COLOMBO to GO GREEN | Daily News


Porty city under construction
Porty city under construction

Throughout history, cities have made people exuberant. Cities have given people intense pleasure and joy. What do Venice, Paris, Rio de Janeiro and some of the world’s most beautiful cities have in common? They are the triumph, expression and genius of a human mind, taken form through the age old principles of architecture. ArchWorld features Chartered Architect and Urban Designer Archt. Pradeep Fernando who spoke on the possible outcomes when it comes to architecture in Colombo.

Pradeep Fernando. Picture by Sarath Peiris

Sri Lanka’s time has come again. Fars sighted leadership and brilliant strategy –brains and brawns have come together to create the Port City. The port city is reason for exuberance if it is what we have been promised – a place where technology and nature are perfectly balanced. We know this is possible as our brethren throughout history have created beautiful cities that still exist. One is Athens with a history of almost 3,000 years and Rome founded in 753 B.C. There is no reason why Sri Lanka with its rich history cannot spawn a paradise.

“Sri Lanka is geographically located in a strategic position in the Indian Ocean. It is at the center of a prime shipping route. Hence the concept of a port city is a very farsighted move. Ideally the Colombo port could have been the busiest port in Asia or even the world. But we have missed the opportunity many decades back due to bad decision making and policy making. But still it’s not too late make a positive move on this matter. Hence developing the ancillary facilities related to an international port will bring in key business opportunities to the country and hence will be a key component in futuristic developing scenarios. Also this will be the gateway to make Sri Lanka the economic hub in Asia. The centralized locationality augurs well for this opportunity. Over the years Sri Lanka was a prime trading destination where all Ships traveling from the East to the West had to go pass our island.

Nevertheless the management and policy making of the port city needs to be geared in a manner that is beneficial to Sri Lanka, with large economic gains while creating an investor friendly environment to the potential investors.

Garden City of Asia

Considering all these, the pros and cons needs to be weighed objectively. And the developments should be made in a manner where Sri Lanka will get the maximum benefits economically and others with a long term effect. This is a matter that should be left mainly to the Policy makers and the stake holders of the country. Negative environmental implications needs to be mitigated with the design and planning solutions,” said Fernando.

Colombo can be a green city. What the mind of man can conceive it can create. We have the intelligence and we have the ways and means of accomplishing this. The creation of a green city envisages the minimization of the negative impact on the environment and the natural resources by human activities. This will include transportation, discharge of sewerage garbage, manufacturing, construction and mobilization. The sustainability of the city is maintained catering to the needs of many generations to come.

“In this aspect, minimizing the carbon foot print and gearing the city towards zero carbon emission will steer the city to be a green city. Moreover the effective management of the urban systems and urban activities will contribute well to the concept of a green city. Colombo was initially a well-planned city and was termed the garden city of Asia. Latterly the poor and inappropriate policy decisions have made it an ad hoc hap hazard development which has resulted in a polluted unsightly city. Effective waste management will contribute in a big way towards creating a green city,” explained Fernando.


Fernando added furthermore that using renewable energy such as Photovoltaic energy, will be a significant contributor to achieve this together with passive cooling techniques. Fernando stated that reducing the usage of natural resources and recycling will again be another key strategy to achieve this ‘Green City’. Usage of electric vehicle and trains will significantly reduce the environmental pollution in the city. In Colombo and all over Sri Lanka public transportation is still at a very low standard. This can be seen, in the manner in which commuters travel in busses and trains. This has resulted in more private vehicles, which inevitably contributes to the traffic congestion and time delays, and is a key contributor to environmental pollution and making cities unlivable, with health hazards.

“Enhancing the urban landscapes and vegetation with open public spaces and water features and proper planning of building in the city which is context related will reduce the heat island effect, making the city more livable to its inhabitants and users. A holistic approach is needed here with the input of the key professionals and stake holders and statutory agencies with the policy makers. Making Colombo a Green city is an achievable target if the correct approach is made and correct strategies and policies are adopted and implemented,” pointed out Fernando.

Recently according to reliable sources Sri Lankans experienced the warmest weather in the island in 140 years. The number of people affected by the arid weather rose to over 572,000. We can no longer say we have been blessed with a conducive climate. We may have had a wonderful climate but with global warming this has changed.

Thermally comfortable city

“This is a direct result of land and environmental degradation and haphazard developments destroying the urban eco systems. All developments need to be climate sensitive and contextually responsive. Whereby the developments will respect the geo physical features and the availability of the natural resources. Further more appropriate planning of buildings in response to the contact and grouping of buildings considering the micro climate and the resultant macro climate can enable thermal comfort in the city. Eliminating heat island effect in the city with provision for movement of air and thus preventing the stagnation of air in the city will further help to achieve this goal of making the city thermally comfortable. Introduction of urban forest patches and enhancing the urban eco systems and urban ecology will thus enable us to mitigate this problem,” said Fernando.

We can’t tear down the existing buildings in Colombo. Sooner or later they will need to be air conditioned. And this will cost a lot in terms of electricity. The questions is what can we do for these buildings?

Port city under construction

Fernando stated that perhaps the buildings could be modified and altered to make them more environmentally friendly and thermally comfortable. In this sense the retardation of the ambient temperature and minimizing the indoor temperature will be a key strategy which can be a passive cooling method. Further this can be achieved with the appropriate usage of materials and designing of the exteriors.

“Certainly I would like to see Colombo become a more livable city with a sense of place and a sense of identity, and more importantly a green and garden city of Asia. Being an island nation, the beauty of Colombo’s beach front can be enhanced dramatically. As mentioned before to make living and dwelling in the city a pleasure for both local and foreigners we need to make it a lively city safe from Crime and others acts of violence and make it clean and make it a memorable visit. Cities like Amsterdam, Interlaken in Switzerland, Barmoth in Whales, and many other towns in Scotland area lively, people friendly and a pleasure to live in,” said Fernando.

Today we see Colombo developing at a rapid pace. So many hotels are coming up near Galle Face. And it is not only in Galle Face but all around Colombo. We see shopping complexes coming up like Marino Mall and Colombo City Center. Fernando pointed out that this is a part of the trends in Globalization, and a part and parcel of the aspirations of the newer generations as against the traditional and conservative cultures. More human interaction are seen in these malls, which are not just places to shop, but meeting places and spaces of public interaction.

“Certainly yes. Sri Lanka has a deep rooted culture and tradition for over 2550 years, even its urban planning and Architecture is the same. In our vernacular tradition, in the art of building and planning, climate sensitivity was a key factor that was addressed. This needed to be readopted in the present context, instead of following the colonial Western traditions in buildings. Perhaps in the post-colonial era after independence we have seen a new trend in Architecture emerging with the Bawa school of thought which was spearheaded by the master Architect Geoffrey Bawa, where the trend was towards a Sri Lankan identity. This was a trend in adopting vernacular elements from buildings in Sri Lanka which dated back for many centuries. Incorporating verandah’s and courtyards has contributed a lot for the indoor climate comfort levels, creating vistas and visual pleasure. This has been a symbolic factor in bringing the Sri Lankan identity into the modern era. This is contemporary modernism. Hence the architecture would be more meaningful,” explained Fernando.


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