1 December 2016, Colombo, Sri Lanka: ‘Living it down: Life after relocation in Colombo’s high rises’ is a new report by CPA 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 the URP, whether they be related to the buildings, resident issues or even the provision of documents and information residents are entitled to, in their language of preference. The yahapalanaya government is continuing the URP activities, with another 15,000 – 20,000 apartments being built at present. It is therefore crucial to learn from the lessons and experiences of those already relocated to ensure that communities relocated in the months to come will be spared the negative experiences of the families already living in the high-rise apartments.