Colombo’s rapid beautification projects are to be expanded to 22 cities, while the Government is also planning to begin construction on 15,000 homes for low income people to clear land for more multi-million dollar ventures.
The 22 cities will include Bandarawela, Akuressa, Tangalle, Anuradhapura and Narammala.The Government has already partially completed 13,285 houses but needs to build an estimated 75,000 in total to house most of the low income families in the capital, Defence Ministry Spokesman Lakshman Hulugalla told media.
The funding for the facelift is coming from several companies as well as US$ 213 million from the World Bank, which will be used for infrastructure development.
In addition, the second phase of the Race Course Grounds will be opened within the next three months, with tenders already being called from companies. The former Auditor General Department premises will also be revamped and used along the Dutch Hospital model with upscale department stores and restaurants preferring these trendy locales.
However, the displacement of thousands of families has caused consternation among many, with a case being filed at the Supreme Court against removals in Slave Island.
Residents charge that the Government is not providing sufficient compensation and interim housing facilities to hundreds of families. Moreover, the removal of shops is also hampering livelihoods.
The most vociferous are 455 families resident in Slave Island, which are being moved out by the Government to make way for a US$ 405 million project by Indian company TATA.
TATA has agreed to build apartments for the displaced residents, but these will not be completed for at least another year. Hulugalla insists that the measures are adequate.
“There is an allegation from the Opposition that we are evacuating people from the Colombo municipality area to other areas, like outside Colombo. There is no truth in it. All those people will be settled down in Colombo.
Already we have started building 17,000 houses, up to now in 13,285 houses we have come into the final stages, and there are several other companies that have entered into agreements with the Urban Development Authority (UDA) to build more houses,” he said.
Stressing that the people should be “grateful that they are getting any money,” Hulugalla noted that Pakistani construction company Imperial Builders had also signed a recent agreement with the Defence and Urban Development Ministry to build more houses.