There are 150,000+ living in Colombo, who will have to be resettled within the next decade as part of the Colombo Redevelopment Plan as envisaged by the Town Planners. The UDA has now been entrusted to the Defense Secretary under the MOD. I don’t envy him the task he is entrusted with and hope it is handled with thought and consultation as we are talking about the lives of a lot of people of all ages, who will have to undertake, one of the hardest choices of their lives. Just look in the mirror and ask yourself, what you would do if you were asked to leave where you are currently living. What guarantees and assurances would you want?
I hope this necessary translocation will not become politicized, by either side, and most of all that no suspect insiders benefit from them. There has to be transparency in all the activities from using the land so regained as part of the development plan for the city, and providing long-term housing solutions that are effective.
If there is one thing we have learned from the Tsunami experience, then we must be able to tackle and effectively deal with the possibility of those who have been relocated, disposing of their new abodes and returning to their original haunts thereby completely negating the original purpose as happened in the Koralawella sea side tenements in the Moratuwa area that are now back to the original state.
It must be understood that people do not like to move, however uncomfortable, or primitive their homes might be. It is the neighborhood, schools, employment and a whole host of reasons that keep people attached. In the same vein you cannot relocate them into a neighborhood, and provide them with facilities and new homes, while people living in the new area are not provided with such, and create resentment and in the end hostility that further compromises the move.
Sri Lanka has not been able to build high rise community housing in close proximity to relocated property, as high rise living in the best of places like Wellawatte area private apartments have turned slum like due to inadequate maintenance. This leaves town planners with a very difficult task. They will have to scour the world to find the best compromise, as no scheme is going to completely satisfy our notoriously spoilt electorate, fed on political promises that cannot be justified.
I know people in Slave Island who have been given a paper informing that they will have to leave, but with no other information, leaving them totally confused, worried, depressed with the uncertainty. A notice to vacate should accompany with it available options, which if they accept within a short time frame will accompany them with goodies and preferences that may be denied later.