For a better Colombo
According to a
weekend newspaper a Development Authority under the Defence
Ministry is to be set to take over the functions of the Colombo
Municipal Council, the country’s premier local Government body.
We don’t know how far this is true in the absence of an official
statement. But if indeed this is the case it may be the best
thing that can happen to the city of Colombo which is today
lying in an utter derelict and decrepit state.
The neglect is there for all to see. There is also a general
sense of drift with no one knowing who really is in charge of
the CMC. To say that the city is in an utter mess would indeed
be an understatement. Take the entrance to the capital city at
the Victoria Bridge. What greets the visitor at this main
gateway to the city of Colombo is a towering garbage mountain.
Proceed a couple of hundred metres and what one beholds in
the large network of shanties and slums. Further into the
interior the visitor is assailed by the unbearable stench
emanating from Beire Lake and its assorted tributaries.
The unkept state of streets lined with rotting garbage, the
crumbling buildings and edifices and the general state of
neglect completes the picture of the country’s capital city. Add
to this is the frequent flooding, squalid market places and run
down public utilities and amenities, all making the Colombo city
a veritable eyesore. Of course all these ills cannot be laid at
the doorstep of the CMC. But there can be no denying that it has
failed miserably where the upkeep of the city is concerned.
On the contrary in most instances it has been the main cause
for most of the ills afflicting the city. The problems that have
beset the administration have only compounded the problem. While
city administration has collapsed the problems of the city such
as dengue kept multiplying.
It has to be said that the Colombo Municipal Council has
outlived itself. It is not equipped to handle the complex
problems of the city in this modern age. Neither could its
hidebound administration grasp the present day realities and
devise solutions. The CMC is today only reacting to situations
without any forward plans. Its Dengue eradication program is a
case in point. It allowed garbage dumps to multiply and
waterways to pollute. It galvanized into action only after the
disease spread. The CMC lacks vision, drive and initiative.
Indifference, lethargy, political intrigue etc. has made it
moribund. This is hardly the recipe for the development and
emancipation of a capital city in this modern day and age.
There has to be a dynamism to get things moving. Besides the
CMC in its present state is not equipped to cope with the
massive demands of maintaining the Colombo city. There needs to
be an autonomous body with power and resources to lift the city
from its parlous state.
Colombo as a whole needs to be replanned in line with the
other developments taking place in the post war era. There is
also a necessity to relay new infrastructure such as the century
old sewerage systems that cause frequent flooding. In short
Colombo has to undergo a huge transformation that befits the
status of the nation’s commercial capital.
Hence the need for a more pro-active body with a vision to
develop Colombo into a modern city to the level of the world’s
major cities. Hopefully the proposed Authority under the Defence
Ministry would fit the bill. We have already seen how the UDA
under the Defence Secretary got rid of the illegal structures in
This was a sore point with the CMC and also with certain city
politicians. But Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa acted
firmly in this regard. It is such firm decisions without
vacillation that is needed to make Colombo a modern progressive
city. Today the pavements are free of obstacles to the general
public and the city rid of an eyesore.
Judging from its success we are sure that all other unsavoury
elements and obstacle that keep the city of Colombo from growing
would be removed. It was reported the new Authority would also
rid the city of all slums and provide alternative accommodation
to the dwellers.
This is a problem that defied solution all these years. For
one thing the slum dwellers themselves were reluctant to move
out given their entrenched lifestyles that included illegal
activities such as the drug trade and other vices which they
could not ply in the open. They were also a haven for the
underworld. Now with the Defence Ministry in the forefront this
problem could be easily solved and the city rid of a major
What the city of Colombo needs is a holistic solution
encompassing its development into a modern city. Therefore a
blue print should be drawn for the city identifying the areas
that needs improvement. With plans to relocate all Government
establishments and buildings at Sri Jayawardenapura there is
scope for making the Colombo the Garden City it was famed for in