By:Staff WriterColombo (LNW): Sri Lanka’s almost ten month-old government, led by President Ranil Wickremesinghe, and has grand plans for a redevelopment of the country’s capital and its surrounding districts under the existing Surbana Jurong plan for the development of the Western province.
But while the project may look good on paper prepared in 1997 and revised ot 2004 and thereafter reintroduced as a fresh proposal in 2011, officials face significant obstacles in realizing the 15-year vision at that time.
The Western Region Megapolis Planning Project devised by Surbana Jurong Company in Singapore comprises 150 smaller projects, including the controversial Chinese-funded Colombo Port City development.
Progress on this $1.4 billion project has stalled, but is expected to restart within the next few months.
Under the WRMPP, there would also be a trade hub, a high-rise central business district including at least 60 new towers, a science and technology city, and a rapid transit system aimed at reducing traffic congestion in Sri Lanka’s most populous region, which is home to almost 6 million people.
President Ranil Wickremesinghe has announced that a Cabinet sub-committee would be appointed to implement the Surbana Jurong plan for the development of the Western Province and a new agency would be established for this purpose.
During a meeting held at the Presidential Secretariat on May 14, the President stressed the need for comprehensive development in the Western Province through a formal city development plan, stating that informal development could become uncontrollable.
The Western Province contributes about 50 per cent to the country’s economy, making its development crucial, the President’s Media Division (PMD) reported.
President Wickremesinghe instructed officials to present the development plan for the Eastern Province to the Cabinet. He also reminded everyone that the first plan related to the development of the Western Province was presented by Minister Indika Gunawardena in 1997 but was never implemented, the PMD said.
The plan presented by Surbana Jurong Company in Singapore in 2004 also suffered a similar fate.
The President urged officials to discuss the revised plan proposed by the company in 2015 and come to an urgent decision on the basic development plan needed for the Western Province, with further amendments if necessary.
The President was presented with the main development plan proposed to be implemented in the Western Province through the Urban Development Authority, and officials also discussed the release of land and land acquisition for the implementation of development works. President Ranil Wickremesinghe instructed officials to speed up the work, it added,
Progress on these projects has been stalled due to the COVID-19 crisis, financial constraints and policy issues and is expected to be revised considering case by case basis based on the availability of funds, he disclosed.
The World Bank and the Asian Development Bank have initially given its consent to provide partial funding for the implementation of the plan under certain conditions, senior official said.
The project, initiated in May 2015, had been in operation for more than two years by the end of September 2017 and a sum of Rs. 330.23 million had been incurred for the project, a recent Auditor General’s report revealed.