Our Rathu Sahodarayas coined a very ingenuous slogan in the late 1980s to highlight the glaring urban bias in the allocation of State resources kolombata kiri, gamata kekiri (milk for Colombo and melon for the village). But, today, under the present political dispensation, the reverse of that catchy slogan seems to be true. Colombo is getting all the kekiri whereas kiri is flowing to Hambantota etc.
Time was when terrorists used to bring Colombo to a standstill at will. Terrorism is a thing of the past but Colombo is not yet free from trouble. It still gets paralysed from time to time not because of terrorists but at the hands of weather gods, who with a downpour render roads in Colombo impassable, as we saw last week for the umpteenth time. Several roads linking populous suburbs to the city also go under water. Perhaps, the worst affected is the Colombo-Horana artery. But, nobody seems to care!
Sri Lanka aspires to be Asia`s Miracle. There is nothing wrong with thinking big. But, the question is how this country could achieve its dream of conquering Asia without first being able to keep Colombo`s roads passable during showers. Will investors or tourists want to wade through dirty water to Colombo to spend their hard-earned money?
What causes some parts of Colombo to be flooded? Elementary, my dear Watson! The drainage system is faulty and the canal flow is slow. Chief City Administrator Omar Kamil says Colombo`s canals cannot take rainwater to the sea swiftly and the attendant delay causes floods. We do not want him to tell us the causes of `flash floods` in the city. Any ninny is aware of them! What the public wants to know is how the CMC and the government propose to eliminate those causative factors once and for all without attempting piecemeal remedies.
Pavements in Colombo have been cleared of unauthorised structures much to the relief of the public in spite of protests from some quarters. And, now, the government should have a careful look underground and take steps to clear the drainage system of blocks and to effect repairs wherever necessary.
The Urban Development Authority has been placed under the Defence Ministry. Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa is one of the key government figures who deserve the credit for unprecedented military successes in the jungles of the Vanni but he runs the risk of failing in the city streets as his urban development project is sure to come a cropper with Colombo becoming waterlogged during a few hours of rain. So much for the success of the government`s infrastructure development drive!
It takes time to rehabilitate crumbling drainage systems, one may argue. But, has the government at least given serious thought to that task? Preoccupied with its mega development projects in Hambantota, where all roads now lead, it does not seem to be interested in infrastructural development elsewhere. It is trying to build a sprawling airport in that part of the country, while there is no decent roadway between the country`s only international airport and the capital!
The International Indian Film Academy Awards ceremony is scheduled to be held in Colombo in early June and the government is planning to host more international events here to boost the country`s image and promote tourism. If Colombo is to experience rains in June and the government does nothing to prevent flash floods, perhaps Colombo will have the biggest tourist attraction of the millennium with so many foreign film artistes having to attend the the grand event in swimsuits!
If the government cannot prevent floods in the city, it should get the CMC to put up, at entry points to the city, during rains, hoardings that read, `Welcome to Colombo, change into your swimsuit!`