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Megapolis and Western Province Development Plans by Eng. Arjuna Manamperi
 
Megapolis and Western Province Development Plans
image : Daily News
 

With a brand new Ministry under the subject and an Engineer leading it, GoSL has made the Megapolis Project it's cornerstone of economic development. It's larger than anything the country has undertaken ever! It will be funded with direct Loans / FDI and executed through PPP ( public private partnership) initiatives. Its execution covers 13 ministries. Project will be managed by a brand new authority. It plans to address many fundamental economic issues - employment, per capita GDP growth, education, housing, transport, environment, waste disposal, water, energy, natural disasters, industrial growth, ICT fication, spiritual wellbeing of a nation, etc. IT IS MEGA!!

 

The main premise of Megapolis ( linguistically correct word is Megalopolis) is now popular economic development concept that massive metropolises significantly contribute to rapid growth of a country. A concept supported through academic research work by the likes of Prof. Ricardo Hausmann (Sri Lanka could gain from China’s apparel exodus: experts, Govt must focus more on agricultural exports - Hausmann) who participated in the Sri Lanka Economic Summit 2016 that was conducted in the second week of January. An important underlying premise (touted by none other than our Prime Minister - SL to be made a global mega city: PM) is that such a highly developed logistic / economic "hub" is not there between Dubai and Singapore. Both are, major economic hubs in the world and like Sri Lanka small in size and in fact developed to current status in the last few decades. Don't forget that the second highest world trade route takes place through these three countries via Indian Ocean!!

 

It's important to note that, the idea of Western Province Development ( Phase 1 of Megapolis) to make it a Megapolis was mooted around 2002. However, the current plans talk about another 12 metropolises other than Colombo to be developed over another 20-30 years ( please note that's many election rounds !!) Also note, when you read draft plan, none of the details of financials are given in the overview plan except in few areas.

 

In my opinion, the ideas mooted are scientific to a great extent, but needs; localization, prioritization, detailed planning including long term impacts of funding through borrowed money, and very heavy involvement of local ( including our diaspora) engineers / professionals and citizens as a whole. We must first buy into this as a concept. Put it simply, it should not be like the way we built high ways in the past few years; great help to the travelers even at a cost but not necessarily to support pre planned /executed "economic value addition projects" we need desperately. In fact, the opposite - loan interests, more imported cars, more traveling using imported fuel, etc. accelerated money outflow.

 

The country must move faster than ever to catch up but we must think through ( fast but focused) short, medium, and long term holistic impacts including EROIs ( economic returns on investments ) and "actual" means of getting suggested projects done. I am not suggesting that all the details to be worked out of a 20-30 year plan. However, the soundness of the fundamental objectives and their realistic viability must be well thought out for the envisioned duration and beyond. We cannot afford to have "ghost cities of China". Else, the Megapolis will be the last hurrah of a Nation which had great promise !! I am optimistic because we are, for the first time, looking at the big picture and considering systematic town planning.

 

Please read the current evolving plans for Megapolis from GoSL here.

 

Eng. Arjuna Manamperi
IESL Council Member

 
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