From Green to Greener | Daily News

From Green to Greener

Environmentally friendly city planning

Sri Lanka is a small wonder. Into this 65,610 sq km you can see leopards in Yala and return to Colombo the same day. You can go to Sigiriya and soak in the cultural heritage and return to Colombo the same day. Because of its relatively small size this little island of ours can be developed easily, all you need is Green Leadership. Archworld speaks to Architect and Urban Designer Anuka Weththasinghe on this concept of Green Leadership.

Colombo was designed as a green city in the past. Sir Patrick Geddes’s town plan was to make the City of Colombo "The Garden City of the East" in 1921. The tree lined streets are a result of the Geddes Plan that has given rise to the most sought after residential areas in Colombo. His setting up of parks in the center of the Colombo city is in accordance to his planning concept. From time to time there were planning proposals for the green city concept. Nowadays the green city concept has become a viral topic in our society. Weththasinghe points out that all cities in a Sri Lanka must be green, not only Colombo.

“There are common characteristics in green cities and they are efficient public transportation that allows people to get around quickly and easily without personal vehicles and there should be quality public spaces where people can happily gather which reduces the need for large private dwellings . Also there needs to be high profile green buildings which are low energy consumption buildings made out of green building materials, having solar power systems, rain water harvesting systems, waste water treatment systems and solid waste recycling systems.

When we talk about Green Leadership we mean green policies - established mandatory green policies and regulations to encourage and regulate the built environment by Statutory Bodies.

There should be active citizens and citizen groups to prod or encourage politicians in the right direction towards green city. It will be a people - friendly city with less traffic, connected to the regional cities by efficient transport system, sustainable buildings, and interconnected urban spaces,” explained Weththasinghe.

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 so many shopping complexes coming up. Weththasinghe feels that this is a global trend that we are moving with.

Port city will be built as an extension of Sri Lanka’s capital city, Colombo. There is a master plan and development control regulations (DCR) for the port city development. The land parcels in port city will be sold to developers and they will come up with their proposals according to that master plan and DCR.

“Introducing this type of comprehensive DCR will be a milestone in Sri Lankan urban design. According to the agreement Sri Lanka government will provide the necessary infrastructure to the port city development. In this process the said benefits will depend on the investors and their investment. Success depends on proper Development Control Regulations. I feel that providing infrastructure facilities for development by the government will be a challenge due to the electricity, water and solid waste management and traffic congestion crisis which arise with massive development. The local people receiving the benefits is also important” said Weththasinghe

We can’t predict the climate now and it is changing drastically due to the global warming scenario. He pointed out that we have to design our buildings and public places in a way that it responds to our tropical climate. But there needs to be disaster resilient design techniques to minimize the damages that come from natural disasters.

“We need to consider the orientation of the buildings when taking the sun into consideration and use possible shading devices while encouraging cross ventilation through the building. We need to use building materials which have low heat penetration properties and use natural vegetation for shading. This is to minimize the heat gain into the building,” added Weththasinghe.

Weththasinghe conceded that Portuguese, Dutch and British influences can be seen in Sri Lankan architecture. But he stated that the Sri Lankan Architectural style is shaped by social and cultural influences that continue to develop with the passing of time. For example, today a lot of people say that we can follow the Singaporean model when it comes to urban development in Sri Lanka. This is a totally wrong statement. Influence from Singapore is acceptable. But the social –cultural, economic and environmental context in Sri Lanka is totally different from Singapore. So we can’t apply it as it is.

Weththasinghe added that Colombo isn’t the ideal city to follow when it comes to rural areas of Sri Lanka. “ It has a lot of issues which we are trying to resolve now. It’s difficult to resolve the issues when the city has already been formed. If the issues were smaller it would be easy to resolve. So we have to address the comparatively small issues in suburban areas. People migrate to Colombo from regional towns and villages for jobs and other personal needs and settle in the peripheral area of the city, creating higher population density.”

That is the reason for a lot of the issues there. This urban sprawl scenario must be discouraged by having decentralized commercial developments in regional cities based on the green city concepts Weththasinghe mentioned above. That is the solution, otherwise if this sprawl scenario isn’t controlled the issues still remain.

“The present issues in Colombo should be resolved as soon as possible. The traffic congestion is the main problem in Colombo today. The rapid implementation of the proposed “Com-Trans” transportation development plan by JICA (Japan International Cooperation Agency)

is very important when it comes to resolving that.

The implementation of that proposal is moving very slowly and if it is completed, we can eliminate a lot of problems in Colombo City. The city should have less private vehicles with an efficient public transportation system. If there is a peaceful environment investors will invest in large mixed development projects within the city,” pointed out Weththasinghe.

He feels that the impediments we encounter actually help in the evolution of architecture in Sri Lanka. There is a trend for architectural designs that do not respond to the Sri Lankan context. Proper urban design guidelines beyond the general building regulations should be established as a guide for context responsive designs that is important for better cities.

Most of the development projects are done with foreign loans and the failures of those political favored projects will create an extra burden to the economy.

“So as I mentioned earlier, active knowledgeable citizens and citizen groups are required to prod or encourage politicians in the right direction towards a green city,” summed up Weththasinghe.


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