New Mission of Urban Development Authority | Daily News


New Mission of Urban Development Authority

Towards a more dynamic, healthy, green city
Towards a more dynamic, healthy, green city

The Construction of 30,000 low-cost housing units within the next 3 years and another 40,000 units during the following 3 years for the relocation of households presently located in underserved settlements in the city of Colombo, identifying all households located in underserved settlements to plan and implement a relocation program with better living conditions and the relocation of 70,000 households in the newly built houses through a community development and marketing program are among the major programmes envisioned by the Urban Development Authority (UDA).

The proposed Housing Complexes consisted of 400 sq. ft (37.1 Sq.) carpet area (450sq.ft (41.8) Sq.) plinth area). per unit with living room,pantry, 2-bed rooms, washroom, and Balcony. These housing units are to be accommodated in 12 storied (G+11) housing blocks. Infrastructure facilities, such as water supply, electricity, sewerage, and drainage up to the city mains, together with landscaping and internal roads shall be provided by the project.

Over fifty percent of the Colombo city population lives in shanties, slums, or dilapidated old housing schemes, which occupied nine percent of the total land extent of the city. A survey which is being conducted at present by the Urban Development Authority has identified a total number of 68,812 families living in 1,499 community clusters (underserved settlements) which do not have a healthy environment for human habitation and access to basic infrastructure facilities such as clean water, electricity, sanitation, etc. The relocation of these families in new housing schemes with acceptable standards will be one major step in the direction of transforming Colombo into a world recognized city with a clean and pleasing environment to cope with the city development plan objectives.

To cater to these objectives UDA has launched a program for construction of 60,000 housing units for the relocation of underserved settlements of the city of Colombo and its immediate suburbs. The main objective of this project is to eliminate shanties, slums, and other dilapidated housing from the city by relocating dwellers in modern houses. 

Moving forward

With things being in a frantic flux, it’s going to be hard to say how we are going to fare post-CoViD-19. But one thing is for sure, the previous status quo has been demolished by force majeure, and it’s high time we take collective action to address our failures, negligence, and apathy which all brought us to this deadlock, to begin with. It stands to reason that our way of life needs to be recalibrated. Further, our cities need to be reshaped in a way that future outbreaks will be staved off, and inequities are extinguished for good.

Strictly speaking, cities have been quintessential drivers of innovation. Different vicissitudes have compelled the form, shape, and size of cities to be modified to a more palatable version where humans can thrive and emerge better than ever. Our cities — and their flawed blueprints — must strive to become sanctuaries, and not as petri dishes for contagions that can decimate humanity.

Presently, various disciplines are already envisioning our society that has overcome the aftermath of the pandemic. We will be seeing a radical alteration to our built environment and obsolete mental models as soon as this global crisis deescalates. Driven by data and backed up by science, we are going to see tangible changes in the realms of housing, mobility, health, wellness, information flow, food supply, energy, governance, and economy, among others. The battle has not been won yet on all major fronts. Let’s all bear in mind that we all have a shared, collective responsibility to make things work and win this battle, as we are all waves from the same sea, leaves of the same tree, and flowers of the same garden.


The future urban population is increasing from 0.24% in 2015 up to a forecasting growth rate of 1.8% in 2035. A city’s ability to limit the scale and severity of a crisis and disaster ultimately depends on the extent of popular control over decision making, the level of social equity, the quality of our public infrastructure, and the responsiveness of our planning system. Our cities are vulnerable because we have weakened their ability to anticipate, prepare, and respond to crises. They are vulnerable, not because they have high aggregate densities, but because they are highly unequal in terms of living conditions, services, incomes, and access. They are vulnerable because we have prioritized luxury mobility over livelihoods, real-estate mega-projects over ecosystem services, monetizing land over community services.

The lesson the COVID-19 pandemic teaches us if we are to recover and prepare against crises in the future is that we need to strengthen and improve our planning system by developing public and collective alternatives to private systems. We may not be able to foresee the next epidemic, flood, or earthquake, but we certainly cannot afford to let market failures determine our fate. Our broken system needs to be fixed from the ground up, with an explicit commitment to promote public health, conserve and improve natural systems, redistribute wealth and opportunity, and protect human populations from climate events. By the state government without assessment of the social, environmental, and health consequences, it’s the result of an ill-conceived redevelopment scheme. A plan in which people do not matter, as maximum numbers of people are forced into the smallest possible land area without any upper limit.

As a result of such highly oppressive housing conditions, there is growing evidence of fatal lung diseases, besides mental depression and social tension, amongst people living in slums and such slum rehabilitation buildings. The forum on Rethinking of Urban Settlement planning must be formulated before the next pandemic.

The writer is Director (Project Management), Urban Development Authority

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