The Making of a World Class City: Displacement and Land Acquisition in Colombo

The Making of a World Class City: Displacement and Land Acquisition in Colombo

CPA’s January 2017 report ‘The Making of a World Class City: Displacement and Land Acquisition in Colombo’ explores the process of making Colombo a world class city, begun post-war under the Rajapaksa regime and its continuity under the yahapalanaya government. The previous government’s Urban Regeneration Programme (URP), which is being continued by the present Government, aims to beautify the city and create a slum-free capital. This has, resulted in large scale eviction and relocation of the working class poor away from the city center. The rushed evictions under the previous regime paid scant regard to the rights of affected persons and to the practical impact of evictions on their lives including lack of access to services, loss of shared community, increase in physical and material vulnerability, disruption of education and loss or reduction in livelihood options. The continued lack of transparency and accountability is an overriding concern. The difficulties of obtaining information and in the language of the person affected and misinformation in attempts to prejudice the rights and interest of the affected family, continue to be the main areas of dispute with the Urban Development Authority. On the substantive questions involved there is a clear lack of state policy that accounts for and seeks to serve the interests of those affected. The lack of such policies compound problems arising out of a state-centric understanding of eminent domain, an expanding ‘public purpose’ in state acquisitions of land and the entrenched vulnerabilities of affected persons. This report also highlights the urgent need for the National Involuntary Resettlement Policy to be updated and enshrined in law. The need for national and provincial...
Living it down: Life after relocation in Colombo’s high rises

Living it down: Life after relocation in Colombo’s high rises

‘Living it down: Life after relocation in Colombo’s high rises’ is a report by CPA in November 2016 based on findings of a survey conducted with 1222 households in Colombo forcibly relocated by the Rajapaksa regime. The findings of this survey question many narratives created around the working class poor of Colombo living in “underserved settlements”. That the affected communities live in slums and shanties, in unhygienic, unsanitary flood prone environments surrounded by drug dealers are narratives that serve the purpose of a Government looking to “liberate” commercially valuable property in Colombo by relocating communities to high-rise complexes built by the Urban Development Authority (UDA) in the North of Colombo since 2010. This survey builds on CPA’s work since 2013 on evictions in Colombo under the previous regime. The three complexes selected for this survey were Mihindusenpura, Sirisara Uyana and Methsara Uyana, all located in Dematagoda (Colombo North). The three complexes were selected because residents were moved there prior to November 2014 which meant that they had been living in the buildings for more than one and half years. The findings of this survey raises many concerns about the future of those living in the UDA high-rise complexes and demands a complete review of the URP. In less than three years of occupation, we see a considerable deterioration in the quality of life, income mismatch leading to debt, high expression of desire to move, disconnect with the built environment. Unfortunately, even under the yahapalanaya Government and new management of the UDA we see no concrete effort on the part of the UDA to address the critical issues arising from...
Forced Evictions in Colombo: High-rise Living

Forced Evictions in Colombo: High-rise Living

The Centre for Policy Alternatives’ second report on forced evictions in Sri Lanka’s capital city looks at evictions that took place under the previous Ministry of Defence and Urban Development, where as part of its beautification agenda they aimed to create a slum free Colombo by 2020. The report discusses life after relocation to the high-rise buildings as well as the struggles of those still awaiting housing. The rush to relocate communities to high-rise apartments was not done with the uplifting of people’s lives foremost in mind, but with the intention of freeing up property with high commercial value. What made the Urban Regeneration Project of the Urban Development Authority more problematic was the means used to acquire land. Military force, intimidation and harassment were used to evict people from their homes and the process did not follow Sri Lanka’s laws related to land acquisition. Communities were relocated to high-rise buildings in Dematagoda and Wanathamulla where today they face many hardships. Residents are forced to pay Rs 1 million for the apartments over a period of 20 – 30 years. They are yet to be given deeds to their apartments and there are restrictions on selling, renting and mortgaging the apartments, which means that a source of financial security has been taken away from them. The lack of space is a serious issue faced by most people. The ‘one apartment per house’ policy means that today in some apartments there are up to 14 people or more and that some families have been forced to live on rent, elsewhere, simply due to lack of space. The report also looks...
Forced Evictions In Colombo: The Ugly Price Of Beautification

Forced Evictions In Colombo: The Ugly Price Of Beautification

The Centre for Policy Alternatives’ April 2014 report “Forced Evictions in Colombo – The Ugly Price of Beautification” raises serious concerns with regard to the displacement of citizens in the city of Colombo due to the Urban Regeneration Project of the Urban Development Authority (UDA) and the Ministry of Defence and Urban Development. It questions both the ostensible goals and purpose underlying the Urban Regeneration Project as well as the means and processes employed by the UDA and the Government of Sri Lanka to realise them, in particular those pertaining to land acquisition and involuntary resettlement. Drawing from interviews with affected citizens from across different parts of the city and short case studies of the experience of three different communities – Java Lane and Mews Street in Slave Island and Castle Street in Borella, the report outlines the major issues and concerns with respect to the forced evictions in Colombo. Of particular concern are the involvement of the military controlled UDA in forced evictions, the modalities of which are similar to those employed in the North and East of Sri Lanka, and the scale which, according to some estimates, could even dwarf displacement in Northern Sri Lanka during the final two years of the war. The report also argues that viewing the forced evictions in Colombo as part of a development project only serves to hide the enormous social, public and human costs. The Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) believes that in the process, a range of existing domestic legal and policy safeguards and standards are being flouted with impunity. The report underlines that respect for domestic and internationally...

Legal And Policy Implications Of Recent Land Acquisitions, Evictions And Related Issues In Sri Lanka

Land has a central place in the post war debates involving resettlement, reconstruction, development and the search for a political solution. With the ten year anniversary of the tsunami nearing and more than five years after the end of the war, many questions regarding land issues persist including continuing challenges to individuals being able to fully enjoy, access and use their lands and reside in their homes, due to restrictions placed in the name of security and development. Furthermore, Sri Lanka has a complex framework for legal and possessory rights, covering both State and private land. This framework is meant to provide tenure security for individuals residing and using the land and safeguards to prevent arbitrary displacement and eviction. The legal and policy framework, despite its shortcomings and the need for reform in specific areas, is a basic starting point of a governance system as well as constituting recognition of the rights of those owning and in possession of land. Unfortunately, present practices and recent policy decisions undermine the framework in place and demonstrate a deliberate disregard and/or ignorance of what is in the books. These challenges are highlighted in the present brief with recommendations provided for immediate reform. Download...

A Brief Guide On Land Rights In Sri Lanka

The Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) has compiled a brief guide on land rights in Sri Lanka which is aimed at creating awareness among the public on the legal status regarding land ownership and control and remedies available. CPA produced a similar guide in 2011 addressing land issues in the North and East of Sri Lanka in the immediate post war context. The present guide addresses land issues across Sri Lanka including continuing trends of problems caused by a lack of documentation and illegal and arbitrary land acquisitions and evictions. The guide will be available in Sinhala, Tamil and English. Download...
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