Colombo 10 Times More Congested than Rest of SL
By Paneetha Ameresekere
Colombo District, with an area of about 700 square kilometres, has a population of about 2.3 million, according to the Census and Statistics Department (CSD) findings of 2012. This accounts for about 11.4 per cent of Sri Lanka’s total population, the World Bank (WB) in a study released on 3 January2021, said.
The study titled ‘Colombo Safety Audit’ said, Colombo District which has the main urban clusters in Sri Lanka has three out of four people living in urban areas. The population density of Colombo is 3,438 persons per square kilometre (km), which is more than tenfold of the national figure (population density of Sri Lanka which is 325 persons per square km, the WB said.
The study segmentalised Colombo District to its five local authority areas for the purpose of this project. They were the Colombo Municipality Area (CMA), Sri Jayewardenepura Municipality Area (SJMA), Kolonnawa Urban Council (KUC): Dehiwela-Mount Lavinia Municipality Area (DMLMA) and Moratuwa Municipal Council (MMC), respectively vis-a-vis good lighting; good walk paths led by pavements, good visibility and good accessibility to public transport, respectively.
With reference to CMA, the WB said that Colombo, being the country’s commercial and financial capital and the largest city in Sri Lanka, had, in 2011, a of 752,993 (with an additional daily floating population of 500,000) and a population density of 20,182 per sq km.
The gender breakdown was 49.6 per cent female and 50.4 per cent male. Its land area is 37 sq km with an estimated 106,000 residential properties, 35,500 commercial properties, and 10,000 Government properties. The city’s flat terrain, tree-lined boulevards, and beaches provide opportunities for a vibrant pedestrian environment. The Galle Face Green promenade is currently a five hectare ribbon between Galle Road and the Indian Ocean and is the largest open space in Colombo.
The City is growing in popularity with tourists, with several luxury hotels being constructed. Colombo Municipal Council (CMC) is the largest local authority in Sri Lanka and one of the oldest in South Asia. Established in 1865, it has grown into a large organisation with additional powers compared to other local authorities. The Council’s 15 Departments are responsible for the provision of services, including public health, solid waste management, maintenance of roads, street lighting, and water and drainage.
With reference to SJMA the WB said, SJMA is the administrative capital of Sri Lanka. It was declared the national capital in 1985 and today, the Parliament and most ministries and public institutions are located at SJMA.
Due to its proximity to Colombo and the number of Government and administrative services, it has experienced rapid urbanisation. The 2011 population was 107,925 with a population density of 6,386/km2. Its land area is 17 sq km and the primary land uses are residential and institutional. This area is known for its urban wetlands and biodiversity which provide a unique opportunity for recreation, but are in danger of being reclaimed and polluted. It is well linked to the rest of Metro Colombo and the country by a good road network and public transport system.
In respect of KUC the WB said, Kolonnawa is a town within Colombo District with a population of 190,000. The Urban Council area is dominated by two canals, the Dematagoda and Kittampahuwa canals and the Kelani River. The Urban Council’s area is 28 sq km with a population density of 6,846 sq km. The gender breakdown is 50.9% males and 49.1% female. The age breakdown is: 24.7% are 0-14 years (47,421), 68.1% 15-64 years (130,565), and 7.2% 65+ (13,701), respectively.
In respect of DMLMA the WB said DMLMA covers 21 sq km and has a total population of 184,468 (population density 8,784 per sq km). It lies to the south of Colombo Municipal Council, separated by the Dehiwala canal which acts as a northern boundary of the municipality.
Acting as a suburb of Colombo, Dehiwala-Mount Lavinia has experienced population growth and rapid industrialization and urbanization in recent years. Galle Road, which connects Colombo to the Southern Province, bisects the Municipal Council. It is home to the country’s National Zoological Gardens and public beaches as well as wetlands around the Weras Ganga river and Bolgoda Lake. The Beallanwila and Attidiya marshes are noted for their biodiversity and are considered as ecologically protected zones.
And, in respect of the MMC the WB said, Moratuwa has a total area of 23 sq km with a population of 168,280 and a population density of 7,317 per sq km. The gender breakdown is 51.1% males and 48.9% female. The age breakdown is: 21.1% are 0-14 years (35,485), 70.5% 15-64 years (118,594), and 8.4% 65+ (14,201), respectively.
Moratuwa is well known for its carpentry and furniture and its coastal fisheries industry. Moratuwa is linked to Dehiwala-Mount Lavinia and Colombo via Galle Road. The coastal railway from Colombo to Matara runs through Moratuwa, and railway stations at Angulana, Lunawa, Moratuwa, Koralawella and Egodauyana serve the residents of Moratuwa, it added.
Nonetheless, the lack of urban safety may be a hindrance to women participating in Sri Lanka’s labour force, the WB said. It however discounted the impact that the COVID-19 Pandemic has, on women’s participation in the labour force.
Inadequate infrastructure, lack of comfort and safety in public transport are some of the key issues for Sri Lanka’s low female labour force participation rate which was at a low of 33.6 per cent as opposed to that of men at 73 per cent as per 2018 official data, the WB said.
In that context, the country’s declining female labour force participation should be addressed by understanding the concerns affecting women, the WB study said.
Various factors contribute to women’s perception of safety and a ‘few’ of those factors include condition of physical infrastructure such as availability of streetlights, well-designed walkways ‘led’ by pavements, public toilets and drinking water facilities, the WB said.
Research globally has shown that lack of safe mobility has larger implications for vulnerable groups such as women, differently abled and children. Presence of Police or security personnel, shops and vendors, availability of public transport including para transit also impacts women’s perception of safety and her mobility choices. To encourage girls and women to use public spaces freely and without any hesitation, it is important to ensure that their travel needs and concerns are understood and incorporated in planning of public spaces and public transport systems, the WB said.
Strengthening informal transport like non-motorised vehicles (bicycles) and light motor vehicles which serve as first/ last mile connectivity to one’s origin and destination could be a useful way of ensuring safe travelling. Often people especially women forego opportunities available in the city due to weak, unsafe or expensive first/ last mile connectivity options.
Time poverty or having insufficient time led by poor urban infrastucture is another reason for women to lose out on opportunities when transport options are infrequent or inadequate.
Urbanisation has posed significant challenges for sustainable growth and development of cities around the world. In Colombo Metropolitan Area, urban challenges such as increased traffic congestion, inadequate infrastructure, lack of comfort and safety in public transport are some of the key issues, the WB said.