case for City Expansion
Eng. Anton Nanayakkara,
With regard to the present crisis in the south it must be said to the credit of the irrigation engineers not living, that their foresight had a comprehensive study done by an American Consultancy Firm of repute, which covers the three river basinsKalu, Nilwala, Gin Ganga, done as far back as 1968 and still gathering dust in the library of the Irrigation Department for want of political will for implementation.
The claim that the present flood is the worst experienced during the last 50 years compares well with the period of inaction since the publication of the Three Basin Report in 1968. It also compares well with our period of independence where science was treated as non-science, which drove all of our best engineers and scientists out of our country, leaving us with administrators to develop our country.
While flood damages and flood relief work going on is all that is doled out in the print media, no one speaks scientifically about how much of grandioce Southern Expressway went under water and what further flood and drainage problems are in store for us after its completion. Engineers, contractors, consultants, investors and promoters are strangely silent.
It is also amusing that it was very recently that a group of our so called water specialists went to Japan to attend the "Third World Water Forum 2003" to cry about water shortages of our country and the need to conserve water while they themselves as residents of Colombo belonged to the group of the biggest water wasters, using purified drinking water in houses and hotels to flush toilets. Wash cars and animals or water their gardens.
The Water Board seizing the opportunity, instead of taking corrective steps to reduce the claimed water looses of about 50% in the distribution system, rushed to increase the water tariff reaping large benefits to themselves at the expense of burdening the poor consumers already in trouble.
While this crisis will soon fade away to make way for yet another crisis (may be power) what is important is to rethink and learn a lesson not only for the south but also for our Capital City of Colombo too.
In an article written by me captioned "Fate of Twin Cities Colombo & Kotte" and the "Kelani Ganga Floods" (The Island of 22-l0-2002)1 gave a first hand eye witnesss account of the major flood in Colombo from Kelani Ganga that occurred in October 1967. In the same article I described how by our own foolishness and greed for money caused yet another freak flood in June 1992 (which had nothing to do with Kelani Ganga) and flooded our New Parliament too disgracefully. Everything was nicely swept under the carpet including the challenge about the accuracy of the claimed 493mm rainfall.
And now the claim that two politicians cut open the Nilwala Ganga Flood Bunds and drowned the Matara Town against the advice of our irrigation engineers is as hilarious as how our June 4th flood m Colombo was caused.
More threatening for Colombos safety and survival is the recent WB - IMF proposal to increase the urban population from the present 23% to 50% in the next eight years (The Island 6-5-03), which will require additional land, more water, electricity, housing, roads, etc. In the present scenario such a move will only increase the shanty population in Colombo who are already living in pathetic conditions to say the least.
But, however, the WB/IMF recommendation is quite in keeping with a study done by a private group of professionals twelve years ago, at their own cost which recommends how such a city expansion program can be done in an environmentally and scientifically fit manner.
This study done by a reputed London Based Consultant and titled "Creation of The New City of Colombo" is dated 1993. This report and other supporting documents available with the promoters supports the belief that such a project is not only technically feasible but also environmentally, Socially, and politically desirable and acceptable. The proposal was approved by the then President, agreements reached by Ministries for Housing and Irrigation, with UDA approval as well as Irrigation Department approval for redesigning the 100 year old Kelani South Bund protecting Colombo City, now iying in a dilapidated condition. The new proposal will bring in an additional land mass of over 5000Ac now designated as unprotected.
Strangely I have in my possession a letter written by the present Mayor of Colombo when he worked as Additional Director General of UDA dated 12-3-90, to the then Chairman of UDA recommending the appointment of a Special Committee to further study this proposal and this included my name too. But a registered letter to the good mayor after he assumed office of Mayor for Colombo is yet to be replied.
I would consider the present crisis in the south as a curse from gods to a nations not willing to learn a lesson and leave the poor to pay the price. Should this god next turn his eyes on Colombo what will be our fate - our capital city . Our city dwellers, large shanty population and all our so-called developments in Colombo.
The natural flood from Kelani Ganga of 1967 has not taught a lession, nor the man made flood of June 1992. What we are now waiting for is a devastating flood of Kelani Ganga as a challenge to the weak Kelani South Bund protecting Colombo built by the Dutch in the 1800s and completed by the British in 1924, still struggling to save Colombo.
I wish there will be someone to respond with any other alternative if there is such an alternative before the curse come upon all of us living in Colombo. Or will the Institution of Engineers rethink on the resolution I brought at the last AGM for the creation of a "Think Tank of Senior Scientists & Engineers" who have no vested interests to think of the many problems our country is facing today or will the OPA or the SLAAS take up what the IESL had apparently rejected.
This is the time for action free from biases or professional jealousies and put the country first.
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