How I See It
BY DULIP JAYAWARDENA
A recent statement from the Minister in charge of Western Megapolis Development has stated that there are no funds allocated to his Ministry for Megapolis Development.
However the Minister should study the concept of the 100 Resilient Cities strategy, already formulated covering some mega cities of the world from New York and Medellin to Melbourne and Rotterdam to understand the challenges cities in the western Megapolis have encountered, and review the process of addressing those challenges and how finances could be harnessed.
I have tried to highlight some of the essential components and practical implementations and the follow up to such direction in a holistic and integrated manner.
One of the essential components of developing cities is not to start from scratch but to build on the existing activities and projects which are presently in operation.
What is essential is to identify the existing efforts and to bring together all stake holders namely the private sector and others covering the city after demarcating its limits. Such stakeholder participation can effectively analyze existing efforts and formulate an effective plan to integrate the city’s activities into a master plan to support resilience building. Such activity would also lead to political support and technical expertise preferably on a voluntary basis to the city’s resilience activities.
These collaborative activities are continuous and include collecting new information and synthesis or evaluation as well asanswerquestions to identify new topics of focus and galvanize new partners and stakeholders from across the city.
It is suggested that city leaders such as mayors and municipal and urban council members’ community leaders and the private as well as public sector officials identify and prioritize resilience building modalities which finally lead to a Resilience Strategy which is an effective action plan taking into consideration the city’s strengths and weaknesses. Such a strategy will give the city a strong platform to build resilience by strengthening coordination, integration and prioritization.
Strategy for implementation
It is suggested that when the above partners are identified, the City Resilience Strategy can be formulated for implementation in two phases.
In the first phase of the above strategy should the focus to gather data, interact with the community and stakeholders, understand how the city is presently functioning and formulate a work plan identifying where improvements such as infrastructure, utilities, and more could be improved taking into consideration the aspirations of the city dwellers and other stakeholders both from the private and public sector.
In the second phase of the development process projects could be identified focusing on study areas and initiate workshops and seminars (Awareness campaigns) that would cover improvements to infrastructure, utilities, and environmental management to build healthy cities. To this end, parks and walkways should be planned so that city dwellers can indulge in recreational activities. It must be stated that under the previous regime a number of such entities were established but have not expanded to other areas at present.
The final phase is the implementation of the city’s Resilience Strategy which will be a blue print articulating the identified priorities of the city and the initiatives to implement them on the long medium and short term.
The Resilience Strategy should be an evolving document that would be adjusted during implementation and fine tuned to address priorities as evolving strategies are implemented.
Follow up to resilience strategies for mega cities in Sri Lanka
It is proposed that the Megapolis Development Ministry liaise with 100 Resilience cities of the world such as Mexico City, Oakland and Paris, and exchange their experience in implementing Phase-one of the 100 cities around the world. In this regard it is proposed to identify and appoint cities Resilience Officers for each city and establish offices that will be focal points in coordinating all activities related to mega city development.
It is noted that condominiums are coming up like mushrooms in the city of Colombo and suburbs as well as other cities such as Kandy and even in healthy climes such as Nuwara Eliya and Bandarawela.
Such construction activity continues unabated without any planning and disregard on its impact on the environment related to infrastructure, provision of utilities and also garbage disposal.
Plans are approved for the construction of apartments going into over 10 stories or more on a surface area sometimes less than 10 perches. Such concrete jungles have a severe impact on the residents in the areas surrounding them and the Government of Sri Lanka, especially theMegapolis DevelopmentMinistry should have a plan to see that those living around such high rises as well as those living in them could breathe fresh air and also have areas for recreation and access to utilities and infrastructure.
It is not advisable to resort to ad hoc plans such as building elevated highways and trains covering the cities that are identified as mega cities for development. Such activity should be carried out on Resilience Strategies as experienced by mega cities in the western world as well as in the east especially China, Singapore and other cities in south East Asia.
The recent collapse of buildings in Colombo and suburbs is a glaring example of development without any master plan on the basic principles of resilience in cities.
Sri Lanka is focusing on development of megacities including the Port City in Colombo. It must be stressed that the Port City was launched without any proper environmental impact study covering a long periods of time and studying intense wave action especially during the south west monsoon. There is an eminent danger of intensification of sea erosion in the south western coastal belt as the high intensity waves when meeting with an obstruction as the artificial island created by the Port City will eat into the land as these waves move northwards along the coast. There is an eminent danger that such activity will destroy the hotels that have been built off the south west coast line from Colombo to Hambantota.
I have in this short paper highlighted the urgency of identifying and implementing a master plan on development of cities with a Resilience Strategy with experience from the already existing 100 Resilience Strategy covering some mega cities in the world. Haphazard and ad hoc plans as noted in the megacity development in Sri Lanka will create problems that will not be able to be resolved without severe impact on human settlements infrastructure and provisions of basic utilities as well as tourism that is a major foreign exchange earner in Sri Lanka.
I would strongly suggest that the Government of Sri Lanka review the master plans if any on development of megacities with the inputs from all stake holders including the community, private and public sectors as well as the political authorities from the center and the regional levels.
(Dulip Jayawardena is a retired United Nations ESCAPEconomic Affairs Officer and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)