Review of Colombo Urban Fringe Professor | Daily News

International Conference on Real Estate Management and Valuation:

Review of Colombo Urban Fringe Professor

Urban growth of Colombo district is primarily based on the development of the City of Colombo as a port city in the past and its spill over growth to surrounding areas.

Colombo is the commercial capital of Sri Lanka and its growth boasts the ownership of a long history. Colombo, being one of the strategic locations with a trading settlement and a port, was established as a city. It faced different colonial influences by Portuguese, Dutch and British from 1505 to 1948.They were more focused on establishing their trade activities in the city and paid minimal attention to the physical development of the city.

When Sri Lanka received independence from the British in 1948, the city became a major commercial and an administrative centre with a high population concentration. In 1946, 8.6% of total urban population in the country, which stood at 15.2%, was in Colombo district and this population was concentrated in the City of Colombo and in adjoining urban localities.

In 1971, the census figures showed that51.8% of the island’s urban population were living in the Colombo district. By 2012, the percentage rose to be 76% of the island’s urban population (‘urban’ being defined according to the official urban definition in Sri Lanka - municipal councils and urban councils).

Urban growth is agglomerated in the City of Colombo, and spread to surroundings in a concentric pattern.

Sprawl pockets can be seen in main road junctions, and ribbon development is visible along main roads. Transport and communication, wholesale and retail trade, manufacturing, education, and service sectors are the main growth drivers in the Colombo district. Stimulated by these drivers, the urban growth spreads beyond the city of Colombo in a concentric pattern.

During the past four decades, the Colombo urban areas experienced high vertical development, whilst the urban growth spread haphazardly to the countryside with unclear growth directions.

However, at present, the Colombo urban growth is gradually moving to touch the unsettled urban spaces or the rural urban fringe. Rural- urban fringe is not a distinct entity, but part of an “urban organism” that to a greater extent is subjected to the same urbanization forces that operate in a variety of ways within cities.

Therefore, rural urban fringe provides room for absorbing overspill population and urban growth in the city. Present day Colombo is in this stage and it can be proved using census figures. Colombo district comprises of 5 Municipal Councils, 4 Urban Councils and 3 Pradeshiya sabhas.

The following diagram shows the pattern of annual population growth rates in the Colombo district from 2001-2012.

According to above figure the population growth rates of City of Colombo and the 3 municipal councils in the city’s immediate surrounding were negative, while the urban councils showed low positive growth rates. Kaduwela MC was the only Municipal Council that showed a positive growth rate.

However, in the local councils (Pradeshiya Sabha) annual population growth rate was significantly higher. Thus, it is clear that the localities in the inner suburbs, close to the City of Colombo, showed a low growth rate and those in the outer suburbs displayed a high growth rate.

The above pattern shows that population spread beyond the urban areas and the fringe areas accommodated this spill over growth. Ease of travel to workplace via readily accessible public transport and the availability of affordable land were significant reasons for people to move to these fringe areas. Urban growth in the city of Colombo and surrounding areas was very high and the urban growth pattern in the last few decades has led to a number of physical, economic and social problems in the City of Colombo and immediate surroundings.

Many factors responsible for this unprecedented growth of urban areas have also contributed to the acute shortage of building space and rise in the price of urban land. In spite of this, people generally favour low density housing with the implicit assumption of its positive effects on the living environment. However, fringe growth spread haphazardly, and un strict regulations, political influences and lack of social responsibility of residents make it difficult to protect the urban fringe environment in a planned manner. Urban fringe is home for present as well as future real estate developments and it is important for it to be planned in a SMART (Sustainable, and Marketable real estate; Aspirations of society, Reinforce wealth and Transform the economy) way.

Fringe is mostly used for residential developments and the most valuable agricultural lands are converted to residential uses involvement with real estate developers. This conversion should be sustainable, and marketable and be in line with the aspirations of society, which will reinforce wealth. This, in turn will transform the economy. To achieve this situation, urban planning can be used as a strategic tool through layout of services and other practices followed in design and subdivision.

Design parameters such as, plot coverage, height, proportion of area under roads, orientation of layout and building and open spaces can also used to achieve SMART residential development in a sustainable manner. Therefore, to achieve SMART real estate in the Colombo urban fringe, the above-mentioned parameters should be reconsidered focusing on future social as well as economical values, whilst improving social values and attitudes of the society by disseminating knowledge about sustainable development.


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