In The Press
Right of Reply by Megapolis Ministry The consequences of building Port City
We write in response to the article titled ‘The consequences of building Port City’ published in your newspaper on April 26, 2018. It is becoming increasingly clear that this is an organised build-up against Port City, particularly because of the nature of its investor, rather than any public agenda.
As recently described by Megapolis and Western Development Minister Patali Champika Ranawaka in a speech he made at the launch of the Development Control Regulations for the Port City Development Project, urbanisation is inevitable, not because we want to transplant people from rural areas into big cities but because suburban and rural areas are being built up fast, merging into the urban infrastructure. Therefore, we have no option but to grasp this way of life, and find out what opportunities it has in store for us.
The Port City is an extension of that concept which germinated way back in the year 2004, and long before the Chinese Belt Road Initiative. The reason we need to look at urbanisation is because it is and has become an important or if not the most important factor for economic growth. According to UN reports, Sri Lanka is one of the least urbanised countries in the world.
May I point to an article appearing in the UN-Habitat website recently; they are currently assessing the spatial dynamics of Sri Lanka’s urbanisation, analysing 9 provincial capitals of the country, in the period 1995-2017. The project which is ongoing will publish its results later this year in the State of Sri Lankan Cities Report. However, the article says the data generated so far suggests that Sri Lanka’s cities have expanded rapidly since the 1990s.
Colombo’s rapid urban expansion is mirrored across the other provincial capitals. The preliminary results suggest that during the period 1995-2017, urban area grew by 9.57% per year
“Preliminary spatial analysis suggests that in the capital, Colombo, the urban built-up area increased from around 41 km2 in 1995 to 281 Km2 in 2017, while non-built up areas diminished from 125 Km2 to 10 Km2. This trend of urban expansion is unprecedented in the city’s history, with a far greater urban area added in the years 1995-2017 than at any other time in the settlement’s existence.
Colombo’s rapid urban expansion is mirrored across the other provincial capitals. The preliminary results suggest that during the period 1995-2017, urban area grew by 9.57% per year, which is a remarkably high figure even by global standards. A cross country review of over 300 spatial case studies reported far lower average annual rates of urban spatial growth in Europe, North America, Africa, India and China during a reference period of 1970-2000.
While news of rapid spatial expansion will come as no surprise to those commuting through Colombo’s seemingly-endless urban sprawl or visiting the bustling centres of Kandy and Galle, evidence of Sri Lanka’s booming cities are incongruous with its official position as one of the most rural societies on earth the report says. Sri Lanka ranks as the fifth least urbanized out of 233 countries, according to the UN’s 2014 World Urbanisation Prospects, with a marginally lower urban to rural population ratio than Niger, St. Lucia and South Sudan. Officially, only around 18 percent of Sri Lankans live in an urban area - or around 3.9 million out of the country’s 21.2 million, according to World Bank data. This figure is far below the global average of around 50 per cent, and is the joint lowest in the South Asian region (https":"//unhabitat.org/is-sri-Ianka-one-of-the-least-urbanised-countries-on-earth/)
Despite all the activities that is going on in the city, one could clearly see that it is being done in an orderly fashion and the ambient air quality remains at very good levels.
We at the Megapolis Ministry are planning to build a great city and it is our mission to accomplish economic prosperity and enhance the quality of life of the citizens of Sri Lanka through creating well designed, green, clean and smart, urban settlements in strategic locations of the country with the engagement of best design, engineering and town planning skills, state-of-art technology and world’s best practices.’
The article from the PMAPC says that currently the levels of toxic PM10 particles in the city of Colombo are three times higher than what is safe for humans, and that with the proposed high-rise building constructions in the Port City over an estimated period of 12 to 15 years the PM10 levels may increase 25-30 times more than what is considered safe for humans, but does not give any source for this statement.
The effect of these particles is purely academic where Port City is concerned because the current readings are within safety limits. However, we would like to point out that both the SEIA (Dec, 2015) and EIA (Oct, 2017) discuss the particulate matters under the relevant chapters on air quality. In particular, EIA (Oct, 2017), provides records on PM10 and PM2.5, which still comply with safety standards.
We at the Megapolis Ministry are planning to build a great city and it is our mission to accomplish economic prosperity and enhance the quality of life of the citizens of Sri Lanka through creating well designed, green, clean and smart, urban settlements in strategic locations of the country with the engagement of best design, engineering and town planning skills, state-of-art technology and world’s best practices’<
To quote from EIA, OCT 2017 Chapter 4, page 10 “According to Ambient Air Quality Standards stipulated by the Ministry of Environmental and Natural Resources of Sri Lanka, under the Extraordinary Gazette, No. 1562/22, August, 15, 2008, the Concentration of PM10 and PM2.5 over an average period of 24 hours, can only be at a maximum of 100(ug/m3) and 50 (ug/m3) respectively. While Ambient air quality measurements were done in the years 2014, 2015 and 2017 for 6 locations in the Port City area, the concentrations of PM10 and PM2.5 always remained much less than the respective maximum permissible level.”
Many refer to the monitoring programme conducted by the CEA in proximity to the Colombo Fort Railway Station and conclude that the level of particulate matters (PM1 0) in Colombo City is higher compared to WHO guidelines and CEA standards for which the maximum permissible level is 50ug/m3. However, as described in the EIA of October 2017 (mentioned above), the air quality measurements conducted over the last 5 years at locations around the coastal area in Colombo City (particularly near the Port City project area) where dispersion can be expected, show that the concentrations of PM10 and PM2.5 always comply with the CEA standards. During the construction phase of the Port City Project, air quality impacts including particulate matters will be minimized by adopting practical mitigation measures as proposed in the EIA, OCT 2017. Most of these measures just reflect good site practice, and will be the general norm for experienced contractors. Principles and concepts on urban ventillation which will be directly linked with dispersion of air pollutants such as PM10 and PM2.S are incorporated in the Port City Master Plan at city level, block and building level.
I wish to conclude by stating that there are other issues that have been brought up in this NGOs constant tirade in the media, all of which have been answered many a time. Environmental issues were addressed in the SEIA which had 214 responses from the public when they were put up for scrutiny. These were taken up and 72 conditions were laid’ out for the project proponent to comply. Currently the Colombo Port City Project is being implemented under the Ministry of Megapolis and Western Development, keeping to the planned schedule and complying with the 72 conditions laid in the permit.