In the wake of the Daily Mirror Eye’s investigative piece, 'High-rise Corruption’ on buildings and planning violations of apartment projects in Colombo and the suburbs, the Urban Development Authority (UDA) working on introducing reforms to the existing building and planning regulations for high-rise apartment projects countrywide.
UDA's Colombo Metro Region Director Lalith Wijayaratne said he had received a directive from high government officials to introduce major changes to the 34-year-old approval, planning and building regulations of the UDA pertaining to high-rise apartment projects. (Those above 30 metres are categorised as ‘high-rise’ buildings and ‘super high-rise’ buildings).
He said Cabinet approval would be sought to reinforce the new regulations with a new set of programmes to make the UDA regulations compatible with the field of modern development and that the proposals would be implemented within three months.
One of the main issues that the Eye’s article pointed out was the absence of an administrative system to audit whether developers had followed the existing regulations for their already approved apartment projects. Mr. Wijayaratne said the new regulations would introduce a special monitoring mechanism to keep an eye on apartment projects till construction was complete.
“There are more than 20,000 unauthorized constructions in Colombo. These projects have blatantly violated regulations by changing their initial plans after obtaining building permits,” he said.
Another point highlighted in Eye’s article was the lack of one government institution (one-stop-shop) to provide approvals to apartment developers, instead of having different authorities to give clearances and approvals where the avenues for bribery and corruption are very high.
Mr. Wijayaratne said that for the purpose of maintaining transparency in the preliminary plan-clearance procedure, the UDA hopes to set up a ‘One-Stop Unit’ with the aim of reducing the time gaps and hopefully bribery and corruption involving government officials.
He said under the new regulations, the number of floors for an apartment project would be decided based on the extent of the block of land, the degree of sewerage/water/electricity facilities, etc., and that the new UDA regulations would pay special attention to apartment projects proposed to be constructed in coastal areas and historically important areas.
However, when asked Mr. Wijayaratne said the UDA had not been able to come up with a good solution to penalize apartment developers who violate regulations including those at already completed constructions.(Piyumi Fonseka)