Business Times

Chinese style high –rise buildings to shelter 75,000 shanty families from Colombo

Following the Chinese model, more high –rise buildings are to be built in Colombo Metropolitan area to accommodate around 75,000 families, which is half the Colombo population who are without houses and are living in shanty dwellings. The Government has taken action to construct high-rise community housing under public private partnership within the metropolitan area for these people, Urban Development Authority (UDA) sources said.

The Government's target is to relocate 30,000 of the 75,000 families to new community housing schemes within the next two years. Land for these new centres has already been earmarked and discussions have been held with a number of interested companies for the construction of these housing facilities. Several plans have already been submitted for UDA approval and construction work will begin shortly, a senor UDA official said.

The construction work at the Dematagoda housing complex is now under way. Another 680 units will be built there, along with a 3,128-unit complex at Salamulla near Battaramulla for which the foundation stone was recently laid, he added. The construction cost of each new residential unit will be around Rs. 2 million. Considering the number of units that need to be built, this is a very large cost to the Government. However, it is possible to fund these community housing projects through allocating the valuable land liberated through relocation for development activities, he revealed.

The slums and shanties are all single storey or low-rise buildings, and they occupy vast areas of land. Since the community housing to be provided will be in high-rise building complexes, a lot of Government land will be freed in Colombo, which will be earmarked for development. This liberated land can be used for tourism and residential facilities, business activities and other services. A large amount of foreign investment is also anticipated from these development projects, he said.

The relocation of slums and shantytowns will help maintain the city clean without aesthetically ruining the area. Many of these unauthorised structures are centred on strategic reservations around the public waterways and the sides of the railway tracks. The country’s waterways are severely polluted because of the settlements on the sides of the canals. As a result, the canals require a lot more maintenance in order to function properly. Through the relocation programme, it will be easier to clean up the waterways and create more public spaces including promenades, walkways, cycle-paths and parks around the canals to enhance the city's greenery and beauty.

This will create a healthier environment for the people in the city, the UDA official said. The community housing project will uplift the living standards of Colombo's low-income families in areas in the Colombo North area like Slave Island, Fort and Grandpass, where there are a lot of small, haphazardly scattered, private houses that should be upgraded. Unlike the slums and shantytowns, these buildings are not unauthorised structures.

The UDA is discussing the best way for their redevelopment with the owners as well as private developers. This programme is being implemented as a public-private partnership that will be facilitated by the UDA.

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