The Urban Development Authority (UDA), now functioning under the Defence Ministry, has drawn up a mass eviction plan for both residents in possession of valid deeds and those occupying state land in Colombo city.
The move will affect more than 60,000 families.
Residents in Slave Island, most of them holding valid deeds for their houses and living in the area for more than five decades, have been told to be prepared to move out. They have been told that the area will be developed and “returned to them.”Over the past three weeks, UDA officials have been going from house to house in Slave Island, gathering data from residents and photographing their homes. Residents were told the UDA was conducting a survey.
|A. C. M. Badurdeen
||Valid house deeds.
UDA Director-General Nihal Fernando told the Sunday Times that the authority was collecting data for a study that would be used in building “housing and commercial projects.”
“We want to build the residents better housing and utility facilities,” he said, adding that the UDA had not yet chosen a developer for the large-scale project.
But the residents are concerned about the eviction and development plan, saying Chinese companies will be involved in the development programme. The residents have formed a Colombo Residents’ Protection Organisation.
A. C. M. Badurdeen, the residents’ group president, said an estimated 3,000 families would be evicted, with no firm assurance from the government that they would be resettled in the area. “We are not against development, but we should have a guarantee that we will get back our lands,” said Mr. Badurdeen, a former Municipal Council member. “Two months ago residents were evicted from Java Lane for security reasons. But now we hear that the defence establishments will be moving out of the area.”
Besides the proposed development of the Slave Island area, the UDA plans to evict residents from 60,000 houses occupying state land in the city.
UDA Director-General Nihal Fernando says the 60,000 families will be resettled outside the city. “We have identified sites in Homagama, Gampaha and Kalutara for resettlement,” he said. “We cannot allow them to live in the city any longer. They have been blocking the city’s railway, canal and road development.”Families living on state land in urban areas have been offered Rs. 100,000 as one year’s rent before they are resettled. They will receive no other compensation.