Colombo Port City Project Vs New City of Colombo Project


by Eng. Anton Nanayakkara

This article is a response to a timely letter written by Dr. U. Pethiyagoda under the caption "Colombo Port City" - back to basics, that appeared in the Island of 30-04-27015 where he poses two intelligent questions (a) do we really need this project? (b) could the monies be invested more usefully ? My response to the first question is a positive "No" while the answer to the second question is a positive "Yes" and the reasons are explained below.

If it is the dire need of land for city expansion that prompts this project (PC) the need to find such additional lands outside from the sea (500 Ac) does not arise because we have identified more than 10,000 ac within the city twice the size of the present city calling it the "New City of Colombo Project" (NC) abutting the present city now idling as "unprotected" for no sensible reason, starring in our eyes.

It was way back in the mid 1980’s that I as Range, Deputy Director for Colombo and in charge of the Kelani Flood Protection Scheme exposed the availability for development of a massive block of land just adjoining the present city and bordering the Kelani Left Bank. The idea was well taken up and a committee was appointed to. study the project headed by one C. Maliyadda from the Plan Implementation Ministry as Chairman and myself and several others as members. Sadly this committee never met even once, but my efforts continued.

A brief study of the flooding pattern around 1984 revealed that the present location of the Kelani South Bund built by the Dutch in the 1800’s to protect the present city from Kelani Floods was in the wrong place leaving a massive chunk of land about twice the size of Colombo as "unprotected" for no apparent reason. The figure I below shows the said land and the relative position of the Kelani South Bund and the figure 2 shows how, this land now neglected is gradually getting transformed into a massive shanty town.

The next step came when a well meaning national minded local group of professionals had this project proposal (NC) re-studied by a London Based Consultancy Company by the name London Marine Consultants Ltd of Kent England at no cost to the government and a favorable report was available in 1992. The group emphasized that all over the world where a major river flows through or by the side of the capital city the best developments are seen on either side of the river as in London (river Thames), Paris (river Seine), Cairo (river Nile), Moscow (River Volga) etc but not so in the case of our own beautiful Kalani Conga flowing by the side of our Capital City.. The final proposal with altered position of the Kelani south bund is shown below for completeness.

This project missed President Premadasa with his tragic demise just two weeks tiller the arrival of the London report leaving the report in the hands of President D. B. Wijetunge who was prompt to approve the project.

The proposal then followed the usual procedure going through the ministry of Urban Development, to the Ministry of Irrigation, to the Department of Irrigation and after all the favorable approvals were received the then Chairman UDA Professor Nimal de Silva not only approved the project but also renamed it as "The Environment City of Colombo East " because of the extra emphasis on environmental issues seen, and there it remains up to now. That was from 8th October 1998.

For the information of Dr. Pethiygoda and other readers engineer or otherwise let it be known that 0 1 while the PC deals with only 500 ac the NC is about 10.000 ac (2)the VC needs protection right round with expensive boulder protection the NC only requires an cheaper earthen bund (3) while the PC will have only sea frontage the NC will have both sea and river frontages bringing our city in par with other important cities of the world mentioned before (4) boat traffic will be a new tourist attraction (5) as far as the costs involved are concerned as a professional engineer I can vouch that it will cost only a fraction of the cost of the PC. (5) environmentally too there can he no adverse conditions expected (6) Among the mint other benefits the NC is the only protect that recommends a dual water supply scheme with drinking - water in one pipeline and water for all other purposes in the second pipeline (7) not one inch of land will go to any foreign country.

I have already addressed a letter to the Prime Minister about the possible adverse conditions that can come due to the PC project, specially with regard to the future of the beautiful national asset the. "Galle Face Green" and the heightened erosion that can be expected north of Kelani Ganga after the implementation of the Port City project, with two photographs also attached in support.

In conclusion it is hoped that this project first approved by President D. B. Wijetunge presently before the new Minister for Urban Development and his efficient engineer Secretary, will somehow receive due attention of President Maithripala Sirisena who might take serious note of the professional jealousies: and rivalries that had taken place and the loss of valuable national protects and the inevitable loss of talent (brain drain) taking place because Sri Lanka never recognized her own capable professionals and always looked up to anything that is foreign.

The writer is a former Senior Deputy Director of Irrigation and a former Senior Assistant Secretary of the Ministry of Public Administration and can be contacted on 2-784979.


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