LBR LBO Summit
LBR LBO Summit

Infrastructure: Sri Lanka’s mass transit success lies with land use management, says Nayana Mawilmada

Nov 06, 2015 (LBO) – Sri Lanka’s plans for mass transit specially in Colombo must ensure that it stays linked to real-estate developments to make it viable, the director general of the Urban Development Authority said at the LBR LBO Infrastructure Summit.

“Introduction of mass transit is a critical step and a game changer for urban development and will not work unless it goes along with managing land use,” Nayana Mawilmada, director general, Urban Development Authority said.

“I think unlocking the viability of mass transit will depend on how well we manage the real-estate links to these transit corridors.”

He was speaking at the recently concluded LBR LBO Infrastructure Summit 2015 “Making Colombo a Globally Competitive City” held in Colombo.

Data shows Sri Lanka’s Colombo Metropolitan Region accounts for over one-third of all travel within the Western province which generates 45 percent of Gross Domestic Product, being where most services and manufacturing is located in the country of 20 million people.

The Western Province’s economic efficiency and liveability are important to Sri Lanka’s economic progress and transport experts have warned that worsening traffic jams could raise costs for businesses and slow down economic growth if urgent remedial action is not taken.

“If mass transit is not introduced then we will see congestion becoming a drain on the economy.”

“That is something we are working on and the transport and land use planners as well as the real estate developers need to work together for this.”

Mawilmada says that this means that the government will have to make some unpopular steps.

“We need to be disciplined not get distracted and staying focused is important,”

The Board of Investment recently said it was calling for proposals for investment in monorail or a MRT system from the private sector, with an estimated cost of around 1.9 billion dollars.

A monorail typically requires public investment due to the difficulty in covering investment costs or it must offer other incentives to private investors.

Transport experts at the LBR LBO Infrastructure Summit said, from a public finance perspective, investment should first go into bus rapid transit (BRT) and modernisation of the railway, as these were the best options in public finance cost benefit terms.