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Western Region Megapolis Plan to be unveiled in Jan 2016

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The new government's flagship Western Region Megapolis Plan (WRMPP) is to be unveiled in January next year following Cabinet approval.

It will be presented to local and foreign investors in January to attract investment for the development projects in the Western Region as it contributes about 45 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) making it the leading economic drive in the country.

The plan will be statutory and legalised under an act of parliament to make the Western Province more sustainable and ensure economic growth, social equity, proper governance, proper land use, spatial configuration and a sustainable environment by 2030 (within the next 15 years), a senior cabinet minister revealed.

The new plan is a composite of national physical plan, Urban Development Authority's (UDA) City Development plan and the Megapolis plan, developed by Singaporean firm CESMA in 2001.In an interview with the Business Times, Minister of Megapolis and Western Development, Patali Champika Ranawaka revealed that a Megapolis Authority is to be set up under the purview of the newly established Ministry to find solutions to the garbage issue, resolving the housing problem of shanty dwellers and drawing traffic plans to avoid vehicular congestion in busy towns. New cities would be developed in the Bandaragama, Kadawatha, Kottawa and Kerawalapitiya areas surrounding the outer circular road, parts of which are still under construction.

The Minister said the new authority would prepare plans for the development of the Western Province and implement them through the provincial council, local councils and the UDA, he added. It would identify low-lying and environmental sensitive areas and areas for water retention, forest conservations, paddy fields, agriculture, industries, commercial activities, residences, tourism and fisheries in the Western Province.

He pointed out that his ministry is working out a project plan to transform the entire western province into a 'smart' (techno-savvy) city.

Collection of data, preparation of basic designs and legislations have been completed by local and foreign consultant experts.

Sri Lankan experts are handling the preparation and implementation of the WRMPP with the assistance of foreign consultants, he disclosed. The main concept of the plan is to direct development to the Eastern, Southern and Northern parts of the Western region with Colombo as the core and promote a better quality of life by enabling many people to live close to their areas of work.This plan will also address the issues of urbanisation including extreme poverty, transportation, garbage disposal and brain drain and the social injustice.

Minister Ranawaka disclosed that the megapolis plan was originally designed in 2001 during the Ranil Wickremesinghe administration by a Singaporean firm and it had earmarked the Port city to be developed parallel to the expansion of the Colombo port and also to develop other cities. "The ministry also plans to introduce a Zoning System in the Western Province such as Residential Zones, Commercial Zones, and Administrative Zones", he added.

The zoning system will include Environmentally Sensitive Zones, Residential Zones, Industrial Zones, Population Hub and Transportation Hubs.These Zones will have its own infrastructure and other facilities for the people living in these areas while improving their happiness index, he emphasised. One of the mega zones, the Port City and the area around the Colombo port will be developed relating to the port development.

An 'aero-city' will be developed from Katunayake to Minuwangoda by building another air strip at the airport while it would include the Katunayake Free Trade Zone and re-locate all the facilities in the aviation business which are outside to the aero-city, the Minister added.

According to the megapolis development plan, Kottawa, Kaduwela and Kadawatha will be developed as administrative cities and administrative buildings will be shifted to the outer periphery of the Colombo city. The development of the transport hub connecting the main transport modes, the central bus stand in the Pettah and the Fort railway station will also come under this plan.A Tech City will be developed from Malabe to Homagama relocating all the technical and scientific institutions and advanced technologies, gene technology, nano technology, bio-technology and basic engineering institutions. Horana and Mirigama will become new industrial cities. The development plan will include developing plantation cities in Avissawella and Mathugama, taking the development plan into the inner periphery of the western province. Negombo and Maggona will be developed as tourism cities, Minister Ranawaka disclosed. He added that all proposed, ongoing and completed development projects in the Western Province for the past 10 years are not within a regional plan.People's participation is essential for the successful implementation of the development projects, he said adding that mega shopping complexes and recreation parks cannot uplift the living standard of the people.

A road network plan will be implemented to control the number of vehicles entering the city, the Minister said.Lands in the Western Region were earmarked for employment generation, a Business Corridor for trade and services, a Technology Corridor and an Industrial Corridor.The plan identified 12,000 hectares, for industrial land use (an increase of about 6,000 hectares from the current land available). The Bolgoda Lake and the Negombo Lagoon were labelled major tourist areas of the megapolis.Minister Ranawaka emphasised the need to also develop major cities like Galle, Kandy Anuradhapura, Jaffna and Trincomalee in parallel with the Megapolis plan.

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