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Port City Development Regulations taint with irregularities

Numerous concerns are being raised over irregularities and alleged unlawfulness of outdated physical models (town planning/urbanisation) under the Colombo Port City Development Control Regulations (DCR). The DCR was unveiled on June10.

These regulations were aimed at building a world class city for South Asia, generating business, tourism and supporting a high quality of life, the Urban Development Authority (UDA) announced.

Acting Director General of Colombo Port City Economic Commission Dr. Priyath Bandu Wickrama told the Business Times that the DCR was further modified and evaluated by international consultants and Urban Development Authority.

He noted that if there is any irregularity then it could be rectified and amended and the DCR is being reviewed at the moment although it was launched recently.

But public interest activists and town planning experts have raised concerns on the compatibility of this UDA draft document with outdated physical model and regulations for the Port City of world class proportions and functionality to be completed in 2023-2025.

The DCR was initially introduced by the project company, CHEC Port City Colombo, in 2018. It was prepared by Singapore-based Subrana Jurong, one of Asia’s largest urban, industrial, and infrastructure consulting firms with technical assistance of the UK-based prominent engineering consultancy firm Atkins.

It was incorporated to the Port City master plan which was designed by a Sweden-based planning consultant, SWECO. The DCR was further evaluated by the UDA and related Government agencies before it was gazetted on 20-04 -2022.

In a lengthy letter dated 08-06-2022 sent to President Goatabaya Rajapaksa Archt. Nalaka C. Jayaweera, a leading public interest activist and a member of several Presidential and Public Commissions, has highlighted and analysed shortcomings in these 2018 refined regulations for Port City to be completed in 25 years.

He has already brought to the notice of the President, Prime Minister, the Chairman and Members of the Colombo Port City Economic Commission and heads of relevant departments and state institutions that the DCR cannot ensure the proper and effective development of a modern city, as well as the general welfare of the public.

He added that these regulations prepared to suit the legislations, guidelines and conditions four to five years ago will become archaic at the time of opening the Port City as construction of the complete project is estimated to be realised in 2041.

A more serious issue is that some of the clauses provided in the regulation are contrary to the Port City Act itself, clearly indicating the drafting persons were ignorant of the provision provided in the Act and had attempted to bring back the UDA Draft under the Port City Commission, despite UDA Act has been listed as non-applicable Act in the Port City Act.

It is a fact that Port City can be developed like the Hong Kong City (Central & Western District); where the potential of the Port City can be increased to almost 7 – 10 times of the proposed model.Hong Kong being evolved within last century or more,

Port City can be a planned city far ahead and to be the “Hong Kong” of South Asia, which has been ignored by the Commission in order to execute the outdated UDA model by the town planners which is nowhere close to present Sri Lankan urbanisation as well.

Mr. Jayaweera has made these submissions to the President with documentary evidence and facts to ensure the proper and effective development of a city, as well as the general welfare of the public.

These regulations will become outdated when it will be applied to regulate the types of uses, development intensity, building conditions, utility and landscape requirements, and sustainability requirements on any plot, he pointed out.

He said the physical model of the Port City is technically defective. Therefore the possible development potential and the high level of underutilisation of the land will arise apart from outdated town planning / urbanisation or the “land sale” mentality of the UDA adopted in the Port City.

The letter to the President pointed out that it was further alarming that after the appointment of the Commission somewhere in May or June 2021, it has taken almost 11 months to publish the same UDA document as regulations with very minor adjustments

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