20 May, 2022


A Port City Or A Garden City For Colombo?

By Ranil Senanayake

Ranil Senanayake

Ranil Senanayake

The call for full transparency regarding the negotiations that led to the Port City must be provided to the public, however the deliberations and resolution at a political level will take a ponderously slow pace. The information that is now before us, suggest that the entire ‘Port City’ project, was done on the whims and personal interests of certain individuals in a process that allowed commencing the project without the proper approval procedure being adhered to. While the resolution of this conundrum will take its time, it will be useful to consider the alternatives to what has been set in train.

Alternatives must to be considered in the face of the as massive problems brought about by the lack of proper procedure, problems that will obviously slow or re-direct the implementation of this project. One of the glaring errors is the Environmental report obtained from Morotuwa University. While its findings are mired in controversy, it seems that this is the only document in existence that confers any sense of legitimacy to the project. However the limited scope of this document is seen in the fact that it only refers to the impact of a landfill on the sea front, there is no mention of the construction of a city on the reclaimed land or of the impact on the project on Colombo City! !

Port CityIf a city is to be built on the reclaimed land, where are the permits that allow for such activity? It brings up the interesting question as to who will be the authority to issue building permits, the Colombo Municipality or a new city municipality? What will be the political makeup of such an entity? If some of the land is owned by another nation, will we have any control of activities there? There are further questions, what industry will be allowed or disallowed within this area? Where will they obtain the power and fresh water? How will air and sound pollution be mitigated? Until such questions are resolved it will be obvious that the proposed ‘Port City’ cannot enter a construction phase.

These are just a few of the critical questions that need to be answered before any building or other construction is allows on the filled land. There is of course the vexing question of sovereignty, whose laws and standards will prevail on this new bit of land? There will be no easy resolution to these questions.

Now that we have some filled up land in front of Colombo, it will be useful to see what other nations have done with such reclaimed land. One interesting example is the new landfill project in Singapore. In August 2007 Singapore announced ‘The Gardens by the Bay’ as an integral part of a strategy by the Singapore government to transform Singapore from a “Garden City” to a “City in a Garden”. The stated aim is to raise the quality of life by enhancing greenery and flora in the city. The Gardens by the Bay was intended to become Singapore’s premier urban outdoor recreation space, and a national icon. An international competition for the design of the master plan, held in January 2006, attracted more than 70 entries submitted by 170 firms from 24 countries. An area of 101 ha was set aside for the project. The final construction cost for the project, not including the price of the land but including an access road, drainage works, and soil improvement, was within a $1.035 billion allocated budget. The annual operating cost was expected to be approximately $58 million, of which $28 million was for operation of the Conservatory buildings. The project received 1.7 million visitors between June and October 2012 and has created tens of thousands of jobs and economic opportunities for Singaporeans.

Colombo city could do with beautification and development to enhance the quality of life of its citizens and to change its image into a welcoming venue for all citizens to enjoy. It could follow Singapore and build the land reclaimed for the defunct ‘Port City’ to become the premier urban outdoor recreation space in this region; we could create a national icon that truly reflects the beauty of this land and the aspirations of its people. It could deliver the ‘Bakti Pooja’ that we claim for our nation when we sing our anthem!

We could plant trees in the park and confirm the Greek Proverb that “ A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in “

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Latest comments

  • 3

    We start such projects merely because we get money. Are we not to consider any detremental effects. As citizens is it not good to ask a question to clear our minds about our children’s future?

    • 4

      Hats off to Ranil Senananayke for this excellent suggestion on turning around an impending development disaster and eyesore of Colombo – before it is too late!

      Mahinda Rajapaksa govt. created DEVELOPMENT DISASTERS in many parts of Sri Lanka – development projects that destroy the environment and KILL people and animals in the name of development!

      The Uma Oya project which has caused landslides and many deaths in the hill country because Jarapassa wanted to divert water to dry and arid Hambantota which he thinks his his KINGDOM is a good example of a development induced disaster.
      This kind of ‘development’ which really is a form of DISASTER CAPITALISM – as Naomi Klein called it must stop. The Chinese are famor for funding development disasters in Africa and Burma.

  • 2

    Misguided environmentalists like you halted the construction of Kandalama Hotel for years. Now it is considered to be one of the most environmentally friendly hotels in the World.

    The Moratuwa University professors know the subject of EIA preparation and quite rightly considered to be the best environmental consultants in Sri Lanka. They are quite correct in restricting the EIA to the impact of site preparation. Please read the Pathfinder report on the Port City on why we must go ahead with this project.

    What is most important is the continuity of policies. Private foreign investments approved by one government must be respected by the next. If not we cannot expect foreign investments. The suspension of the Port City project has killed Chinese private investments in Sri Lanka. The suspension of the equally massive Tata development project has halted Indian foreign investments.

    Hundreds of thousands of people who have lost their jobs are supporting the bid by those who made money to bring back the Rajapaksa government. Both UNP & SLFP headed by President Maithri will find their mistake when they are unable to form a government after the next election, because of the foolish policies of the present temporary minority UNP Government, who appears to have already lost touch with the people.

    • 3

      Truth be told, comparing ‘Kadalama’ with the Port City Project is like comparing chalk and cheese! It is so absurd that one wonders where to start dissing it. Perhaps Ranil S will have the patience to point out some of the more important aspects of the dangers of what promises to be an environmental disaster should this project be passed, although logic and ecological good sense may not make any difference to the supporters of the Rajapakse administration, despite all the failed ‘mega-projects’ they inflicted on this country (read Hambantota Cricket Stadium, Mattala Airport and the dysfunctional harbour that cost us dearly).

      “Continuity of policies”. Are you saying that policies begun by the previous administration should be continued even if they prove to be detrimental to the country? And before you preach about “foreign investments”, please consider the fact that many “foreign investments” are made, not with the interests of the host country, but purely for huge profits without considering the disadvantages to the environment (both natural as well as social) of the country involved. It takes conscientious individuals with expertise in the subject to raise objections to the dangers involved and not individuals with no expertise on the subject, many of who have their own interests at heart.

      Don’t know about your predictions for the future political scene, but nothing will surprise many of us in this ‘land like no other’!

  • 5

    I agree with Mr.Ranil Senanayake, although the circumstances in Singapore were/are different from those in Sri Lanka. I am horrified at the change in skyline in Colombo and the population density. Should there not be a program to draw away people from Colombo to the other provinces by creating employment opportunities and other facilities in the provinces. Further, the reclaimed land near the port could be an extension of the Galle Face green, with a green park and facilities to view the sea depth. GalleFace has lost much land since I was a child, due to stupid decisions by our government and it is time to redeem this folly.

    Colombo has to become a Garden City again and no more skyscrapers should be permitted. The coast line of Colombo is becoming a modern urban slum, an eye sore and a centre of unhealthy living!

    Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

  • 4

    Where there is easy and large money for private pockets the project gets all the bottlenecks cleared in an easy manner and are glorified as important development oriented projects. This is the final result of the Port City…….. where we as citizens of this country do not know the environmental impacts, legal aspects of ownership of land, cost to the country etc.

    During the time of elections we as citizens think we can change governments, presidents and caste our vote with lots of hope but after elections we become servants or slaves to these politicians and forced believe/accept what they are doing. The nine years of MR’s rule this was extraordinarily exhibited.

    God save this country……

  • 3

    All is good if these projects go well. Also Singapore did not give over 50 Sq.miles of reclaimed Land to China as outright part of the project and another 100 odd Sq.Miles on 99 year lease.

    Also Sri Lanka is a Tsunami prone country and these reclaimed land needs vigilant and constant maintenance and supervision of sea erosion.

    Also all the buildings,concrete, doors, windows, furniture, metal fixtures, wirings etc,etc, built in this port city should be specially insulated in order to withstand salt, wind and calcium absorption.

    Automatically the maintenance cost is going to be quite high.

    I still wonder where the golf course and the formula one racing track going to get installed in this acquired land. How often they plan to have Formula one races in this acquired pond.

    I personally think the new Maithreepala Government should seriously think on this mega 1.4 Billion Dollar project as to not to fall into another mega Rajapakse White Elephant sleeping at our Door steps.

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