Infrastructure: No land shortage in Colombo, a transformation underway, says DG UDA

Nov 04, 2015 (LBO) – Sri Lanka’s commercial capital faces a core problem of under-utilization of land and there is no land shortage, the director general of the Urban Development Authority said at the LBR LBO Infrastructure Summit.

Colombo has 65,000 slum and shanty houses occupying 900 acres of real estate in Colombo, he said.

“There is no land shortage in Colombo, there is land under-utilization. That’s a core problem,” Nayana Mawilmada said.

He was speaking at the LBR LBO Infrastructure Summit 2015: Making Colombo a Globally Competitive City on Tuesday.

Previous efforts to free land by moving all shanty dwellers to high rises had not worked, and several pilot projects have now adopted a different approach.

“The original plan for building high rises was, let’s move people and free up all this land, then there will be plenty of land for commercial real estate. But we found was that really doesn’t work,” Mawilmada said.

“Because we are moving communities that are used to living on the ground, with very interesting social networks, into vertical situations (apartments).”

The current approach is to consider social issues as just as important as the physical issues. The UDA is carrying out pilot projects, including one in a new building.

We work with them socially and ask what do you need to transform your life, and how can this real estate play a role in that,” he said.

The approach is to offer a mix of solutions from 4 storey apartments to high rises.

“The process will take people living in a 100 to 200 square foot wooden shack into a 400 to 500 square foot apartment that is valued at 4 million rupees at construction cost alone.

Mawilmada said the transformation will legalize their homes giving them collateral in a completely different way.

“What we are starting to do is really engage them on livelihoods, education and empowering them so that this transformation is actually completed. It’s not just physical,” he said.

“These are the people that make the city works. They are the maids, drivers and so on. I absolutely think they should be kept as close as possible to the city,” he further stated.

He stressed that there is no need to clear all the land occupied.

“You can’t take 65,000 people and give them one solution. 65,000 need multiple solutions,” he emphasized.

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