CMC’s Mayors’ Forum looks at Future Cities

Monday, 14 December 2015 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}


Mayors from Sri Lanka as well as from overseas, yesterday converged in Colombo to discuss “Future Cities.”

The event titled Mayors Forum was part of the 150th anniversary of the Colombo Municipal Council (CMC),  this week.

The one-day Forum drew around 50 representatives from local urban councils, as well as mayors representing many urban councils from across South-East Asia and South Asia. 

The Chief Guest was Speaker of Parliament and one time Colombo Mayor, Karu Jayasuriya whilst the keynote was delivered by Public Enterprise Development Deputy Minister Eran Wickramaratne.  Central Bank Governor Arjuna Mahendran also spoke at the Forum which was chaired by Colombo Mayor A.J.M. Muzammil.

Prof. Sarath Kotagama, Senior Advisor to Minister of Sustainable Development and Wildlife, held forth on his area of expertise ‘the Ecological Approach to Future cities.’

A Panel Discussion on Future Cities was also conducted by Chair cum Moderator Dr Vijay Jagannathan (CITYNET/WRI/ADB) while Dr. Madhav Pai, of WRI India made a dynamic presentation. 

The Mayor’s  Forum concluded with a captivating closing ceremony which showcased Sri Lanka’s culture and  heritage to the distinguished gathering of administrators from across the globe. 

The event provided the right platform for these heads of local  government to interact, share knowledge, debate challenges and find solutions for enhanced  governance, and  encouraged greater collaboration between those  present to generate a blueprint for sustainable urban living. 

Speaker Jayasuriya congratulated Mayor Muzammil and the CMC, and extended best wishes on the 

occasion of the council’s 150th anniversary, an important landmark in its dynamic history. 

“The CMC has achieved many milestones in its role to make Colombo city into one of the model cities in the region,” Jayasuriya said.

He said cities face many challenges as engines of economic growth, and to realise this goal, proactive understanding and actions are needed. He warned that unplanned growth can harm sustainability as well as add to economic inefficiency. The need for local bodies to be closer to the people they serve was also stressed and Jayasuriya recalled the introduction of the Citizen Charter in Colombo when he was the Mayor. 

He said that return of the highly beneficial ward system was likely under new electoral reforms. 

Deputy Minister Wickramaratne in his keynote traced the history of Colombo as well as recent developments. He  highlighted many challenges the city faces and showcased a series of examples from well managed global cities demonstrating how challenges have been overcome. “There must be partnerships with public sector, private sector and the people. Cities and their administrators need to learn from other success stories borrowing best practices and avoiding mistakes,” he said.

Wickramaratne also called for greater use of innovation, investment in technology and human capital as well as supporting entrepreneurship to overcome challenges. The need for smoother mobility, improved communication, better public transport  as well as innovative means to waste management were also emphasised.

He said that the new Government is committed to give leadership to help Colombo realise its goal of becoming a sustainable and smarter city. 

Central Bank Governor Mahendran highlighted some of the success stories of smart cities in Asia and the Middle East.  Whilst noting that Hong Kong, Singapore and Dubai benefitted from having or serving a larger hinterland he said that cities must address issue of scale and land ownership. In that context he said Colombo and Sri Lanka can benefit considerably from having the sizeable  India as its neighbour.

Mahendran said that with key elements and policies in place and with the government’s plans for a megapolis and Port city, Colombo can look forward to a great future as a smarter city.

Mayor Muzammil said: “The CMC is privileged to host a delegation of prominent representatives from some of the most dynamic municipal councils from the Asian region.  I am grateful to all the Mayors and delegates who have consented to attend the Mayors’ Forum  organised by CMC.” 

He made it a point that the CMC is the first in the world to discuss the issue of future cities following the ground breaking agreement reached on climate change in Paris on Saturday.

Noting that 150 years is a long journey, he said CMC is one of the oldest municipal councils in the South and South-East Asian region.

He said City of Colombo played the most vital role in the transforming the country in addition to empowering the heart of the economy. He said the city has around 650,000 residents and with visitors the city hosts well over a million people daily. 

“We are developing Colombo city to be one of the fastest growing in South East Asia region,” Muzammil emphasised adding that CMC is building on partnerships with local and international agencies and harnessing sister city arrangements. 

“We also look forward to adopting best practices from other councils who have achieved exceptional gains for  residents in their respective areas of administration. Cities have to gear themselves to meet new challenges of urbanisation and to transform and modernise,” Muzammil added.

He said the CMC has been systematically upgrading  facilities and services in Colombo to fashion a modern city and has planned for an even more  dynamic period ahead in the developmental history of the city. “We want to make Colombo the smartest and most sustainable city in Asia,” the Mayor said.

Besides the Mayors’ Forum, the CMC’s 150th anniversary celebrations encapsulate a series of cultural  and social events during the year. Plans are in place to issue a commemoration coin and stamp, along 

with the launch of a coffee-table book. A photography exhibition depicting Colombo in myriad  colours was launched on 11 December and will go on till 16 December at the Public  Library. Furthermore, donations of house number plates will commence on 14 December morning with a 

symbolic demarcation of the President’s and Prime Minister’s offices and residencies.

Pix by Lasantha Kumara