Developing "Greater Kandy"


By Palitha Elkaduwa and

S W R de A Samarasinghe

In the last few months Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has publicly announced on more than one occasion his vision to develop the Greater Kandy region. This is something that the people of Kandy, the second largest city in the nation, has every right to expect when the government is launching a five-year $45b Megapolis development project centred on Colombo.

The idea of developing Greater Kandy is not new to Mr. Wickremesinghe. In March 2003 as prime minister he instructed the then Ministry of Central Region Development to come up with a proposal to expand the Kandy city limits as an essential first step to initiate a Greater Kandy development strategy. When the government changed in April 2004 the project went into abeyance.

In the past twelve years the Kandy city and its suburbs have undergone significant change in population, traffic density, land use and so forth. Many would argue that most of those changes are unplanned and haphazard. The recent public controversy over the reopening of Malabar Street adjacent to the Maligawa is just one example. Haphazard development does not improve the quality of life of the people of Kandy and the peripheral towns. Thus it is wholly appropriate that Prime Minister Wickremesinghe is making a fresh effort to resurrect his idea to have a Greater Kandy development strategy. The press reports that he has made an appeal to the Japanese for funding.

2003 Proposal

In 2003 the Ministry for Central Regional Development did some important work to develop the Greater Kandy concept of Mr. Wickremesinghe. Thus there is no need to spend time and resources to reinvent the wheel. While some adjustments may have to be made to the 2003 proposal to accommodate changes that have occurred in the past twelve years, the basic framework that was proposed is likely to remain valid. The purpose of this article is to briefly describe what was proposed then so that the public becomes aware of what is possible and all concerned have an opportunity to reflect on the issue with a view to improving it where necessary.

An official committee under the Ministry of Central Region Development with representatives from all key government agencies made an exhaustive study of the local government boundaries and made a proposal to redraw them as a basis for creating a Greater Kandy Region.

Major Issues

Most importantly, the committee took into account, among other things, the following factors when making its proposal for boundaries for a new Greater Kandy Region.

• Reports that had been prepared prior to 2004 proposing the expansion of the KMC boundaries.

• A need for a larger geographic area that extends beyond the current KMC boundaries to accommodate an ambitious and integrated development program.

• Kandy being a World Heritage City has to be conserved as a major religious, cultural and historic city that is important not only for Sri Lanka but for the wider world.

• The need for satellite towns that are integrated with Kandy and could support Kandy.

• The need for a transportation system that relieves the current traffic congestion in Kandy, and also links the area to Sri Lanka’s major commercial hub, Colombo.

• The proposed Colombo-Kandy (Central) Expressway.

The proposal that the Committee prepared was presented to all the members of parliament that represented the Kandy region and to the respective local government authorities of the area. According to official records, with two exceptions, almost all agreed with the proposal. Kundasale Pradesheeya Sabha and the Harispattuwa Pradesheeya Sabha proposed alternatives.

Public Consultation

Given the significance of the project and also in keeping principles of Yahapaalanaya the government should have some public hearings to canvass the views of the different stakeholders before the project is officially launched. This can be done without spending too much time if the government makes available a fresh revised draft of the original proposal prepared in 2003.

Greater Kandy Boundaries

The current Kandy Municipal Council (KMC) area is 26.8 sq. km with 45 Grama Niladhari (GN) divisions. The proposed Great Kandy Region will have almost eight times the land area covering approximately 210 sq. km. with 275 GN divisions. The resident population will rise from the current 125,000 in KMC to 500,000 or about one-third of the current Kandy District population of 1.4m. As the accompanying map shows much of the expansion will be towards the east, north and northwest of Kandy city that will include towns and suburbs such Pallekelle, Digana, Wattegama, Ambatenna and Kiribathkumbura. These are among the towns that are rapidly growing and have potential for further economic development that will bring jobs and higher income for the growing population.

Ambitious Project

By any measure this is an ambitious project with significant long-term consequences not only for Kandy but also for the entire District and even beyond. The population is multi ethnic and multi religious. Kandy is an environmentally sensitive hilly area. Kandy is home to, among other things the Dalada Maligawa, one of the most venerated shrines in the Buddhist world. Peradeniya University, Sri Lanka’s oldest and one of the most prestigious universities is located in Kandy. One of the great Botanical Gardens of the tropical world is also found in the same area. Kandy is a magnet for tourists both local and foreign. When the Kandy-Colombo expressway is completed Kandy region is likely to become an attractive place for investors. The mild climate will make it a very desirable residential area for some who work in the Western Province Megapolis because the drive of 120 km will take less than ninety minutes.

If the Greater Kandy Development Project is done thoughtfully, efficiently and sans corruption and with adequate social, environmental and cultural sensitivity it could serve as a model for sustainable development.

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