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    Colombo will be the centerpiece of a rejuvenated Sri Lanka Featured

    June 05, 2014

    Mr. Rajapaksa attending as a Keynote Speaker at World Cities Summit 2014 spells out Urban Development initiatives

    Attending, as a keynote speaker at the prestigious World Cities Summit 2014 in Singapore, Secretary Defence and Urban Development Mr. Gotabaya Rajapaksa said that with the dawn of peace in 2009 the country had an opportunity to regain lost opportunities during the three decade long terrorist conflict and in doing so the commercial capital of Colombo needed to play a significant role in facilitating this economic resurgence. The city had to be transformed into a more efficient business hub and a more attractive gateway for investment.

    Singapore is hosting the 4th World Cities Summit (WCS), the 6th Singapore International Water Week (SIWW) and the 2nd CleanEnviro Summit Singapore (CESS). The three events are being held from 1st to 5th June at the Marina Bay Sands, Sands Expo and Convention Centre in Singapore. Organized by the Singapore's Centre for Livable Cities and Urban Redevelopment Authority, Ministry of Environment and Water Resources, national water agency and the National Environment Agency aims to bring together policy makers, industry leaders, experts, regulators and practitioners to identify, showcase and exchange innovative solutions and technologies to address key challenges and opportunities in present day urban, water and environmental issues.

    These three global platforms attracted a high-level international participation from Asia-Pacific. Middle East, Africa, Europe, North and South American regions.

    Mr. Rajapaksa attended the WCS on the invitation of Hon. Vivian Balakrishnan, Minister for Environment & Water Resources of the Government of Singapore.

    He was among the exclusive high profile panel of distinguished leaders such as HE Chen Lai, Minister of Water Resources of China, HE Kirsten Brosbol, Minister of Environment of Denmark, HE Melanie Schultz van Haegen, Minister of Infrastructure and Environment of Netherland, Right Honourable Greg Clark MP, Minister of State for Cities and Constitution of UK and HE Dr. Rashid Ahmed bin Fahad, Minister of Environment and Water of the United Arab Emirates, specially invited as opening plenary speakers.

    The honour bestowed upon Secretary Defence, Mr. Rajapaksa in inviting him to be among a distinguished international panel of speakers at such an important world summit underlines the recognition and effort of Mr. Rajapaksa who is assiduously spearheading the urban redevelopment programe and its apparent success in the emerging post war Sri Lanka.

    Speaking at the summit themed 'Livable and Sustainable Cities: Common Challenges, Shared Solution', Mr. Rajapaksa highlighted on aspects that were taken into consideration and challenges faced during the urban development programme.

    The out dated city storm water drainage network gets overwhelmed during torrential downpours and as a result city life gets impeded due to the resulting floods. In order to overcome this issue projects were launched to dredge the Beira Lake, improve primary and secondary canals, create new micro canal and also create water retention areas in the city outskirts to contain storm water.

    In streamlining the city spaces to enhance efficient use of limited space, steps are being taken to shift a number of state institutions and wholesale markets which under use its valuable real estate and also caused congestion, away from the city. Land freed are being provided for commercial and other development projects. State institutions thus shifted will be housed in new facilities now under construction in the administrative capital of Sri Jayawardanapura in the city suburbs. The wholesale market will move to the logistics hub of Peliyagoda. An integrated multimodal transport hub will occupy the vacated old wholesale market. Already Shangri La and ITC Hotels are building world-class hotels on land freed under this initiative.

    Improving the quality life of the large underserved slum community and people living in numerous shanty towns was a critical factor and in order to overcome this the government is now providing them housing in new medium to high-rise apartment complexes with all amenities in a more safer, cleaner and better environment. Construction is being subsidized through the release of former shantytowns for real estate developments and housing units are being provided to these people almost free of charge.

    The Colombo outer circular expressway under construction will ease city traffic and improve vehicular movement. Roads are being improved and resurfaced with better drainage, utility infrastructure and large high quality pavements. Separate spaces for street hawkers, sheltered bus halts, modern public restroom facilities are coming up throughout the city to make it more pedestrian friendly.

    New open spaces are being created around the city on underutilized and wasteland for public recreational, social and health use. Walkways, jogging tracks, cycle lanes and open spaces have been developed in Parliament grounds, Independence Square and former Victoria Park that have greatly improved the living standards of people living in the suburbs.

    The city has gotten more spacious and open with walls and enclosures surrounding public buildings being dismantled and the city's greenery, inherent architecture and abundant waterways coming to public view.

    The city's historic heritage buildings have been restored and have added much aesthetic beauty and serve as vibrant urban centers. The Old Dutch hospital, Race Course and the colonial era asylum have been converted into high end shopping and dining precincts and an international rugby ground. Public reception to these facilities have been overwhelming while there is great demand for business space within these landmark sites. These have become must see sites in every tourist who visits the city.

    Garbage disposal and solid waste management have seen much improvement. Operations of private sector contractors involved in garbage removal is being strictly enforced and special police environmental protection units have been set up to oversee daily maintenance of streets and to deter littering.

    Plans are under way to establish an international standard sanitary landfill in an abandoned quarry about 160 km away from the city to accommodate nearly 1000 tons of solid waste on a daily basis. The waste will be compacted, transported and separated for recycling and energy generation and the remainder will be sent to the landfill.

    These initiatives will help to transform Colombo from a sprawling poorly managed and polluted city to a well-managed, clean, green people friendly and a sustainable city that will be the fitting centerpiece of a rejuvenated Sri Lanka, Mr. Rajapaksa said.

    During the sidelines of the summit Mr. Rajapaksa, held discussions with the Minister of Environment and Water Resources of Singapore Hon. Vivian Balakrishnan. Discussions were based on matters of bilateral importance and mutual relevance.

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