Marine Drive Pushing Off Surrounding Residents?

By Waruni Karunarathne

While the Road Development Authority is getting ready to resume work to extend the Marine Drive from Frazer Avenue to Vasala Road, people who live on lands which will be taken entirely or partly for the proposed road are uncertain what will happen to their present life-styles and economy as a result. Even though the Road Development Authority (RDA) claims to have issued acquisition notices, some residents of the area whose lands are clearly within the boundaries of the project say that they have not received any notices from the authorities so far.

As the RDA is yet to decide a deadline to evacuate people from the area, the residents have been told that the notice of evacuation would be given three months before the commencement of work. RDA Project Director of the Marine Drive Extension Project, K. Selvanathan said that there were land acquiring complications, but they have decided to resume work at least from Rama Krishna Road to Frazer Avenue.

According to him, the people whose lands to be acquired, are asking for the RDA to give them houses to resettle. “We cannot resettle the people. We can only give them compensation after the land valuations – they have to find houses on their own,” he said. He added that, however, from the Frazer Avenue to Rama Krishna Road only two people own the lands they live on and the others live on state lands belong to the Railway Department. He further added that the land valuation is being done by the Valuation Department at present and the estimated budget to complete work from Rama Krishna Road to Frazer Avenue is about Rs. 135 millions.

The project to extend the Marine Drive at both ends came to a halt last year because there were complications in acquiring the lands for the road extension. The residents of the area said that they would vacate the place if they were given sufficient compensations.

Inadequate compensation

Shermila, a resident of the area, told The Sunday Leader that her family is more than happy to leave if a sufficient compensation is given to resettle nearby. She added, “I was born here. I have been living here for 32 years. My children go to school in Wellawatta. We have spent a considerable amount of money to get them into schools and my daughter is sitting for the Grade 5 Scholarship Examination this year. My husband also works close to home.” She feared moving out to a remote area would destroy their lifestyle and children’s education. She added that they need an adequate compensation to resettle in Colombo.

Another female resident of the area expressed her fear of moving out of the area. She said it might require their children to change their school which will affect their studies. She also added that during the tsunami her house was affected – and however she lost the house given to her because someone else who engaged in underhand dealings claimed the house. She added, “We also like to see development happening but the government need to make a fair deal.”

S. Aman of Dehiwala said that he had not received any notice from any government authority regarding the land acquisition but his land is being marked within the boundary. He said, “We heard from the others that a three months notice would be given for us to move out before the project starts. My wife owns this house. Current market price for a perch of land in this area is about Rs. 2 million. It costs about 30 to 40 thousand rupees to rent a two or three bedroom house in this area. Even the rent of one bedroom house is more than Rs. 20,000 and the authorities cannot expect us to move out without granting us a fair compensation.”

Payments in installments

Most of the residents fear the talks about the government valuation of lands being lot lesser than the real market price of a property. Some expressed doubts about receiving a lump sum of money as compensation, because several occasions the authorities have offered to pay them in installment. However many residents said that even if that was the case, they might have to vacate their houses as the government would ultimately acquire what they want by hook or crook.

Another resident of Dehiwala, Fazil Deen told that he was also not yet informed and he had no clue what was happening even though the Survey Department had marked their land within the boundary. He added, “This house is the dowry for my daughter and this is a 3.5-perch land which is worth over Rs. 50 lakhs. We have the deed to prove our ownership and we have survey plans.” He said his family has been living there almost 25 years and he has no other property.

Thurab, another resident in the area, added that she lives in a rented house and her land lady lives in Maldives. However she added that the authorities have not informed her about a proper commencement date of the project work and therefore her family decided to move out by the end of this month without living in uncertainty. She added, “We inquired the Divisional Secretariat about land valuation on behalf of the owner, but the officials have not yet answered to our inquiries.” She said that the Divisional Secretariat was supposed to summon residents of the area to discuss the matters, which did not yet take place.

Speaking to The Sunday Leader, several residents of the area who do not have land deeds claimed that they have been living in this area for a very long time and they have been paying electricity, water, telephone bills and taxes. While the RDA claims that these people live in unauthorized state property, the fact remains that these people have been paying the taxes, electricity, water and phone bills.

Fathima Rahuma, another resident, told that even though she had no deed, she had been living there for over 40 years and had been paying the required bills. She added, “I have more than 4 perches of land. My husband is dead. I have four children. Three children married. All of them live with me. We have no financial capacity to buy a house and move out instantly.” She added that her house suffered from tsunami and a bomb blast but she received no funds to rebuild her house. Now she awaits the decision of the RDA to renovate the house and she expects at least Rs. 35 lakhs in order to find a house. However, she added that she has not received any compensation yet and therefore she is unable to move.

Delay in letters of compensation

Mohomad Gafar added that in his area, there are 9 houses in the close vicinity within the boundary of the project. However out of the nine houses only five houses have received the letters of compensation. He said, “I have a 2.5 perch of land and they are offering a compensation of Rs. 16 lakhs which is less than what the property worth.” He added that his house was also affected by tsunami and a bomb blast and he spent lot of money on rebuilding the house in both occasions. He said he was granted Rs. 7 lakhs for a house after the tsunami.

Even though he managed to find a house in Panadura area and presented the certificate along with a letter from the Gramasewaka, he was offered the money in installment. He added that the land owner did not want money in installment, therefore he could not buy the house and had to disclaim the money. According to Gafar, if all the families in the area get the letter of compensation and a lump sum of money, all of them could pool in and come to some settlement. However since some of them have not received any notice, he said they could not take a decision.

Adding to the grievances, Misha, another resident, said that her daughter is to get married next month and the house was to be given to her. Due to the delay of the decisions, she said they were not sure whether to refurbish the house. She also added that one perch of land in the area is worth at least Rs. 22 to 23 lakhs. Still she will move out if the authorities take a solid decision to give the entire compensation at once.

Rifai, another resident, added that he lives with his mother and the property he lives in is worth over Rs. 70 lakhs. He feared that they would receive hardly enough to find a proper space in Colombo to live with the government’s compensation. “Land value in Colombo is very high. You cannot own even a small square of land for a lavatory for Rs. 10 to 15 lakhs. For the amount the authorities valuate the land, we can hardly own anything in Colombo.” He requested the authorities either to provide them a house or a sufficient amount of money to find a house in Colombo. He said that if they move into a remote area it would affect their economy and lifestyle and they would not survive as their whole life is based in Colombo.

No solution

A resident, Mohomad Nafeel added that the road development of the area is greatly affecting their lives. He added, “The compensation they are willing to offer is barely enough. None of the officials came to discuss the matters with us. There is nobody to listen to our concerns and no solutions provided to our problems.” He said if at all they were to move out, they need to be resettled in Colombo.
Survey General of the Survey Department Nihal Gunawardena told The Sunday Leader that the client of the Marine Drive Extension Project is the RDA. “We do what is required by the client. After doing a primary survey, we make a proper plan of the area. Once we complete the required survey of the land, the valuation of the land is being done by the Valuation Department and if necessary, the acquisition of the land is being done under the Acquisition Act by the land acquiring officer,” he added.

According to the Chief Valuer of the Valuation Department E. Dayasena, the valuation of some lands is already being done while others are being completed. He said, accordingly, they have reported to the relevant divisional secretariats of the valuations and therefore they might be able to give the current states of the land acquisition.

When inquired, Divisional Secretary of the Thimbirigasyaya Divisional Secretariat Geethamani Karunaratne refused to disclose any information of the present state of the land acquisition saying that the public has no access to such information. However the officials of the Dehiwala Divisional Secretariat were not that peculiar to hide general information which should be available to the public.

Assistant Director of Land Supervision of the Dehiwala Divisional Secretariat told The Sunday Leader, 21 blocks of land in the Dehiwala Secretariat need to be acquired for the Marine Drive Extension Project. She added, “Of the 21 blocks, 12 blocks belong to the Railway Department. Three blocks have ownership problems and we have directed them to the Attorney General.”

According to her, those who live on the land belong to the RD will only be given the value of the development of lands, if any, but the land value will not be given as the land belongs to the state. She added that the Dehiwala Divisional Secretariat has received valuation for 8 blocks from the Valuation Department and of that 5 blocks are state lands. She added, “People are willing to vacate the houses once they receive the compensation. We are yet to receive money from the RDA for the compensation.”

The development of roads and other infrastructure is undoubtedly essential for a country. However, addressing the grievances of the people who get affected as a result of such development projects is also a responsibility of the government.

5 Comments for “Marine Drive Pushing Off Surrounding Residents?”

  1. loren

    The Authorities have a heavy load of sins to be repaid by their next generations.

    • I feel sorry for the people who will be effected by this development by Gotha under orders from MR, please do not vote for MR party, they are keen on making money, every project MR & Bros. get billions by over estimating costs & getting their share from the contractors while the house owners are driven to the road.

  2. Suresh

    It is Muslims who occupy state land. It may be at Wellawatha or Wilpathu

  3. Sarath

    Many of these people are squatters brought in by local politicos to boost their chances of winning elections. Now these sqatters want to be paid to move out of their illegal aquats.

    What a ceek!!!!!!!!

    But then, when the top rung of politicos are corrupt is it any surprise that these low end ones are also corrupt.

  4. garawi

    It is a pity that people will have to leave the area they have been living for years and relocate for not fault of theirs. The squatters of railway land has the most to lose as they are not entitled for compensation. But at the same time it is necessary to move people for the sake of development. It happens all over the world and Sri Lanka is not an isolated case. Marine drive extension should continue all the way parallel to tourist beaches like up to Koggala Mirissa etc;
    It is also conceivable that beyond Frazer Road the drive goes over a flyover to the sea side and continue on that wide up to the end. That will give a beautiful view of the sea all the way down and also cut the costs of compensation and ease the pressure on the people living on the land side not having to relocate! That is some thing for the authorities to think about.

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