COLOMBO: Sri Lanka wants to rope in top Indian companies like the Tatas and Infosys for its ambitious 15-year US$ 44 billion ‘Megapolis’ urban development project covering the entire Western Province, which includes the capital city of Colombo.
Megapolis Minister Patali Champika Ranawaka told the Foreign Correspondent Association that his officials will be holding road shows in India shortly.
“The Tatas are already here. We have sought the assistance of the Government of India to organize meetings with Indian chambers of commerce and industry. Road shows have already been held in Germany and South Korea, with a very good response,” Ranawaka said.
“A German business delegation visited Lanka and companies like Siemens have expressed interest in bringing in their technology. South Korean companies like Hyundai have also evinced interest, as indeed companies from Singapore, Japan and China. The South Korean Water Resources minister was here to look into possibilities of collaboration in water management,” he added.
The Minister clarified that the Megapolis project is different from the Chinese-funded US $1.4 billion Colombo Port City project, though the latter will be organically linked with the Maritime City which is to come up as a part of the Megapolis project. The Maritime City will run along the Western coast from Wellawatte to Wattala. There would be an Aviation City around the Colombo International airport at Katunayake, an Industrial City in Mirigama, an Administrative City around Battaramulla to accommodate 130 government offices and the Defense Heaquarters, and Central Business District around Beira Lake. The congested wholesale market at Pettah will be shifted to Paeliagoda.
Every one of these cities will be a highly coordinated “SMART’ city so that “messy urbanization” becomes a thing of the past. Transport will be given top priority as today, there are too many bottlenecks with more than a million people and 600,000 vehicles entering and leaving the city every day. While the speed of vehicles in the city should ideally be 20 km per hour, it is now 16 km per hour for cars and 8 km per hour for buses.
“The transport cost is 12 percent of GDP when it should not be more than 5 percent. We are therefore going in for a light rail transport system, having rejected Hitachi’s proposal for a mono rail system. The 75 km light railway with 40 stations will be partly elevated. Inland water transport is also envisaged,” Ranawaka said.
There are 100,000 slums to be cleared in the Western Province. 68,000 of them are in Colombo city. To house these and a three million increase in the population of the population of the province by 2030, Megapolis will have a massive housing program.
“but we will not simply build flats, hand them over and wash our hands off. We will have a management structure to look after the assets and facilities created as part of the SMART city concept,” Ranawaka said.
Asked what is the guarantee that this ambitious project will survive a change of government, Ranawaka said that “Megapolis” is essentially a blueprint for proper development which will have parliamentary sanction.
“Nothing in it can be changed without parliamentary approval,” he assured.
On funding the project, the Minister said that it will be done over a 15 year period through public-private partnerships. Foreign investments are likely to come as Colombo is strategically located in the Indian Ocean.
“Colombo could be a financial and logistic hub if we can persuade some major trading and financial institutions in London and Dubai to shift their operations here,” Ranawaka said.
Colombo Port City
On the stalled Chinese-funded US$ 1.4 billion Port City Project, the Minister said that talks are still on to re-work the terms and conditions.
According to Ranawaka ,the original project did not have a plan for the built up area and the open area etc. Lanka will also have to have a law for land reclaimed from the sea. The issue of giving land to the Chinese company on lease rather than through an outright sale is also under discussion, Ranawaka said.