The concept of a livable city and creating such cities has to take into account the fact that developers who control investments will look for a particular identity for their constructions, which would be their selling point, and such would therefore have to be included in the form of Government guidelines within the macro-level master plan for development plans such as the proposed Megapolis which should in turn contain micro level details, the architectural community of the country explained.

All the networks of transportation (motorways for cars and buses and less-costly railways) must be looked at in the creation of a livable city, and must be amalgamated into the holistic big picture with the view of easing the daily affairs of those travelling to and fro from their abodes to workplaces, while giving precedence to catering to central business districts and economic hubs in the country, the Sri Lanka Institute of Architects (SLIA) noted.

While in Colombo or in a central business district, one can be allowed to construct beyond the average building standards in terms of the height (number of floors/storeys), in satellite neighbourhoods like Homagama, it has to be the ground floor plus three storeys (so that there is no outstanding physical mass), and in the outskirts in areas such as Dambulla, while in the main town area one can build the ground floor plus a maximum of two storeys, the housing schemes which are proposed to be built in the outskirts must maintain the village setting, President of the SLIA, Harsha Fernando highlighted.

Fernando said that since the British had left the country, the nation had lost track of where the waterways are, even in cities and intercity areas, adding that since culverts were not numbered anymore, no tabs are being kept at present on the maintenance of waterways.

He said that this is the job of the municipalities, local authorities and technical officers, and this aspect has been neglected, he explained, adding that although the National Building Research Organization had identified risk areas, there was no transference of this knowledge to the local authorities and therefore people continued to build as they wanted and offering bribes meant that plans get passed.

The fact that the society is not updated about this matter is a lapse, Fernando mentioned.
With regards to tackling earth slips, landslides and floods, Singapore initially used retaining walls made of concrete and subsequently used coir wire in the said walls and even plants, he added, noting that one month prior to the start of the rainy season, they would clean the drains.

Proposals must consider aspects concerning the maintenance and the quality of living, he
pointed out.

He outlined that public consensus regarding development plans and proposals was essential, adding that such could even be obtained through drawings placed at railway stations and a procedure (automated) in place to provide a response to the plan or proposal at the railway station itself.

“An issue concerning social value arises when one plants a satellite city, town or neighbourhood in a hitherto undeveloped area as the locals tend to see the satellite neighbourhood as an alien entity, where once bare land suddenly becomes highly developed, thereby causing differences in standards of life and living to be highlighted. This is why the economy and the economics of a plan, such as the Megapolis, must be looked at,” he said.

He pointed out that as in the case in Japan during the 1960s, small, individual shops such as ones selling groceries and small-scale businesses will perish and be wiped out with the advent of supermarket chains. “These imbalances must be monitored. Even though one cannot stop development, one has to exercise care and caution when developing,” he added.

He also mentioned that feasible architectural solutions depended on plans, adding that models can be conceptualized according to the site, the land area and the environment. “Developers of towers and high rises want to reap a profit and will therefore attempt to maximize the land value, and of the houses and the households. For example, the Government can issue guidelines, so that developers cannot build beyond a certain height and such guidelines must be found in the master-plan, which the team of planners and architects working on the project are governed by,” he remarked.

“The limitations imposed are needed to be adhered to must be developed per each city and town and must be included in the master plan. Designing must not take place within closed doors but be tabled before the public for comment,” he noted.

Elsewhere, the Institute of Supply and Materials Management (ISMM) observed that they as a national body of qualified and trained professionals were not clear about the processes and stages (since the Megapolis requires a multidisciplinary approach, at which stage each discipline becomes involved) put forward in the Megapolis development plan.

President of the ISMM, Noel Wickramsinghe said that procurement was not done professionally, adding that there was a lot of corruption that goes hand in hand with development.

“We are not clear as to what is happening. What type of development plan is this? What are the details? Those involved must be trained concerning the ethical standards of the profession which need to be followed. Aspects must be corrected at this level.

Procurement is not just looking at prices when buying anything including the purchase of services. If so, anyone could do this. This aspect must start at the inception of development plans, in the beginning. Processes must be followed. We deal with a lot of professionals. Our inputs, recommendations and even nominations to the National Procurement Commission, made to the Parliament when they requested for such, have gone unheeded,” he remarked.

President of the Chamber of Construction Industry, Sri Lanka, Surath Wickramasinghe, President of the Institute of Valuers’ of Sri Lanka (IVSL), P.B. Kaliugalgedara and Secretary of the IVSL, S. Sivakaskantha were not available for comment.

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