This is the story of 91 families from St. Sebastian South Canal in Colombo 12, Sri Lanka. In late 2013, they found out that they were going to lose their homes due to the rehabilitation of the St. Sebastian canal under the World Bank funded Metro Colombo Urban Development Project.
The families had not wanted to move away to the new housing being given to them. Their new homes were in newly built high-rise apartments in the outskirts of Colombo and the families had instead asked for housing closer to their original homes so that their livelihoods and children’s schooling would not be disrupted. They had made clear their opposition to the proposed location at awareness sessions held in January 2014 by the then Ministry of Defence and Urban Development, the authority handling all development work in Sri Lanka after the Urban Development Authority was brought under the Ministry of Defence in 2010.
The community had continued their opposition to relocation and even voiced their concerns at the site office located in the community, which was also functioning as a grievance redress mechanism. However, they suffered the same fate as thousands of other people who were forcibly evicted from their homes by the Urban Development Authority since 2010. In September 2014, the 91 families shifted to Methsara Uyana, an 11 storey apartment complex with 718 apartments, officially declared open on October 27 2014 by former President Mahinda Rajapaksa.