The new government’s flagship project, the Western Region Megapolis Project (WRMP) is to be implemented on phased basis till the year 2030 by establishing a WRM Authority like the Mahaweli Authority under an act of parliament.A draft bill to set up this authority will be presented in parliament next year to transform the entire western [...]

The Sunday Times Sri Lanka

Western Region Megapolis Project to kick start with smart city concept


Senior Consultant Subrana Jeffrey Ho

The new government’s flagship project, the Western Region Megapolis Project (WRMP) is to be implemented on phased basis till the year 2030 by establishing a WRM Authority like the Mahaweli Authority under an act of parliament.A draft bill to set up this authority will be presented in parliament next year to transform the entire western province to a fully fledged modern urban area enveloping the Colombo, Gampaha, and Kalutara districts and positioning Colombo as a smart city in the South Asian region, Minister of Megapolis and Western Development Patali Champika Ranawaka revealed.

“A smart city uses digital technologies or information and communication technologies (ICT) to enhance quality and performance of urban services, to reduce costs and resource consumption, and to engage more effectively and actively with its citizens”, he disclosed.The Megapolis Minister outlined the proposed strategic spatial plan at public forum convened to obtain views and suggestions of citizens in the province.
He said that the government will implement this plan following consultations with all sections of the society, before the implementation of the WRMP. The WRMP will effectively address the problems of transportation, environmental degradation, shanty dwellers, garbage disposal and high population density concentrated in single area.

Minister Champika Ranawake said that the problems emanating from heavy traffic congestion on road networks especially in Colombo which affect the economic vigor and quality of life in the cities and regions.Around 500,000 vehicles enter the city daily burning Rs.2 billion worth of fuel he said adding that this problem should be tackled according it a high priority, otherwise the country will have to face a severe economic crisis.Shelter problem of 68,000 shanty dwellers living in Colombo should also be solved providing them with alternate better housing facilities while improving their standard of living, he added.

This has become a grave and sensitive social problem which needs to address carefully, the minister said adding that it is essential to change their life styles.“Not single person in shanties had been able to become a scholar, an artiste, or a good sportsman during the past several decades, but most of them became drug addicts, drug peddlers or alcoholics or under world thugs”, he pointed out.Minister Ranawake said that clustered networks of cities have been planned to tackle common issues of transportation (railways and highways) giving priority to economic development and environmental conservation.This strategic spatial plan is based on the belief that cities in the western province could work together creating new urban area to increase economic opportunities and employment.The new Megapolis project will contribute to improving social and economic consistency with a better territorial balance attaining sustainable development.

The Megapolis of the future will provide its citizens, an integrated transport system, real time traffic information and management, smart power grids to supply the required capacity of electricity depending on the demand, smart street lighting, smart city maintenance and many other modern technology related facilities, he revealed.At the public consultations, Susil Siriwardena (a retired SLAS officer and former Director, National Housing Authority and Commissioner of Janasaviya Fund) emphasised the need of implanting the project in two directions.One is fast track the other one is slow track he said adding that people want to see the results immediately of a mega project and the authorities have to fulfil their aspirations as well.

To fast track the process, it is essential to make basic living standard more uniform countrywide he emphasised adding that by facilitating geographic concentration and economic integration could be carried out under the slow track.He stressed that during the implementation of the project, attention should be paid on the development of other regions of the country as well.In an interview with Business Times, Chairman of WRMPP Ajita De Costa said that With regard to funding and management of each of the components, local and foreign investment, technology and expertise will be promoted and facilitated.Wherever the government contributions are required, Private Public Partnerships (PPPs) will be considered as the first option, he added.Implementation of this flagship project will be carried out by the newly formed Megapolis Ministry backed by a highly respected professional team of Sri Lankan advisers including several professors of local universities with Singapore experts of Surbana urban planning group to refine the plan.

Plans are underway to introduce a Zoning System in the Western Province such as Residential Zones, Commercial Zones, and Administrative Zones”, he added.The zoning system will include Environmentally Sensitive Zones, Residential Zones, Industrial Zones, Population Hub and Transportation Hubs.These Zones will have its own infrastructure and other facilities for the people living in these areas while improving their happiness index, he emphasised.One of the mega zones, the Port City and the area around the Colombo port will be developed relating to the port development, he pointed out.The consultants need more time to complete the design for the Western Region Megapolis Plan covering the entire Western Province from Negombo in the north to Kalutara in the south, he said that they will be able to unveil the plan next month. The Treasury and Urban Development Authority have already allocated Rs.56 million and Rs. 10 million respectively to prepare the Plan. The total budget for the WRMPP is Rs. 50 million.

WRMP Chairman Ajit de Costa.

Senior Consultant Subrana International Jeffrey Ho was in the island for expert consultations told the Business Times, with regard to project implementation particularly making the Megapolis digitally smart, Sri Lanka can learn from selected European cites as well as from few Asian Megapolis. Citing an example he said Songdo, South Korean city is projecting itself as world’s first smart City and several Chinese new cities built under Megapolis concept. The plan would take into consideration all ongoing projects and incorporate them into a regional plan that will address all identified issues by 2030, he added.He noted that Subrana International extends its expertise in planning and implementing of WRMPP. The Singaporean experts of Subrana is working in Sri Lanka to update the plan devised 12 years ago inculcating new thinking, new vision and modern technology.

He said that they are looking at land use planning, transportation and aviation in the Western region to become economic driver .improving the quality of infrastructure. The company is bringing relevant experts including urban planners to provide consultancy services, he said.
The plan identified 12,000 hectares, for industrial land use (an increase of about 6,000 hectares from the current land available). The Bolgoda Lake and the Negombo Lagoon were labelled major tourist areas of the megapolis. Minister Ranawaka emphasised the need to also develop major cities like Galle, Kandy Anuradhapura, Jaffna and Trincomalee in parallel with the Megapolis plan.

Minister Champika Ranawaka addressing the media flanked by Deputy Minister Lasantha Alagiyawanna, Ministry Secretary Nihal Rupasinghe and WRMP Chairman Ajita de Costa.

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