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Sunday, 15 January 2012

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Many development projects in the pipeline:

New look for Kandy

On January 1, most of the proposed changes of the Kandy Development Plan was implemented to develop and beautify the hill capital. Mahen Ratwatte, Mayor for Kandy spoke to the Sunday Observer about the Development Plan. Excerpts of the interview:

Q: Is Kandy developing sustainably, even with rules preventing the construction of any high-rise buildings because of the Dalada Maligawa?

A: Yes, the rule still exists and we know that with the high elevation that Kandy offers and the locations where most of the construction is done, they will still tower over the Dalada Maligawa. However, with key buildings such as the Kandy City Centre and the nearby car park being built, we have shown than we can build sustainably within these rules. We should remember that Kandy is a natural basin (valley) and that any development should be planned properly and that people adhere to the rules regarding the constructing of such buildings.

Q: The Bogambara prison encompasses six acres of prime property in Kandy. Are that plans for its relocation and if so, what plans are in place to utilise the space?

A: Yes, the Bogambara prison will be relocated to Kundasale where the walls have already been built. It will take time, but we expect to relocate the prisoners, the various prison segments and the prison office quarters in about two years.

The Bogambara prison quarters were in a dilapidated condition when we made the decision to relocate it and now we have plans of turning it into a cultural complex complete with a museum and arts auditorium.

However, we need to address the issue of space in Kandy especially when it comes to relocating the illegal pavement hawkers who sell their wares all over Kandy municipal city limits. From January 1, we have evicted illegal pavement hawkers; there have been protests, but we have no choice. Temporarily, they will be relocated to the rooftop of our car park which can hold 500 stall spaces, but we are hoping to find a permanent solution to the problem of space in Kandy. Hence, we are looking at possible alternative spaces such as the Bogambara prison complex, but we still have to discuss with the authorities to find the best solution.

Bus shelter

Q: What will be done to the private bus stand and the various bus shelters which have taken up a majority of the space in Kandy?

A: We are already planning to stop the parking of private buses in Kandy city because it has hampered the smooth traffic flow on the roads. Our plan is to ensure that short distance buses do not station at Kandy, but pick up passengers and head back to their point of origin. For example, buses from Wattegedara and Kadugannawa do not have to stop at Kandy, but can return to their point of origin instead of occupying more space in Kandy.

Hence, we are also adopting this strategy to make Kandy more urban-friendly.

Q: What about reconstructing pavements and making them pedestrian-friendly?

A:We are working with the Road Development Authority (RDA) to mend broken pavements and are hoping to construct overhead pedestrian bridges. Renovation of alternative roads and construction of underpasses and overhead bridges will be done. We are also renovating the underpasses in front of the Clock Tower, the childrenís park and the General hospital.

The Government has allocated Rs. 87 million for the construction of eight overhead bridges. Work on four bridges, implemented by the RDA, has already been completed. The other four bridges will be constructed near Kingswood College, the gas filling station, Sitadevi Vidyalaya and Swarnamalee Vidyalaya.

The Japanese Government has provided assistance through the Bank of Japan for the modernisation of roads in Kandy. The construction of these bridges is also a step taken under short-term projects of the Kandy City Development Plan. We also hope to have more underground passes so that it will become easier for pedestrians.

Administrative building

Q: There are plans to build a library, municipal office and civic centre. Can you elaborate?

A: The Central Provincial Council did not have an administrative building and we hope to have a municipal office built very soon. The present library is not in a good condition so we hope to renovate it while preserving much of its aesthetic value. Moreover, we will have a civic centre for the benefit of Kandy residents to have community meetings, sales and informative learning centres.

Q: What plans are in place for the Kandy market?

A: We have carried out a complete facelift for the Kandy market by getting a donation from a leading paints providing company. Shopkeepers at the Kandy market have helped us paint the market from the inside. Asanka Dodanwela worked tirelessly to get this donation.

The vegetable market behind the main Kandy market (opposite the public lavatories) will be relocated because the present location isnít suitable. We will be painting together with the Armed Forces, be painting the outside of the Kandy market to make it look presentable.

Q: How is the Kandy City Waste Water Management Project taking shape?

A: Unfortunately, Kandy doesnít have a good sewerage system despite a growing population and there is improper solid waste disposal carried out with the help of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), the Kandy City Waste Water Management Project aims to develop a modern sewerage system that would cater to about 55,000 people.

The new system hopes to improve the quality of water in the Mahaweli river. The project will also provide improved sanitation in densely populated and low income areas in Kandy, through the instalment of in-house sanitation facilities, and refurbishing public facilities.

We have also identified five streams that feed the Kandy Lake and we are hoping to purify these natural resources because they have been badly polluted. We are working with the Armed Forces, the Police, Urban Development Authority and the Irrigation Department to ensure that these streams are clean with a series of downstream traps to check the water quality at these points. We will also monitor the traps to check which households are polluting the streams and will take prompt action. Raising awareness within the community on protecting the environment and adopting good sanitation and hygiene methods is important.

Development sites

Q: Are there any other development sites taking shape in Kandy?

A: We are planning to build a car park and civic centre near the Avanhala where the Jathika Pola is situated. At the moment, the Pola is not making profits, so we are moving it and turning it into a place for visitors to Kandy.

This is especially for those who canít afford expensive hotel stays. We plan to make it a place for resting so that people can have meals and relax there.

There is an RDA land opposite the General Hospital where small boutiques have sprung up. We plan to turn it into a shopping area and make it more organised. Also, we are renovating the Katukalle municipal building where we conduct workshops so that it can be used for other purposes; we hope to turn it into a shopping area.

Q: What about solid waste disposal management in Kandy? Will the problem be solved soon?

A: We have started removing the garbage bins at all points within Kandy city limits. The reason is that the garbage bins have become a major dumping grounds; they overfill stink and have become a breeding site for parasites and insects.

The 32-acre Gohagoda land served as the Kandy solid waste disposal ground since 1977. Earlier our solid waste collection was privatised, but now we have taken over the supervision of the door-to-door collection. We hope that by the end of the year, the dumping of solid waste will be carried out in an efficient manner without unpleasant smells. We have taken examples from the Balangoda waste disposal system and will implement it in Kandy to solve this issue.

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