Two Urban Corridors will be developed soon, one along the 134 km-long Central Expressway leading to Kandy, and the other along the 241 km-long Southern Highway leading to the Hambantota Port and Mattala Airport, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe told the World Cities Summit in Singapore yesterday.
“The key thrust of the initiative will be the Western Megapolis and the two connecting corridors which will cover nine million people. The Southern corridor will include three large eco-friendly Tourist Resorts of over 500 acres each in addition to a fully restored Galle Heritage Fort,” Prime Minister Wickremesinghe said, making the Keynote Address at the Summit, which also incorporates the CleanEnviro Summit and the International Water Week. The Summit brought together influential world leaders and business figures. Elaborating on the country’s development plans, the Prime Minister said the mega infrastructure project envisions the Western Province, which includes Colombo and the capital Sri Jayewardenepura as a Megapolis of interconnected metropolitan areas. This would include a Light Rail Transit system with elevated railways, elevated highways, a multi-modal transport hub, the development of old waterways, and three LNG plants. It will encompass a Logistics City, a Forest City, and an Aero City. Sri Lanka’s long-term objective envisages exploiting our strategic location in the Indian Ocean to ensure economic development in a region which will be pivotal for global economic growth.
“We will aim for maximum livability by implementing sewerage and solid waste projects, an Eco Zone, and Riverine Buffer Zone Development. The plans include the development of the ports of Colombo and Hambantota in the South. The new landfill adjacent to the Colombo Port is planned as an offshore Financial Centre,” the Prime Minister said.
“Four Special Economic Zones will provide the infrastructure for industry. Plans for the megapolis were prepared by Surbana Jurong and the Ministry of Megapolis are in the initial stages of implementation,” the Premier added.
Delivering the Keynote Address under the theme “Livable and Sustainable Cities of the Future: Transcending Challenges of the Anthropocene,” the Prime Minister said he used the term “Anthropocene” to describe the times we live in because it is an era indelibly shaped by human activity.
The “Anthropocene” is fundamentally marked by urbanization. Data from the World Bank shows that in 2017, 54.7% of the world’s population – 4.1 billion people – lived in urban areas.
“Urbanization has been a transformative trend that has propelled economic growth.By bringing people and enterprises together, large cities have become centres of industrialisation and modernisation. “They have reaped the benefits of economies of agglomeration. When firms and workers cluster together there is improved productivity and job creation. Mega cities have gone one step further: they have become highly productive centres which connect workers and businesses with global markets. Cities, therefore, have become hubs of wealth creation, attracting waves of people with opportunities for advancement not available in their villages,” the Prime Minister said.
He pointed out that these opportunities and challenges are magnified in Asia multi-city agglomerations. The Beijing- Tianjin- Qinhuangdao corridor has a population of over 100 million.
“I can see a future where a sprawl of mega urban centres stretches from Beijing to Bangkok to Jakarta to Mumbai.Although cities across Asia are growing apace, only three (Singapore, Tokyo, and Kobe) are in the top 50 of the Mercer Quality of Life index. Colombo was the highest ranked South Asian city, but still only stood at 137 out of 231 cities. At least 15 Asian cities are in the bottom 50 of this ranking,” Prime Minister Wickremesinghe said.
“Our challenge, as leaders, is to make these Asian cities livable for the present and the future. The sustainable development of our globe depends on whether we succeed or fail,” The Premier added.
He cited Singapore as a prime example of a well-managed metropolitan environment that has shown a path to successfully build large yet livable cities.
“Singapore offers the best quality of life of all Asian cities, according to Mercer’s 2018 Quality of Life Survey. Of course, Singapore did not reach this status autonomously: the late Prime Minister Lee Kwan Yew envisioned and executed its transformation into a smart, secure and livable city – a standard of distinction being that a woman can walk alone, safely, without being violated anytime of day or night.”
More investment opportunities through FTA - Singaporean PM
Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said he will take steps to increase the opportunities for investment through the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between Sri Lanka and Singapore.
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and the official Sri Lankan delegation were hosted for lunch by his Singaporean counterpart yesterday. The Singaporean Prime Minister further said that through the FTA opportunities would also open up for investors who are currently investing in Singapore to also invest in Sri Lanka.
“Through the FTA, Sri Lanka will be able to obtain access to technology, knowledge and job opportunities,” he said. Prime Minister Wickremesinghe pointed out that by working together in the economic, administrative and social sectors, Sri Lanka and Singapore could together create mutually beneficial programmes.
The Singaporean delegation was represented by Mrs Lee, Information and Communication Minister S. Iswaran, Manpower Minister, Josephine Teo, Singaporean Ambassador to Sri Lanka Chandra Das and Chief Private Secretary to the Prime Minister, Jeffrey Siow.
The Sri Lankan delegation was represented by Prof. Maitree Wickramasinghe, Water Supply and Town Planning Minister Rauff Hakeem, Housing and Construction Minister Sajith Premadasa, Development Strategies and International Trade, Malik Samarawickrama, Petroleum Resources Development Deputy Minister, Anoma Gamage and Sri Lankan Ambassador to Singapore Nimal Weeratne.