Urban Development Authority Director General Nayana Mawilmada, Surbana Jurong Consultants (Pvt.) Ltd Singapore Managing Director South Asia and Middle East Dr. Uma Maheswaran, Western Region Megapolis Planning Project, Project Director Lakshman Jayasekara and World Bank Senior Urban Economist Zhiyu Jerry Chan
Pic by Indraratne Balasuriya
By Zahara Zuhair
There should be a systematic approach to urban development and it should be done with an economic sense, Urban Development Authority (UDA) Director General Nayana Mawilmada said.
“I think we need to get big cities and get them right; if we do that we can make the biggest dent at the shortest possible time,”
he said. “Western Region comes very loud and clear; other cities come out very strong as well - like Galle, Kandy, Jaffna so on,”
He made these remarks at the Decider’s Breakfast Forum, themed ‘Sustainable cities - vision for the Sri Lankan urban transformation’, organised by Holcim (Lanka) Ltd, CSR Lanka and
“We need to create a unique city, but not another Malaysia or Singapore but a Colombo which is unique,” he stressed.
Speaking of ‘Sustainability development’ he noted that it has become a very sketched word these days and everybody use it.
“Sustainability needs balance; it is not just about planting more trees, putting solar panels on the roof; it should have a broader and systematic look to transform the city,”
he said. In general, experts believe that a sustainable city should meet the needs of the present without sacrificing the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Elaborating on the challenges he said that if environment, social structure and economy are not balanced, eventually the development would fail. “So the challenge is to find the balance among these three,” he said,
He said that almost all Sri Lankan cities had a series of generic problems.
“When you look at the Sri Lankan cities you see challenges, at one level you have generic challenges - this is common to all
our cities. “There are a lot of environmental issues, traffic congestion is increasing dramatically and increasing everywhere; now we are getting addicted to lot of private transport, but we need to reverse this,” he said.
“When you look at the centre of Colombo city, it is getting populated; it implies to Galle and Kandy as well, which adds to this congestion,”
He further made emphasis on issues such as garbage disposal, housing
the middle class and the quality of public transport.
Speaking further he said, “Every city has a series of very unique conditions and problems need to be solved and to me that is where it is interesting and that is where Sri Lanka is fascinating - the solution for each of these has to be extremely unique.
If you take Kandy, a world heritage city, has 400 odd historical buildings in the city which are basically falling part, 80 percent of the tourist come to this city, spend a night and go away, the city is not getting
“We need to figure out how we have to transform this, bring this without destroying its uniqueness and that is the challenge to make ‘sustainable transformation,” he said.
“Trincomalee - you have one of the world’s largest deep water ports, amazing industrial potential, blue whales, beaches, a diverse population - we need to balance find a sustainable way forward find a balance where the local community is also engaged,” Mawilnada said. Stating his stance on how the private sector should be involved in the development drive he said,” the key for private capital for me is not the money; it is the ability of the private sector, to filter out projects that are not economically viable.
The government has built a lot of stuff that you don’t use today. Take a drive at South. You will see all of it. When we put these to the market, the market will reject those - it will not make economic sense,” he
pointed out. “Transformation will take time, we need to create a world which is better for our children and grandchildren,” in conclusion he said.
Through his session, Surbana Jurong Consultants (Pvt.) Ltd Singapore Managing Director South Asia and Middle East Dr. Uma Maheswaran pointed out that every city has urbanisation issues and sustainability issues and there is a lack between social, economic and environmental conditions.
“There is a need for us to respond to it, even India, China, even Singapore has been addressing these issues,” he said.
Demonstrating a picture of a village he shared a story with the audience of how a start-up could be quite exciting as he noted that the start should be right.
“The mayor of this village one morning woke and called up all the villagers. There was a bad mountain behind this village. He spent a big amount of money and painted the mountain in green and called all the newsletter people and told them our village has gone green. He started the green movement in this village,” he said.
“He started it right; starts are exciting, because a lot of buzz comes around starts. People want to know what is evolving around it, if they have any role to play in
it,” he said.
During the discussion it was also highlighted that there is need for protecting wetland assets, restoring historical assets, better managed industries, improving living standards and to create a unique network