|Surface area (sq km)||65610||2014|
|Population (proj., 000)||20811||2016|
|Pop. density (per sq km)||331.9||2016|
|Capital city||Colombo||2015||Colombo is the capital and Sri Jayewardenepura Kotte is the legislative capital.|
|Capital city pop. (000)||707||2015|
|Population growth rate (average annual %)||0.5||2010-2015|
|Urban population growth rate (average annual %)||0.8||2010-2015|
|CO2 emission estimates (000 tons/tons per capita)||16025/0.8||2013|
|Population using improved drinking water sources (urban/rural, %)||98.5/95.0||2015|
|Population using improved sanitation facilities (urban/rural, %)||88.1/96.7||2015|
|Urban population ('000)||3,375||3,667||3,967|
|Level of urbanization (%)||18.5||18.4||18.4|
|Urban Gini Coefficient||0.51||2012c|
|Urban poverty headcount ratio based on national poverty lines||2.1%||2012|
Sri Lanka’s Country Report for Habitat III is produced after the installation of a new Government in January 2015 only a few years after the cessation of a protracted civil strife that lasted for nearly 30 years. Except for some of those of the Eastern and Northern Provinces who fled to other parts of the country during the civil strife returning back to their homes, no other drastic changes in the internal migration pattern have been observed. The population growth is one of the lowest in the region and urbanization in terms of increase of persons living in areas designated as ‘urban’ has a pattern of its own, which some perceive as low with the population of Colombo City actually decreasing. The state of human settlements is reviewed against this background.
Urban Demographic Issues and Challenges for a New Urban Agenda
The first and foremost challenge for a New Urban Agenda is the definition of ‘urban’ and ‘urbanization’, the use of which would be the ultimate tool to manage urban areas; tackling urban demographic issues will solely depend on the practicality of these definitions. Closely following is the mammoth task of healing the social, psychological and physical wounds left over by the civil strife. Integration of women-headed families and families with physically disabled male members is a daunting activity needing a very sensitive approach. Some of these families are returning to find severely damaged houses and villages, and the need to bring them back to the original or a better state is of paramount importance. The inter-urban migration that has been happening all the time needs to be considered as well. The high proportion of these migrations emanating from the central province alone could be a concern although from an environmental point-of-view it is a welcome move.
Sri Lanka’s urban-rural linkages have been getting stronger during the last few decades owing to the village-based development programmes of the government; the village reawakening programme and rural-empowerment programme have revitalized the rural areas and the concurrent infrastructure development and service centre development programmes have strengthened urban - rural ties thus retarding rural-urban migrations to a great extent. However, administrative lapses and inefficiencies inherent in the public sector have diminished the effectiveness of several progressive legislation aimed at improving the socio-economic and physical environment of the people especially that of the disabled, the aged, the youth and those who are living in disaster-prone areas. The proposed Western Megapolis Plan could catalyse some rural-urban migration, which could be detrimental to the urban fabric unless properly managed.
Demographically, the country is moving towards a female-dominated aged population. The New Urban Agenda will need to cater to that scenario too.
Land and Urban Planning: Issues and Challenges for a New Urban Agenda
Sri Lanka’s planning system is relatively strong at macro levels; however at micro levels several defects are observed; mainly it is the implementation strategy that needs to be reviewed afresh. However since at local authority level, planning is not genuinely decentralized and even where it is , the local authorities are not technically capable to undertake such tasks, micro level planning appears to be ad hoc and fragmentary. In regard to urban land management interactive plan implementation is almost absent. Negotiations with investors and private sector to maximise public benefits, which could accrue from a project, is not generally the norm. Coupled to this is the issue of urban mobility, which is not yet considered as part of zoning or land use, planning. The phenomenal increase in private car usage, which contributes to traffic congestion in cities, is a direct result of such oversight. It has also been observed that the lack of proper planning at micro levels and commitment to effective implementation of planning at macro level have led to gradual incursion of human settlements into forests and agriculture areas resulting in environmental problems as well as increasing animal-human conflicts.
Environment and Urbanization: Issues and Challenges for a New Urban Agenda
The national physical plan has given policy and planning guidelines to respond to effects of climate change; it has also identified environmentally fragile areas of the country exploitation of which will have an adverse bearing on the food and water security in the future. On the other hand, the quality of air has been below critical levels in all areas of the country. The contribution of the country towards GHG emissions has been negligible and Sri Lanka is among the few non -polluting countries in the world. However this situation may be slowly changing with the development projects being undertaken at present. The confronting of environmental issues while catering to the development pressures in a small island with a relatively high population density is a challenging task. The proposal of the national physical plan to develop high density cities at strategic locations and low density villages among a protected area network could strike a balance between conservation and development. Continued monitoring of development activities vis-à-vis the national physical plan is an essential condition for the envisaged benefits of the plan to be realized; however, that kind of total commitment has not been observed in recent times.
Urban Governance and Legislation: Issues and Challenges for a New Urban Agenda
The Constitution of Sri Lanka is presently under review; new thinking on decentralization and devolution are emerging at various discussions. The strengthening of local authorities is also in the agenda and some changes to the framework in which local authorities are functioning and their relation to provincial and central government is likely to undergo changes. A new system of planning covering all levels has already been submitted for consideration. The present planning system already has certain built-in safeguards related to human rights; but the new system is expected to enhance those rights. The constitutional provision that the powers already enjoyed by local authorities cannot be reduced or removed will ensure that the changes will further strengthen local authorities; whether there would be a corresponding and substantial increase in the capacity of local authorities is a matter of concern given Sri Lanka’s centre-oriented state structure.
Urban Economy: Issues and Challenges for a New Urban Agenda
There are wide disparities in the financial position of local authorities; the financial outreach of the Colombo Municipal Council cannot be matched by all the local authorities put together in most of the provinces. Most of the time, the development projects implemented by the central government, especially settlement projects are eventually handed over to local authorities to be maintained; the result being the local authorities being saddled with additional maintenance costs that they can hardly bear. Even in the City of Colombo the government is the largest investor, the private sector failing to perform at the expected level; hence local economy is determined by the priorities of the central government and most of the local authorities play only a marginal passive role. In regard to creation of decent jobs, there appear to be no concerted effort to explore fresh streams of employment potential; rather, the government is forced to negotiate with foreign countries especially those in the Middle East and Korea for employment opportunities at lower levels. The recent development of IT industry has been an exception with the government facilitating most of the infrastructure and the global IT industry percolating into local soil.
The need to integrate local economy into national development policy cannot be over-emphasized. Irrespective of the planning source, the local authority should be a key partner in the implementation mechanism. The challenge of a New Urban Agenda is to make sure t hat it becomes a reality.
Housing and Basic Services: Issues and Challenges for a New Urban Agenda
Access to adequate housing has been a government priority ever since in 1978 Sri Lanka proposed to the United Nations that an international year of housing be declared. The International Year of Shelter for the Homeless was accordingly declared in 1987. The programmes aimed at uplifting the living conditions of people centred on housing development from that time onwards have paid rich dividends looking at the performance of Sri Lanka. The availability of potable water, sanitation, drainage, clean energy and accessibility to urban amenities is higher than many countries in the region. However, there is room for many improvements, especially in regard to community housing, housing finance and access to land. The National Housing Policy has also identified several non- conventional needs of housing such as rental housing, over-night stays, etc.
The New Urban Agenda needs to consider moving up to the next level of development where quality of housing is to be enhanced; the UN declaration of human rights and other related policy documents identify security of tenure, access to public services, access to environmental assets, affordability, priority for the needs of vulnerable groups, proper location, compatibility of the use of materials, structure, space with the occupant’s culture, all as constituting the notion of adequate housing. However the Sri Lankan approach to a New Urban Agenda would also consider the inclusion of some sensitive but essential aspects of being people-friendly; these would include the right to physical and emotional well-being, right to public and private open spaces, the right to interact with nature, right to natural light and fresh air; it may even include the right to dignity, privacy, the right to age with dignity, right to hope and joy.
The challenges are many and some are of vast scale requiring meticulous but flexible planning if the country is to steer safely through the challenges of a globalizing and an urbanizing world in the face of unpredictable effects of climate change.
The present government, which came to power in January 2015, has focused on the management of Urban Growth in the context of increasing trends of urbanization in the country. A Ministry for the development of the Western Province Megapolis has already been established and a Western Megapolis Authority, as the institution responsible for planning and managing urban growth in the Western Province is to be established in the near future. This new initiative of the government is intended to make the future urban growth more equitable and inclusive. The Government of Sri Lanka is committed to pass on to future generations, an urban society that can sustain them in harmony, an urban society rid of shameful poverty, discrimination, an urban society at peace with the environment and with itself.
Urban housing indicators
People living in slums (%)
Urban population with access to adequate housing (%)
Basic services and infrastructure
Urban population with access to safe drinking water (%)
Urban population with access to adequate sanitation (%)
Urban population with access to regular waste collection (%)
Urban population with access to clean domestic energy (%)
Level of effective decentralization
Share of both income and expenditure allocated to local governments from the national budget (%)
Indicators for urban policies, legislation and economy
Local authorities having implemented urban policies supportive of local economic development and creation of decent jobs and livelihoods (%)
Local authorities having adopted or implemented urban safety and security policies /strategies (%)
Local authorities having implemented plans and designs that are inclusive and respond to urban population growth adequately (%)
Share of national gross domestic product (GDP) that is produced in urban areas
Habitat III Plenaries
Intersessionals: Informal Intergovernmental Meetings (May 2016)
- Statement - 18 May (by Thailand) - English Made by Thailand on Behalf of G77 and China
- Statement - 18 May (by Jamaica) - English Made by Jamaica on Behalf of G77 and China
- Statement - 19 May (by Jamaica) - English Made by Jamaica on Behalf of G77 and China
- Statement - 19 May (by Kenya) - English Made by Kenya on Behalf of G77 and China
- Statement - 20 May (by Jamaica) - English Made by Jamaica on Behalf of G77 and China
- Statement - 20 May (by Thailand) - English Made by Thailand on Behalf of G77 and China