Sri Lanka needs a strategy to resettle congested slum communities to control the future spread of viruses
Posted on April 28th, 2020

Dr Sarath Obeysekera 

Failures of government agencies including local short-sighted politicians also local authorities had led to uncontrolled human settlements in the form of Ghettos and slums and Watta” within state-owned lands, road reservations, canal reservations, railway reservations.

After 1977 since the change regime from a quasi socialistic government to a more open economy, the urban population started expanding and people started forcibly settling along in lands that are owned by state agencies.

Authorities kept quite when Colombo, some parts of Gampaha, some areas of Kalutara, and Beruwala started rapidly growing with closely built clusters of shanties.

In 1975 onwards various high rise flats  were built, going away from the concept of various settlement such as Jayawardene Pura Rukmal Gama Mattegoda which are settled with families widely spread out to a certain extent 

There was a canal resettlement program in Colombo in 1990 where such slums were resettled  in a somewhat wider area 

Examples are Havelock Road near  Lumbini school Narahenpita near RMV , Panchikawatte Kadirana in Colombo 15, etc .

Now we have a leadership which can emulate Singapore and take action to remove these encroached settlements, if necessary by force for this function, a task force is not sufficient but a Task Master with determination and endurance  Should be appointed 

State agencies should have strict control on protecting  their lands from further  encroachment 

Physical distancing on the road or in shops and offices may not be sufficient unless we have such plan to establish habitats with enough space in between for the people to live in 

I hope the government will take this seriously once corona spread is controlled.

Dr Sarath Obeysekera
CEO Walkers Colombo Shipyard
Sri Lanka

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