At present, the public is minimally informed as to what Megapolis development is all about and has many questions regarding the concept of the Megapolis. Therefore, the Megapolis Ministry should further educate the public as to how it will affect them when implemented, especially the villages and rural countryside located in the periphery of the boundaries of the Megapolis.
Now that the Megapolis Development Master Plan has been launched, quick action must be taken to enact the Megapolis Development Authority Act in Parliament to get its projects moving, particularly those projects which have already been formulated and are now in the pipeline. If not, the investors who have been waiting for over one year to commence these projects may drop off.
This is counterproductive at a time when the Government is promoting Public-Private Partnership Projects (PPP) with Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). Therefore, in the best interest of the country, the private sector and the construction industry, the Government should resolve this “bottleneck” to pave the way for more investment.
The immediate problems facing the public in the Colombo Region are quick solutions to the prevailing transport, traffic, urban housing, and infrastructure issues. In regard to transport and traffic, the Government could consider implementing the proposed Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system recommended in the Transport Ministry Policy Statement. Similar action should be taken regarding the railways, and its implementation could be on a PPP basis.
Regarding urban housing, a way forward is to follow the implementation model of the TATA project at Slave Island. Infrastructure is a continuing process, hence to implement the Megapolis Development Plan, major improvements will be necessary.
Recent articles in the media have indicated that new expressways will need to be constructed in several directions within and outside the City of Colombo, to ease the traffic congestion; this will partially solve the problem, as it is not networked.
The proposed overhead bridges outside the Colombo region will be successful, but within the Colombo region such as Nugegoda and Dehiwala and also that proposed in Rajagiriya will not be successful, as it will shift congestion elsewhere. Hence, it will be counterproductive and a waste of resources.
I believe an alternative solution could be to optimise the use of the already constructed Colombo Airport Expressway going North at Peliyagoda linking with the Southern and Outer Circular Expressways, at Kottawa.
This could be achieved if a North-South Expressway could be constructed between Peliyagoda and Kottawa. It could be built above the land reservations of the existing railways, between Colombo Fort and Kottawa. This will facilitate the North/South traffic and provide quick access to the city for both business travellers and the tourists to reach the city within a short period. In addition, around 2,000 containers from the harbour could directly link to all the expressways and bypass the city.
This concept will minimise Land acquisition, reduce environmental damage, and minimise the need to demolish houses, etc. Off this Expressway, there could be radials linking the Outer Circular Expressway, and other important nodal points such as the Port and City, links to Parliament and Sethsiripaya complexes. The other important link roads transporting School Children in Vans can also connect to the North-South Expressway at appropriate strategic locations.
Furthermore the existing single railway track could be made double to increase the efficiency of rail transport and at strategic entry points to the Expressway inter-modal bus, rail and commercial activity could be introduced for the convenience of the public.
The above proposals could be considered to be simultaneously implemented on a PPP model on a “turnkey” basis by at least five groups of local/foreign consultants and contractors, with the participation of the RDA. If so, the implementation could be completed within four years. Therefore, with the upgraded road and rail systems, and the North-South Expressway, the existing road network within the city and Sri Jayewardenepura could service the local population without the traffic congestion as prevailing at present.
(The writer is the President – Chamber of Construction Industry, Sri Lanka.)