The Sunday Leader

Western Region Megapolis From Island To Continent

by Santhush Fernando 

With the kicking off of the Western Region Megapolis Project Masterplan, the United National Front For Good Governance hopes to replace  with it the US$ 223 million World Bank-funded Metro Colombo Urban Development Project envisaged by the Rajapaksa regime back in 2012. Furthermore it is apparent that the Government hopes to replace the Rajapaksa regime’s economic slogan of ‘Miracle of Asia’ into ‘From Island to Continent.’

According to the overview of the Western Region Megapolis Project Masterplan to be unveiled soon, the Western Megapolis is envisioned and conceptualized as Sri Lanka’s Grand Strategy to propel the country’s drive to achieve the status of a ‘high income developed nation’ by 2030.


New industrial revolution

It is also the grand strategy to eliminate the congestion pressures on urban physical infrastructure including transport and housing, urban services and amenities, and the environment, brought about by the “messy organization” that has taken place particularly during the past few decades in the Western Region.

In addition, it is also the grand strategy for optimally harnessing the potentialities created by the current global techno-economic environment, which is characterized by such new developments as the advent of the ‘new industrial revolution’ and the emergence of smart services etc., for economic growth.

The implementation of this grand strategy involves two fundamental transformations.

The first is the much needed structural transformation of the economy where the manufacturing sector as well as the tradable services involving high-tech, should comprise the major component of the economy, with exports accounting for at least one third of the GDP.

The other transformation which needs to be effected in parallel, and indeed, what would drive the above structural transformation, is the spatial transformation of the Western Region.

The planning philosophy that guides the formulation of objectives and strategies for realization of those national goals is based on 4 fundamental pillars namely ‘economic growth and prosperity’, ‘social equity’, ‘environmental sustainability’ and individual happiness.

The Western Megapolis is planned to create that spatial transformation which will drive the nation’s grand strategy for overall development in 3 ways:

(i) Firstly by way of enabling the national economy to leverage the benefits of economies of agglomeration brought about by urbanization,

(ii) Secondly by way of eliminating the congestion pressures on urban infrastructure, services and environment brought about by messy organizations and

(iii) Thirdly by way of reduced per unit capital cost of infrastructure provisioning.


10 Mega Projects

There are over 150 different development projects already identified for being implemented under the Western Megapolis, and naturally the number is bound to grow and the projects bound to evolve, given that this mega development initiative is evolutionary by its very nature. Indeed, avoiding over-planning and leaving the desired flexibility for organic evolution of the detailed plans and their implementation within the master spatial plan has been a conscious guiding principle adopted throughout the process of developing the master plan. The Ten Mega Projects identified below represents grouping of the majority of the development activities identified in the planning process, based on a mainly functional and partly geographic non-exhaustive categorization.

While the Mega Projects 1-3 represent major infrastructure development projects, those from 6-10 represent different thematic projects and their combinations.

1. Transport, Energy and Water

2. Housing and Relocation of Adminis-                    tration

3. Environment and Waste Management

4. The Aero Maritime Trade Hub

5.‘The High Rise’ – Central Business                District

6. Industrial and Tourist Cities

- Meerigama, Horana, Negombo &                     Aluthgama

7. Science and Technology City

8. ‘Eco Habitat’ and Plantation City

9. ‘Smart Nation’- The Smart City De            velopment Project

10. ‘Tranquility’ – The Spiritual Development Facilitation


Regional Structure Plan

Based on the planning area division, existing land use and infrastructure, and considering future employment and population distribution, the structure plan has been proposed with the following key components.


Transport, Energy and Water

The Transport System of the country, particularly what is currently operating in the Western Region, calls for major strategic interventions not only to efficiently drive the growth of national economy, but also to avoid retardation of the whole economy due to fast intensifying congestion on the roads.

The economic cost of fuel and time currently spent by Sri Lankans on the roads is Rs.1 billion per day. A person in the Colombo Metropolitan Region (CMR) travels 12 km a day on average between his home and place of occupation, whereas ideally this should be less than 5 km. Average speed by car or three-wheeler is 16 km/h, while the average speed of a bus within the region is 8 km/h per hour – less than half the desired speed of 20km/h, expected under an efficient transport system. More importantly, the cost of providing mobility as a percentage of GDP, which is already in the alarming ‘orange zone’ at 11.3%, will rise to 24.7% in the dangerous ‘red zone’, with dire implications for the economy, whereas this should not exceed 10%.

The transport sector projects to be undertaken under Megapolis just strive to achieve those optimum desired figures.

The current issues related to transportation in the Western Region are uncontrolled increase in private vehicle population, lack of space for widening of roads within the Colombo Core, lack of parking facilities in the Core area and inadequate expansion of the public transport systems which are operating at full capacity during peak hours.

In addition, the decentralization approach which will create an interconnected network of full-pledged cities will reduce the daily traffic going into the Colombo Core, and hence release the strain on the public transport system, roads and parking facilities in the Colombo Core.

Having understood the present and future challenges the Government decided to adopt sustainable urban mobility solution with strong focus mainly on the use of public transport and non-motorized transport (NMT) as well.


Integrated Transport Plan

As the existing roads are lined with properties which are privately owned, it is not always possible to widen the existing roads, especially within the Colombo Core to increase the existing road capacity to meet the increase in travel demand. The convenience, safety and security need to enhanced for the future transport. Hence, an integrated transport solution will be implemented across the Western Region. the following traffic management measures are proposed to increase the efficiency of the urban road operation:

a. Enhancing the public transport to a            convenient, adequately available and relatively cheaper service

b. Time demand management to reduce peak hour stress

c. Integrated e-card to pay for all transport solutions

d. Introduce travel demand management (TDM).

e. Enhance traffic management measures.

f. Introduce Intelligence Transport Systems (ITS).

g. Improve compliance with road rules, with more PTZ and IP cameras and red light cameras


Road Network Plan

One of the approaches to address the transportation issues is to upgrade the existing road network within the Western Region and to expand the road network to serve the future developments.

The current expressways such as the Southern Expressway and Katunayake-Colombo Expressway form the backbone of the Western Region in the north-south direction. To complete the road structure for the Western Region, the following Expressways are proposed:

• Expressway (from Kadawata to Kerawalapitiya)

• Central Expressway (from Kadawatha to Mirigama and from Mirigama to Kurunegala)

• Ruwanpura Expressway (from Kahathuduwa to Rathnapura)

• Expressway from Kadawatha – Kerawalapitiya

• Negombo – Divulapitiya – Meerigama

• Peliyagoda to Battaramulla

• Elevated – Keleni Bridge to Ports area

• Inner OCH- Extension of Baseline Rd

• Dematagoda – Paliament Junction-Koswatte- Keleanya and Koswatte to Kaduwela

• Connection E2 OCH with city along Kelani River bunt

This will complete the expressway network within the Western Region to provide mobility for the efficient movement of people and goods. The prudency of including railway traces within the long expressways is highlighted.

The outlet necklace proposed by CESMA in 2003 will be replaced by another alignment of outer connectivity road linking the proposed mega cities at Mirigama, Hanwella, Horana, Mathugama and Aluthgama. Other existing roads within each planning areas were also identified to be upgraded to major arterials or arterials to complete the proposed road structure plan for the Western Region.



An electrification and modernization program for the existing railways within Western Region has been studied under ADB funding. This program which will improve the efficiency of the railway services includes the existing railway from Veyangoda to Fort and from Fort to Panadura.

There are also proposed new railways within the Western Region as follows:

• Fort – Maharagama – Padukka – Kosgama – Avissawella

• Dematagoda to Malambe

• Malambe to Makumbura

• Makumbura to Horana

• Malambe to Dompe

• Battaramulla – Dompe

• ICD link

• Rail traces in New Expressways


Public Bus

In parallel with the development of a rail transit system in the Western Region, the public bus services within the Western Region should also be improved to provide better efficiency and to provide a convenient and comfortable ride aiming at the expanding middle class of the country. The diversion of the middle income group from private transport to public mode is only possible through a matching facility. Running busses to a scientific time table and controlling the operations by a center are identified as a general necessity.

For selected wider roads; eg: Galle road and Kadawatha road; deploying Bus Rapid Transit systems (BRT) is identified. This requires preparing elevated pedestrian platforms, synchronized traffic signals and electronic payment systems. In all bus solutions the quality will be assured through specification and regular monitoring by a central authority, while the operational quality is assured through direct engagement.


Integrated Transport Hub

The convenience to the commuters and the enforcement of the strategy is achieved through the Integrated Transport Hubs (ITH). The railway, buses, elevated RT systems and other transport modes will have a route through ITH. Some of the features to be incorporated are:

• Railway running on ground

• Buses/ BRT

• Elevated railway solutions

• Public car park

• Electronic ticket issuance & charging

• Commercial and dining areas for pub           lic

• Lodging for commuters

The hub development will be implemented as private public partnerships and each service will be charged for the provided service.

Tentative locations of the ITHs are Pettah, Moratuwa, Kadawatha and Makumbura towns and in general long distance transport terminates at ITHs.


Power Supply Plan

The people in Western Region has 100% access to electricity. The power is supplied from the national grid. There are few power plants within Western Region, that are mainly concentrated in Colombo Metropolitan, namely Kelanitissa, Sapugaskanda and Kerawalapitiya. The total generation capacity of the country as at 2014 is 3,932 MW with maximum demand of 2,152 MW consuming 12,357 GWH. The 2014 demand in Western Region was 1,165 MW and 4822 GWH.

The existing power supply is able to meet the demand.

However, it will not be sufficient to cater for the 2030 power demand which is estimated to be 4,805 MW consuming 28410 GWH. Power plant addition along with growing demand is addressed in Long Term Least Cost Generation Plan of CEB – National Electricity Utility. With the accelerated development in Western Region major part of the additional power requirement will be within the region.


Natural Gas Industry

The success of the Gas Exploration was confirmed with Cairn India exploration finding gas in October 2011 in one of the wells dug in Dorodo & Baracuda. The available gas reserves are estimated to be adequate for running the petroleum based thermal power stations in the Western shore for more than 30 years. Sri Lanka stepping into gas exploration will cut down the dependency on petroleum exports, enable the LNG hub required in the region in country and creation of highly paid jobs.

LNG operations will be set up around Colombo Ports as the second stage and the cooling energy through the CHP will be used for city cooling. The estimated number of jobs created by this field is over 15,000.


Solar Power

Sri Lanka is rich with solar radiation throughout the year. WR is somewhat hampered with year round clouds plus rains making large scale solar parks not favorable. The land cost contributes too. However solar energy source is allowed through net metering hence internal consumption using solar energy, backed by the national grid is possible. The roof tops which doesn’t add land cost for solar projects will help commercial or industrial establishments to generate solar energy. Part of the additional power requirement in WR is expected from this source as well. In addition to generating power, solar energy sector has potential to create 25,000 jobs, through solar panel assembly plants as well.


Wind Power

Sri Lanka is rich with wind power especially in Nuwaraeliya plains and the Mannar basin. All along the WR shores the south-west monsoon provide a substantial potential for the small wind turbines to install. However, this industry has not so far awakened in Sri Lanka. The knowledge based approach and the market in Sri Lanka and the neighboring countries paves path for industries to manufacture small wind machines and the large wind blades.


Waste to Energy

Waste to energy is not yet implemented but planned in Western Region. The daily collection of MSW exceeds 1600 MT around CMR and a rapid growth is expected with the Megaplois Development. Part of the bio degradable waste will be converted to compost and high calorific valued waste is identified for WTe plants. WTe plants, which has a potential of about 30 MW net, are seriously considered within Western Region, as a measure of disposing MSW as well.



Housing and Relocation of Administration


Building housing apartments of different categories identified above and location of administration buildings is identified as a Mega Project.The housing is of mainly three categories; underserved Middle class and the Luxurious Housing. The underserved & Middle class housing schemes need to address the shortcomings happened in the past and the dwellers must feel the ownership of this transformation. With the transcending society their needs and aspirations should be designed to be fulfilled.

The underserved community regeneration programs are urgent; specially to release the economic corridors occupied by them.

The Middle Class is expanding the society and mainly consist of public & private sector employees. With proper housing schemes & facilities the majority is expected to be these housing defining an equality within the society.


Environment and Waste Management


To address the uncontrolled industries, new industrial estates are being proposed and a relocation process has to start stage by stage. Meanwhile to address the encroachment to the environmental areas, 3 categories of environmental sites are proposed:

Category 1: Where no development is permitted. These are areas such as Muthurajawela conservation zone, the protected forest etc.

Category 2: Where restricted development is permitted. These are the buffer zones to the Category 1 zone.

Category 3: Where development is permitted upon the compliance with the requirements. These are the wetland and the steep slope areas.

Apart from the above, attention is also given to the coastal zone. This is to ensure resilience in the event of Tsunami and the sea level rise. A 300 meter setback zone in coastal area is being studied.

Based on the above, apart from the incineration and landfill projects that are already on-going, a sea level rise mitigation study is also proposed.


Storm Water Plan

Western Region is bounded by Maha Oya in the north and Bentara Ganga in the South.

There are three existing river basins that traverse westward, namely Attanagalu Oya, Kelani Ganga and Kalu Ganga. There are low lying areas within WR which creates retention area for rain water collection and form eco systems in a wet land creating beauty.

The long time adopted development strategy is to drain the storm water to the sea. The developed areas being near sea this was possible. The existing storm water drainage network in the urbanized areas is 100 years old and often overloaded, resulting in localized flooding in low-lying areas.


Waste Management

The MSW production of the Colombo city is 0.8 kg/ person/ day whereas it is 0.4 kg in countrywide. With the Megapolis development the MSW will grow.

As at present the smaller Local Authorities process their MSW by sorting; where recycling and composting of bio degradable is done.

The large producers of MSW other than Colombo hands over the MSW to Waste Management Authority. Colombo will be in crisis if “do nothing” scenario is allowed, where the available dump yard will be full.

The waste disposal in Western region is planned to solve by:

•       Segregation the waste at source and recycling

•       Making waste producers to pay the processing cost

•       Establishing 3 to 4 large scale waste processing centers in load centers and allocating processed products for appropriate industry

WMA which is a national establishment expect to process or recycle the 55% of the MSW and 45% needed to be handled in large scale such as WTe on incineration technology.

There is a potential for the investors of WTe to put up plants up to about 30 MW capacity, or for Investor for large scale sorting to create business. Those investors can enter into a public private partnership where GOSL will assist with provision of land etc.


Aero Maritime Trade Hub

The Aero Maritime Trade Hub will be developed as a unique Maritime, Aviation, Logistics and Trade Hub of Asia. It will be geographically bi-centric with the Maritime City centered on the Sea-Port of Colombo and the Aero City centered on the Bandaranaike International Airport, Katunayake, with the two city-centres connected by the proposed ‘Port-to-Air Port’ highway to be built through the ‘Modera Bridge’ across the Kelani River, extending to the Air Port Expressway. Both aero and maritime hubs will be efficiently connected to the ‘Logistics Village’ to be set up as part of the plan.


Maritime City

The Maritime City will include, as part of it, a Port City which is proposed to be built on reclaimed land adjoining the Sea-Port, and will, in addition, include,

•       A Trading Hub for Tea

•       A Trading Hub for Gems

•       A Trading Hub for Minerals

•       The ‘Free Port’ – North Harbour Project to be implemented by Sri Lanka Ports Authority

•       An Oil and Gas Exchange (the Gas Terminal will be fed by the Natural Gas Pipe Line originating from Mannar Basin and passing through Norochchole, while the Oil exchange will be fed by the Oil Refinery proposed to be set up in Hambantota)

The other development projects identified for establishment around the Maritime Hub include the following:

• Development of Marine Infrastructure in the Western Province in order to develop Boat Building Industry and Marine Tourism

• Continental Shelf Mapping of Sri Lanka

• Extraction of Sea Sand

• Conservation plan to conserve marine and other under water wrecks

• Formation of recreational beach area along the shoreline south of Colombo (in the form of Perched Beaches)


Colombo Port City

The Port City which is expected to be the most vibrant part of the Maritime City, will bring an exciting opportunity to innovate, design and develop a New World-Class City based on international experiences especially adapted to the Sri Lankan context and the site specific conditions.

The new city will tap the intrinsic values of the region and environment to create a new ideal modern community for business, living and leisure.

This will help attract companies and investors, to ensure it will become a beacon of excellence for Sri Lanka, representing an ambitious yet achievable vision.

Aero City

The Aero City, will involve development of airport infrastructure including Aerodrome, New Passenger Terminal, Aero-City Business-Park, Airport Hotel, and an International Convention Centre, along with the development of an Aero-City Residential Township at Minuwangoda. The project will consist of the airport cluster and a residential township cluster.

The airport cluster is aimed at growing the aviation related businesses around the airport, including the development of second runway, the airport extension, the development of aviation industries, logistic and MICE businesses around the airport, while the residential clusters will complement the airport city development by providing well planned residential areas in proximity to the employment centre around the airport.

Various types of housing, recreational, commercial and public facilities will be integrated in the township, ensuring a good quality living environment.


‘The High Rise’ – Central Business District


The ‘The High Rise’ will be developed as the dynamic, vibrant and glamourous Central Business District of the Megapolis, which will be the hive of international trade, commercial and financial activity, with an attractive environment.

‘The High Rise’ will involve addition of at least sixty new high rise buildings of 40-floors or more including most of the leading Hotel Chains in the World. Downtown Colombo which has evolved as the prominent business district, and has been one of the most attractive cities in the world during the early part of the last century, will be developed as the Centre of the CBD, which will expand much beyond the extent of the traditional downtown Colombo into the bordering fringe zones.


Industrial and Tourist Cities

While Meerigama and Horana are to be developed as Industrial Cities, Negombo and Aluthgama will be developed as Tourist Cities. The two Industrial Cities to be established at Meerigama and Hoarna are part of the overall drive to enhance the manufacturing component of the national economy, while generating direct and indirect employment opportunities, and facilitating effective concentration and relocation of some of the existing industries. While the industrial city at Meerigama is expected to be developed as a specialized zone for Food Processing, largely export oriented, and based on the diverse variety of Sri Lankan and Regional culinary, thereby emerging as an important centre of the Asian Culinary Map. The Industrial City at Horana is aimed at both Import Substitution and Export Development, and will facilitate concentration of some of the SMEs scattered across the region, thereby enabling better economies, further expansion in numbers and diversity, and better management of the environmental impacts. The two Cities, covering respectively 184 and 85 sq. km in extent, both including some small towns and villages in their respective neighborhood, are expected generate 35,000 each new employment opportunities.


Science and Technology City

The Science and Technology City is the key strategic intervention made towards enabling the necessary structural transformation of the national economy into a knowledge-based innovation-driven economy with a major high-tech manufacturing and tradable services sector with strong export orientation.

It is designed to provide a comprehensive all-encompassing Eco-System for Innovation.

The city will provide the infrastructure for geographic concentration of all high-tech research and development centres, incubation centres, and high-tech industries with all requisite support services and facilities, and in addition, a dedicated technological university among other major technology centres.

The areas of advanced technology that the Science and Technology City will mainly focus on include Nano Technology, Civil Nuclear Technology, Space Technology, Information and Communication Technologies, Electronic Manufacturing & Semiconductor Technologies, Robotics and Automation, Bio-Technology, and Gene Technology. The City will have High-Tech Industries exemplified by manufacturing of high value addition Nano Materials such as Nano Carbon Tubes, Graphene, Nano-Titanium, Semi-Conductor Manufacturing, as well as Advanced Health Care with Super Specialty Hospitals.


Eco Habitat and Plantation City

The Mega Project formulated as ‘Eco Habitat and Plantation City’ covers two distinct and adjacent geographical areas, both abundant with flora and fauna as well as with plantations.

This is the wettest area of the country with high rainfall, blessed with a large rain-forest cover and large plantations.

The zone identified for development under ‘Eco Habitat’ boasts of the ‘Sinharaja Forest Reserve’, which is one of the oldest Virgin Forests and a richest bio-diversity hot-spots on Earth, including some native species never found elsewhere on the Earth. ‘Sinharaja’ has also been ‘inscribed’ as a ‘World Heritage’ site by UNESCO. Bio-diversity and unparalleled scenic beauty make Sinharaja and the surrounding area a unique destination for ‘Eco-Tourism’, and for Adventure, Leisure and Education.

The ‘Eco Habitat’ and the ‘Plantation City’ are expected to generate respectively 14,000 and 20,000 employment opportunities.


‘Smart Nation’- The Smart City Infrastructure Project

The extensive range of physical, social, institutional and economic infrastructure, and the enormous amount information that it necessitates to process and analyze round the clock in planning, implementing and operationalizing its numerous services and facilities does call for effective harnessing of digital infrastructure for optimal performance of the City.

It is inevitable that the City should effectively engage intelligent, well interconnected, well instrumented systems to optimally manage the City.

No modern city that pays due attention to its efficiency and sustainability in the long run could afford not to establish appropriate Smart City infrastructure.

For the same reason development of Smart City Infrastructure has been identified as a separate functional area and hence a separate programme.


‘Tranquility’ – The Spiritual Development Facilitation

‘Individual Happiness’ forms one of the four pillars of the philosophy that guides overall human development envisaged by all development initiatives, large and small, including the Western Megapolis, the other three pillars being Economic Growth & Prosperity, Social Equity, and Environmental Sustainability.

While the material comforts in the living environment brought about by the other three pillars will certainly contribute to happiness, it will be far from the ‘Happiness’ derived through spiritual development.


Recommended Critical Projects

• Sapugaskanda Oil Refinery Expansion & Modernisation (SOREM)
• Gas Exploration projects in Mannar basin and Western sea.
• Natural gas pipe network and gas distribution
• LNG Hub in Colombo
• NG based combined cycled power generation in Kerawalapitiya and in reclaimed sea lands around Colombo
• Combined Heat & Power project including city cooling
• Solar power panel assembly & solutions
• Small wind machine and large wind blade manufacturing
• Dendro plants in Plantation City

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