Colombo Port City- some critical issues that need to be addressed Colombo Port City (CPC) is a planned offshore city which is to be built on reclaimed land adjacent to the Galle Face Green. The total extent of the CPC is around 250 hectares. Two articles on the Port City Project (PCP) appeared in the [...]

The Sunday Times Sri Lanka

Letters to the Editor


Colombo Port City- some critical issues that need to be addressed
Colombo Port City (CPC) is a planned offshore city which is to be built on reclaimed land adjacent to the Galle Face Green. The total extent of the CPC is around 250 hectares.

Two articles on the Port City Project (PCP) appeared in the Sunday Times of June 19 and 26. The one on June 19 by Carmel L. Corea (CLC) highlighted some of the undesirable effects of CPC on a number of issues including the environment. The main emphasis of the other by Nihal Fernando (NF) in the Sunday Times of June 26 was on various factors mostly related to pre reclamation period, highlighted in the Supplementary Environment Impact Assessment Report (SEIA) of 2015. It is a comprehensive report, of 421 pages in 8 chapters on numerous issues involved in the construction of the CPC. It was intended to supplement the EIA of 2011.

The report indicates the amount of rock material that would be required (2.83 million cubic metres) and even has worked out the details on how all this material is going to be transported including the transport routes. Assuming a lorry load of granite will carry 10 CM of granite, transporting nearly 3 million CM of rock will involve 300,000 trips from and to the quarries in Gampaha and Colombo districts during the construction period. This will add to the traffic congestion we are already facing.

The SEIA report also highlighted the infrastructure to be constructed in the 230 hectares of reclaimed Port City. These include roads, water, and electricity, communication facilities to set up shopping areas, water sports area, mini golf course, hotels, apartments, recreation areas etc. According to the initial plan, there was a move to include a new Formula One track,
However, the SEIA report does not go into details of the post-reclamation activities. Once the project is completed how it is going to affect the people in the Colombo city and the suburbs needs to be given due consideration. The article by NF has not commented on these post reclamation issues. The SEIA mentions these issues (Chapter 2 – sections – The report says that it is the responsibility of the respective govt. organisations to supply all these facilities. Will the relevant organisations be able to supply the facilities/ services indicated above ?

The present population of Colombo district is around 2 million. According to CLC this population will increase by around 1 million with the completion of the PCP. This may be not correct as according to another document once completed the Colombo Port City will house over 245,000 people with 28% of them being permanent residents. (May be NF could give the correct figure)

The increase in population is due to the tourists, staff in the offices, hotels, apartments etc. A substantial number will be coming to the CPC from Colombo city and suburbs. They will be using public and private transport increasing the already congested main trunk roads. The population in CPC will have to be provided facilities such as water and electricity. Even without the CPC there is a shortage of water in Colombo city during dry periods. The same with electricity supply. With construction of hotels, offices etc in CPC, the demand for water and electricity will increase and how are these requirements going to be met?

Solid waste and sewage disposal are two other issues which the GOSL will have to give serious consideration. According to NF, the PCP will be connected to the Asian Development Bank funded Greater Colombo Sewerage Waste Water Management Project. It is not known when this project will materialize. This report also mentions of transporting solid waste from CPC to Puttalam, a very unrealistic, uneconomic proposal. In many countries, solid waste is used to generate electricity. In fact at Pelwatta Sugar Industries, bagasse, a solid waste from sugarcane is used to generate electricity which meets the electricity requirement of the factory premises. According to CLC, GOSL is responsible for providing all these services required for the operation of the CPC. Even at present the people in Colombo and suburbs are inconvenienced to a great extent by traffic congestion, frequent power failures, accumulation solid waste, water shortages etc.

According to the SEIA report there are around 40 species of fish and corals in the sea around the CPC and sewage from the CPC is going to be discharged to the sea. The sewage discharged would contain toxic heavy metals and will pollute the sea in the area causing many harmful effects on the biological environment including the fish population and those who consume the fish. The extent to which it will affect the fish exports will also have to be given consideration,

Even if these services are to be provided by the GOSL, the financial involvement will be massive and the GOSL will have to obtain loans to meet the costs adding to the already debt burden. The project will not contribute to the finances of the country as according to CLC, GOSL will be denied the tax for 25 years. This will cause a massive financial burden on the government. There appears to be no economic analysis based on the fact that Sri Lanka will be denied tax from the income of the CPP and GOSL is responsible to provide all service including water, power, telecommunication etc.

Improper land use is one of the pressing problems in the country. Landslides, water shortages, floods and wild elephant damage is due to ineffective land use. Colombo Port City Project (PCP) is another example of improper land use. When there are large extents of land near the city which are ineffectively used, filling up nearly 250 hectares of sea with rocks and sand, which is likely to have an adverse effect on the environment and the socio economic situation of the country, is absurd.

Dr. C.S.Weeraratna
Via email

High cost of drugs, private hospitals: Take mercy on us poor pensioners
The public must be thanking the government for the small mercies extended in exempting 15 essential items including sugar (why?), dhal and sprats from VAT. But we, the pensioners are hit more by the VAT on hospital services than the specified goods.

Recently I had to go to a leading private hospital for several medical tests.The total bill came to Rs. 6,223. Of this Rs.813 was for VAT. This with the high cost of pharmaceuticals takes a lion share of my pension.
Hope the government will revise this and show some mercy on pensioners.

An Octogenarian
Via email

Wasting money on MPs who care little about the voters
Since the inception of Universal Franchise in our country, we followed the system where we put a cross on the ballot paper to the candidate of our liking and the Commissioner of Elections announced as winner the candidate who got the majority of votes.
The 2015 General elections have revealed to the people that the 225 candidates elected by the people to Parliament are there mainly to secure a vehicle, and other perks at the cost of neglecting the voter.

Except for a few members a majority are only interested in these perks. Are they not aware that the Cancer hospital requires a vital diagnostic apparatus? Village roads are neglected? State hospitals are overflowing with patients? Most members seem only concerned about acquiring vehicles costing millions of rupees.

The electoral system should be revised and no member should be given vehicles, or other perks until these problems are redressed . If resources are not wasted on these MPs this country could be developed in a year or two instead of making unnecessary long term plans that only help the planners help themselves.
Via email

‘Musical menace in Panadura Esplanade: We need sound sleep, not sound pollution
We were forced to listen to two noise polluting musical extravaganzas in the Panadura Esplanade within two months; the first was during floods and landslides that killed over 150 people and affected hundreds of thousands of people, and the second high-octane blast on Saturday July 2.

The unwanted and unpleasant sound that causes discomfort to the area people started from around 9 p.m. and continued till early hours in the morning.

The area is considered a ‘silent zone’; the Base Hospital is only a stone’s throw away from the venue. Loud noise causes temporary disruption in the natural balance. There are hundreds of patients who need a sound sleep, not sound pollution. Even in healthy people, noise pollution causes contraction of blood vessels, and excessive adrenalin in the blood stream. This leads to high blood pressure and tends to disturb the natural rhythm of life. Increased and prolonged exposure to excessive blaring sounds is known to cause mental distress. Health is wealth — noise pollution is an epidemic that requires straight attention and prevention.

What was the role of the guardians of health? Have the local council and law enforcement authorities taken any action? Who permitted the heartless merrymakers to revel till 3 a.m.? The Police Station is next door. Isn’t there a maximum allowed decibel level for the residential areas?

In Sri Lanka there is a multitude of progressive enactments pertaining to noise pollution, but what is lacking is the commitment to implement those; the city is for the people and not for the few to enjoy at the expense of the majority.
Group of Environmentalists

Thank goodness for honest people!
My wife is a workaholic in her office. Once in a while her concentration and vigilance over mundane matters take a back seat.

This was one such morning when she rushed to the nearest ATM facility situated close to our home in Athurugiriya. She punched the buttons on the machine requesting for the maximum six digit cash withdrawal allowed by that particular bank. Then, she took her card out from the machine, stored it carefully in her handbag, opened her car door and drove away. The cash she withdrew was obviously lodged neatly in crisp notes at the mouth of the machine untouched!

Nearing her office in Fort she realized her shocking mistake. Frenzied, she called me at home where I was leisurely going through the motions of my retired life. She shooed me off to the ATM machine to see if I could pick up any clues. Yours truly, playing Sherlock Holmes found nothing but a cash machine with no one around and no money to be found! In a flash I was prompted to check with my bankers in downtown Athurugiriya five minutes away.

The lady manageress was very kind and gave a patient hearing to my tale of woe. She questioned me further on my story and then a burst of joy and disbelief struck me as she revealed that a newly married couple had walked into the bank and handed over the full sum of the money. I was told that these young Samaritans of our society did not look rich or flashy but were down to earth and honest. What a change to realize and relish the thought that such people do still exist in this cut throat world.
We are yet hopeful of contacting this couple. Wherever they are, may the good Lord bless them abundantly and bless our citizenry with more honest people like them.

Amarnath Paul

Buses tooting air horns: Lend an ear to our plea
I live in an apartment on Maya Avenue, Colombo 6. From 5 a.m. to 10 p.m., we are troubled and disturbed by buses that toot their air horns while plying on High Level Road. We suffer severe headaches and are prone to high blood pressure, because of this unbearable noise pollution.

Why aren’t the authorities checking this menace? The traffic is heavy during peak hours, virtually buffer to buffer, but bus drivers keep tooting their air horns. Where are they trying to go? The Police have turned a deaf ear. We urge the Government to prosecute these drivers who cause sound pollution. We hope, at least the newly appointed IGP will take some action.

Some time ago, the Government made a big hue and cry about air horns fitted on vehicles, but it died a natural death like many other issues raised by the Government. Soon we will have to visit the ENT specialist as we are very close to going totally deaf. It is no joke.

God help us to get rid of this menace.
Brig. Neville Fernando
Via email

Are we prepared to meet the challenge of an ageing population?
The elderly population (above the age of 60 years) is 2.5 million at present in Sri Lanka and will double to reach 5 million in 2031 according to the projections. It is a global trend that the elderly population is fast growing. At present the world’s population of elders numbers 809 million – 11% of the total population. In 2030 it is projected to be 1375 million – 16% of the total population of the world.

In any country, the population structure is one of the key factors which decides the development of the country.
There are three age categories of importance:

  • Child population less than the age of 15 years
  • Working population between the ages of 15 to 59 years
  • Elderly population aged 60 years and above

In Sri Lanka according to the current age structure of the population, it appears that the child population, working population and elderly population amount to 26%, 61% and 13% respectively.

The population in Sri Lanka is experiencing a threat of aging over the last three decades. In 1981, the elderly population was 1 million (6.6% of the total population). In 2007 it was nearly double (11.3% of total population). In 2012 it was 13.3% and according to the projections it will be 16.7% in 2021 and 25% in 2041. The elderly population is growing faster than the rate of population growth. In the elderly population the number of males is lower than the number of females: Males 44% and Females 56%. 77% of the elderly population is in the rural sector, 19% in urban areas and only 4% in the estate sector. It is appreciable that 26% of elders participate in the economy of the country.

Helpage International and UNFPA introduced the ‘Global Age Watch Index’ in 2013 to measure the quality and welfare of the living conditions of the elderly.
When calculating Global Age Watch Index, there are four main areas to be looked into.

  • Safety of income and assets
  • Health conditions
  • Education and employability
  • Suitable environment for living
  • We are fortunate to be in the 36th place out of 91 countries in the world which were assessed, and be the first in Asia.
  • There are a few reasons for the increase of the elderly population in our country:
  • Low fertility (low birth rates)
  • Increased life expectancy
  • Low mortality (low death rates)

(In Sri Lanka at present the life expectancy of females is 78 years and males, 72 years.)
The change of the population structure with time is called “demographic transition”. Almost all countries experience this change. Scientists found that there are four main stages in demographic transition starting from high fertility and mortality rates to low fertility and mortality rates in countries.

Sri Lanka is now in the third stage of change, still experiencing a difference between birth rate and death rate (crude birth rate 16/1000 and crude death rate 6/1000) which results in population expansion. (This is also called ‘population explosion’)
With the aging population growing fast, the country has a challenge to address issues regarding their wellbeing. They become dependents. They will be faced with certain health problems such as Non Communicable Diseases (NCD), mental health problems, problems with hearing and vision, and some problems with mobility.

The authorities seem to be not adequately aware of the needs in the future. A simple example: In most of the railway stations in our country we see low platforms, even a young person finds difficulty to board or get off a train. In some railway stations the platforms reconstructed recently are elevated. In most state institutions including hospitals and most private establishments, there are still no ramps for the disabled and elders to enter and leave without a hassle.

The Health Department and other authorities should draw up short term, medium term and long term plans to improve infrastructure facilities and human resources to address the needs of the elderly. It is desirable to implement an insurance scheme to secure their health expenditure.

Relevant ministries and higher authorities, should act fast to do a survey and draw up plans to address the needs of the aging population. The government should take necessary steps to formulate a national policy on these issues.

Dr. J. Ranathunga

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