Lanka’s sprawling cities | Sunday Observer

Lanka’s sprawling cities

The transformation which began with the Colombo skyline two or three decades ago could now be seen in many other cities in the country. Though the last census had put a majority of the country’s citizenry in rural settings with only 18.5 percent of urban dwellers, our cities are larger and growing at a faster rate than previously thought, the first ever comprehensive analysis on the country’s cities finds out.

The State of Sri Lankan Cities -2018, a report examining the state of major cities of the country highlighting overall trends of the country’s urban development was launched at the Bandaranaike Centre for International Studies last week. It was part of the State of Sri Lankan Cities Project (SSLCP), implemented by UN-Habitat in collaboration with the Ministry of Provincial Councils, Local Government and Sports. The Sri Lanka Institute of Local Governance (SLILG) and the local authorities of the nine provincial capitals were the local implementing agents. The project was funded by the Government of Australia.

The report presents the latest spatial and statistical data, creating a rigorous evidence base for better social, environmental and economic planning and programing for Lankan cities. It also highlights the important role of the cities as the driving force of socioeconomic development within the capital as well as the remote and less developed parts of the country with higher rates of poverty.

Several key policy recommendations to achieve a better urban future are also highlighted in the report. Top among them is the redefining of what is considered an ‘urban’ area and revising municipal boundaries. The current municipal demarcations leave out large urbanised fringe areas from being captured in official statistics, the report points out.

In the face of climate change, sustainable cities are imperative the report argues and recommends developing a national and sub-national sustainable urban strategy and linking it with enhanced urban research capacity to promote sustainable cities. For cities to develop as hubs of socioeconomic development, and to extend urban opportunities to a wider population, it recommends improvements in connectivity between cities and their hinterlands.

The special and statistical data used in the report is accessible through the website www.soslc.lk , containing city specific data and statistics, interactive maps, and a city comparison data tool. 

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