facilities should be provided, stated that the land need not be leased out commercially, instead it be used to provide additional infrastructure facilities to the residents in the area and Colombo at large. “We can use the area to construct grounds and sports facilities, complexes to conduct business or even libraries which will improve the quality of life of the residents,” he said.   


All candidates stressed on the need for adequate space be provided when relocating residents to new homes. SLPP Mayarol candidate Dr. Pradeep Kariyawasam explained that many lived within a dismal 50 square feet. “Reputed organizations state that an individual should have atleast 120- 150 square feet to live in. It’s no use if we relocate them to housing that is just as small or just slightly bigger, this would not improve their standard of living,” he said.   


While stressing that is slums were to be removed residents should be relocated in the vicinity, Dr. Kariyawasam went on to say that family sizes in these highly dense pockets were computed to be 5.6. “So imagine 5 people living in such small space or unit ? It would make sense if we live in a country with a cold climate as this would be necessary to keep the warmth, but we live in a tropical country.”   
Speaking of the commercial viability of the land, SLFP Mayoral candidate Azath Salley said if elected he would ensure the municipality would work one on one with public private partnership to provide better housing facilities to ‘the down trodden’ and ensure the standard of living of residents in these areas were improved.   


“I’m looking at the CMC working directly with private sector to identify these areas, talk to the people and provide them with what they need while ensuring the property will be put to good commercial use,” he said.   


Meanwhile, UNP Mayoral candidate Rosy Senanayake stated that the improvement of standard of living of residents in these pockets would be her priority. “Before we can speak of the commercial values of these lands we need to look at the standard of living of these people. We need to ensure their lives are uplifted. Clean sanitation, access to water and good housing are just a small part of the issues they face. I plan on constructing at least 50,000 houses,” she said.   


When questioned as to where these houses would be constructed, Ms. Senanayake said they would use vacant municipality land for the project. “There is enough land which could be used for such projects, we could build comfortable houses for residents and also provide them with better educational facilities in these areas,” she said.   


Increasing number of apartments cropping up across the city 


The resident population within the city will see an unusual growth in the years to come due to the large number of apartment complexes which are being constructed within the city. The mushrooming industry draws with it not just a large population whose needs have to be catered to but also a new set of issues to existing residents.   


“When constructions of these apartments are complete, it will bring in more people into the city. Most of them will not be from Colombo, which means the residential population in Colombo will see an unusual increase in the years to come. Providing them with the necessary utilities and infrastructure facilities will be difficult,” Colombo Commissioner Anura explained.   


While, Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) candidate focused on substandard building complexes and the health issues posed to residents, JVP candidate had little to say about the issue. Both SLFP and UNP candidates stated that measures would be taken to streamline the process of construction.   


“Some of these apartments are built ignoring required standards. Some of my constituents tell me that they cant even take their vehicles out of these complexes sometimes while residents who have been living in these areas for generation are inconvenienced by these ill built structures,” he said.   


Proper ventilation, light and space are some of the issues faced by both those who move into these apartments as well as residents in the vicinity. Authorities should draw a line where these constructions are concerned as an increasing population would strain natural resources such as water and make the provision of utilities such as sewerage services very difficult.   


SLFP candidate Salley spoke of the illegal nature of these buildings and said the public should be educated when purchasing apartments. “Some people have spent Rs. 15- 20 million for an apartment and they don’t even have a deed. The people who constructed these monsters have disappeared and they are left high and dry. We will stream line the process of construction in Colombo and take measures to help those who were swindled,” he said.     

 

 Candidates have already begun the slow process of door to door campaigning in an attempt to win over residents who unlike other elections, are more inclined towards candidates who have provided or are likely to provide solutions to mundane issues they face each day

 


Traffic congestion 


The large number of vehicles entering the city has created heavy traffic congestion within the city, especially at peak hours. While all candidates stated that a public transportation system would be priority, UNP candidate Senanayake said the construction of several flyovers would be a part of the solution.   


“We will construct a flyover from the Kelaniya, where the flyover will be linked to Fort. Another from Fort to the Port which will then be connected to Rajagiriya. This is an urgent need and these will be priorities as we are also looking at establishing a public bus service within the city,” she said.    Parking bays and large buildings allocated for parking vehicles combined with a comprehensive public bus service within the city were some of the solutions proposed by SLPP candidate Dr. Kariyawasam.   


“The city should purchase some buses, which would have less seats and more standing spaces. These buses would connect key locations in the city and we can ensure that they are short distance and are very frequent to ensure people can travel faster. This would not only mean a better public transport  service but also less pollution and traffic within the city,” he said.   


The sentiment was echoed by JVP candidate Dr. Jayasena who added that branching out administrative services within the city would be another solution to the traffic congestion. “There are a large number of people who come into the city to get their passports, NIC’s and other administrative work that can only be accessed in Colombo. If the government is willing to decentralize these activities we could reduce the hassle caused to people and ensure there is a decrease in the number of people that come into the city as well,” he said.   


Taking the Colombo municipality as an example, Dr. Jayasena went on to say that at least 40,000 vehicles visited the office each day and a decrease in the number of vehicles pulled to one area would dissipate the traffic in the area vastly.   


A back log in projects such as the monorail project and not implementing existing statutes contributed to the congestion experienced in Colombo, SLFP candidate Salley explained. “When we were in the council we brought about projects to establish a monorail system but it hasn’t been implemented to this day,” he said.   


The statute restricting large containers and lorries from entering the city during the day was another contributor to the congestions. The statute restricted containers and lorries from entering the city until 10 p.m. and ensured they would have to pay a fee of Rs. 500 when entering Colombo.   


“These were passed a long time ago and we will implement it when we are in power,” he said.   


Other issues 


All candidates pledged to streamline the process of the Colombo Municipality and provide a better functioning local government body while ensuring Colombo was improved to a smart, green and safe city. Other issues that were touched upon by candidates were the need to improve primary education within the city, the disposal of garbage and the dengue prevention in Colombo.   


 Senanayake said her primary objective would be to leverage Colombo’s location and ensure a safe, smart and environmentally friendly city. “Garbage would be one of the main issues that we would be tackling. Several  plans have already been set in motion and we will enforce them. We have found a land in Puttalam to dispose of the garbage and we will do so in a hygienic manner, first by road and then by train at night,” she said.   


While, Dr. Kariyawasam meanwhile said health issues such as dengue eradication and converting the city to green energy would be other projects he was looking at. “We have enough sun light and wind here that we can harness them,” he said.   


SLFP candidate Salley said one of the main projects that would be looked at would be the clearing up of the Beira Lake, an area which was rapidly developing. “The lake needs to be cleaned immediately as this is a big menace that we are facing in Colombo,” he said.  


Converting the Municipality into a one stop e-friendly shop would be part of the large plan, Salley confirmed.   


Primary education, was one of the main focuses of JVP candidate Dr. Jayasena who stated that his primary goal would be to improve the sector within the city. “We hope to establish a good primary education system within the city. These will also include day care centers which would provide the younger generation with the necessary education,” he said.    

 

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