"The Metro Colombo Urban Development Project and its successful implementation, together with other initiatives of the Government to develop Colombo, will help transform this city into a truly world class one", said Secretary to the Ministry of Defence and Urban Development Gotabaya Rajapaksa.
He expressed these views delivering the key note address at the inauguration ceremony of the Metro Colombo Urban Development Project (MCUDP) at Waters Edge, Battaramulla yesterday.
MCUDP, is a USD 223 million World Bank funded, three year urban regeneration program aimed at reducing the physical and socioeconomic impacts of flooding in the Metro Colombo region and improving priority local infrastructure and services.
The project will be managed by the Project Management Unit of the Ministry headed by Eng. Rohan Senevirathne under the visionary guidance and direct supervision of Secretary Defence Mr. Gotabaya Rajapaksa. The implementation responsibilities rest with three agencies: Sri Lanka Land Reclamation & Development Corporation (SLLRDC), Urban Development Authority (UDA) and the Colombo Municipal Council (CMC).
Key components of the project include :
(1) Flood and drainage management.
(2) Urban development, infrastructure rehabilitation and capacity building for metro Colombo local authorities.
(3) Implementation support.
Commander (SLN) Eng. Chaminda Ariyadasa delivered the welcome address. Ms. Diarietou Gaye- Country Director of the World Bank in Sri Lanka, delivering her address said that the 'Mahinda Chintanaya' emphasizes the development of Metro Colombo as a priority and fifty percent of Sri Lanka has already been urbanized. She further asserted that the World Bank treats MCUDP as a critical and high priority project.
Ms. Rosanna Nitti- Task Team Leader of the World Bank in Sri Lanka addressing the distinguished gathering praised the dynamic leadership of Secretary Defence and Urban Development. A comprehensive project overview was presented by Eng. Rohan Senevirathne-the Project Director MCUDP and Additional Secretary (Technical).
Ambassadors, Diplomats, Mayors of the Metro Colombo Region, World Bank country representatives and high ranking government and military officials were present at the occasion.
Full text of the Defence Secretary's speech:
It gives me great pleasure to preside at the launch of the Metro Colombo Urban Development Project. On behalf of the Government, I wish to thank the World Bank for its kind assistance in jointly financing this landmark undertaking. Sri Lanka today is capitalizing on a firm foundation of peace and stability to achieve rapid economic growth. As the gateway to Sri Lanka and the primary nodal point for economic activity, it is important that Colombo reaches a high level of urban development. The Metro Colombo Urban Development Project aims to solve several of the city's longstanding infrastructure constraints. I am confident that its successful implementation, together with the other initiatives of the Government to develop Colombo, will help transform this city into a truly world class one.
The Metro Colombo Urban Development Project originated a little over one year ago, during a discussion I had with Ms. Naoko Ishii, the Country Director of the World Bank at that time, and Ms. Rosanna Nitti, the World Bank's Senior Urban Specialist in Sri Lanka. During this meeting, we discussed the various projects and plans that were being proposed with regard to urban development. The World Bank representatives immediately indicated that they were interested in working with the Government on some of these initiatives. This project originated at that moment.
Since February 2011, when the first technical meetings commenced, the officials of the World Bank have earnestly engaged with the Project Director, Additional Secretary Rohan Seneviratne, and the officers of the various Government agencies involved in the project. As a result of the dedication and hard work of everybody involved, I am very pleased to note that the project was designed swiftly, and approved by both the Government and the World Bank in record time.
I take this opportunity to appreciate the hard work of the Project Management Team and the officers of the Land Reclamation & Development Corporation, the Urban Development Authority, the Colombo Municipal Council and the Municipal Councils of Dehiwala- Mt. Lavinia, Kolonnawa and Sri Jayawardenepura, Kotte in developing this project. I also wish to thank the officials of the World Bank for their enthusiasm, cooperation and kind assistance in numerous ways. Ms. Rosanna Nitti, who ably coordinated the project on behalf of the World Bank, together with former Country Representative Ms. Ishii, and present Country Representative Ms. Diarietou Gaye, deserve particular praise for their able guidance and firm commitment.
The Metro Colombo Urban Development Project being launched today is a five-year long undertaking that comprises three main components. The first main component addresses the various flood and drainage issues that the metro Colombo region suffers from because of its rapid, organic growth during the past several decades. Under this component, the city's drainage infrastructure, including its micro drainage channels, primary and secondary canals and lakes will be rehabilitated.
The work to be undertaken on the Beire Lake is a particularly important feature of the project, because the lake had been virtually neglected for many decades. Its gates were not functioning, its tributaries and output channels were blocked and the unauthorized settlements and buildings on its borders had severely polluted the water. Instead of being an attraction, the Beire Lake was an eyesore. Its rehabilitation will restore it to its former splendour, and greatly enhance its utility. Once developed, the Beire Lake Linear Park will play a vital role in the city's flood management system, whilst also being the site of many recreational and economic activities. It will be a worthy centrepiece to the revitalised city of Colombo.
The second main component of the project is aimed at supporting the local authorities in the metro Colombo region to rehabilitate and manage the drainage and public infrastructure in their areas. Selected roads in various parts of the region will be improved. Pedestrian facilities and public conveniences will be upgraded in key locations, and the overall quality of public walkways will be improved. Capacity building within the local authorities to enhance the maintenance of the improved infrastructure and public facilities is another key feature under this component.
The third component of the project involves providing support for the project's overall implementation. This is an area that is often neglected in projects, which results in outcomes that are short of what was initially expected. The fact that implementation support is being considered as a separate component here is therefore quite encouraging. The capacity enhancement and improvements in monitoring and coordination that will be made possible through this component will not only help ensure the project's success, but will also benefit the various authorities involved in the longer term.
The brief sketch of the Metro Colombo Urban Development Project only skims its surface. Its many features will be discussed at length later in the programme. I would like to stress, however, that this project – alongside others being undertaken by the Government – it intended to greatly enhance the functionality and unique character of this city. As a historic, multicultural, tropical city bordered by the sea, Colombo has many natural advantages that should be capitalised on. Its historic architecture, greenery and public open spaces must be further highlighted, and its people-friendly nature further fostered. It is with such improvements in mind that the Government has launched many initiatives through which it hopes to further develop Colombo.
Particular care is being taken to improve the vitality of city's public open spaces. All residents of Colombo should have access to public areas not far from their homes in which that can relax, exercise, and interact with one another freely. With this in mind, several projects were launched to improve the quality of existing urban spaces. The development of Independent Square is a good example. Established to commemorate Sri Lanka's independence from British rule in 1948, the square had become underutilised in recent years. With the removal of walls and fences that obstructed parts of it, and the development of walkways and bicycle paths around it, Independence Square has now been transformed into a high quality public space that the residents of Colombo very frequently utilise.
Similar initiatives have been carried out near Nawam Mawatha in Colombo, on the borders of the Diyawanna Oya and Water's Edge in Battaramulla, and in Thalawathugoda and Rampala Watta. With the development of the Beire Lake Linear Park and the Beddegana Park, as well as several waterfronts in various parts of the metro Colombo area under the project being launched today, a lot of new public open spaces will also be created in the near future. This will bring back much of the people-friendly character that Colombo enjoyed back in the days when it enjoyed the reputation of being the Garden City of the East.
Another initiative that will help in this regard is the demolition of walls around public buildings, playgrounds and other public areas. Because of the war, a lot of walls were built up in all parts of the city. These walls kept many of Colombo's best architectural features hidden, and obscured the abundant natural greenery that is a hallmark of the city. With many of these walls having been removed, the city is now has a much more relaxed and open atmosphere, and it has become possible to better appreciate its beauty.
An interesting project being carried out in parallel to the Metro Colombo Urban Development Project is the Green Growth Programme, which is being funded through a grant from the World Bank. Under this programme, steps will be taken to protect the marshy areas of the metro Colombo region, enhance its biodiversity parks, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and generally improve the eco-friendly nature of the city.
The unique blend of cultures and the shared heritage of the various communities of this country is another feature that the Government is keen to highlight during Colombo's urban development. There are a large number of very beautiful Colonial era buildings all around the city, as well as many ancient temples, kovils, mosques and churches. It is important to highlight this heritage. A number of projects have been launched to do so. The recent renovation and reopening of the long neglected old Dutch Hospital is a good example. While retaining the spirit of the original architecture, the hospital was rehabilitated and transformed into a public open space housing high-end shopping and restaurant facilities.
The demand from the private sector for similar spaces is very high. As such, more projects of a similar nature have been launched. For example, the old Colombo Racecourse, whose buildings had originally been scheduled for demolition, is presently being rehabilitated. Its pavilions will be conserved and converted to suit new activities, while the area with road frontage will be converted into an upmarket shopping complex. The racecourse itself will become an international standard rugby ground. Once this project is complete, it will further enhance the unique architectural history of the city.
Apart from the development of the metro Colombo region, the Government also has ambitious plans for the urban development of the rest of Sri Lanka. Several projects have already been launched by the Urban Development Authority to develop cities and towns in every district of the country, and I am proud to note that a lot of good work has already been done at many of these locations. I have also recently held discussions with the World Bank about launching a separate project, similar to this one, which will be centred on Secondary Cities including Anuradhapura, Matara, Nuwara Eliya and Trincomalee. Such initiatives will accelerate the urban development throughout Sri Lanka, and help uplift the quality of life of our urban populace.
I am hopeful that the international community and especially the Word Bank and other development agencies will continue to grant their assistance to us at this crucial point in our nation's history, when we strive hard and with determination to achieve economic development. As I conclude, I take this opportunity once again to thank all those involved in this project for their hard work, and wish them every success in ensuring its swift and successful implementation.
Courtesy: Ministry of Defence and Urban Development