The ancient drainage system in Colombo should be brought under the Department of Archaeology, we reckon. Chief City Administrator of the Colombo Municipal Council Omar Kamil has told this newspaper that when the existing drainage system was built way back in 1938, there were only 80,000 residents in the city and it has not been developed the way it should be in keeping with massive increases in population over the past seven decades or so. He says there are about 700,000 people living in Colombo at present besides a transit population of about 600,000.
Colombo`s drainage system has gone the same way as our railroads which have not been expanded but reduced in length since the British left us to our own devices way back in 1948. We have had several governments of patriots by patriots for patriots condemning colonialists at every turn but all of them have miserably failed to solve our drainage or sewage problems. We are still dependent on the much maligned foreigners to fix them for us. So much for the progress of a nation that boasts of an ancient hydraulic civilisation!
One of the biggest flaws of this country is its phenomenal predilection for anything mega from cheap soap operas to development projects. Time was when we took pride in the fact that we had some of the biggest factories in this part of the world. But, they are `rusting in peace` today. An expressway is being built to link Matara to Colombo and the second `international airport` is on the drawing boards while many existing roads including the one between Colombo and the only international airport get flooded bringing vehicular traffic to a standstill. `International stadia are coming up even in hinterlands while the accesses to the ones in the city become impassable even during a light shower.
What the Chief City Administrator says of the drainage system in Colombo is no revelation. That it is too old and dilapidated to cater to an ever expanding city is only too well known. He has said he has been in office only for six months he cannot perform miracles and therefore the blame for this sorry state of affairs should not be laid at his doorstep. But, we do hold him too responsible for the unholy mess we are made witness to in that he is a former Mayor of Colombo.
The blame for floods in the city should be apportioned to each and every government that has ruled this country during the past few decades as well as all CMC administrations. However, that is no reason why the situation should be allowed to deteriorate further. It is incumbent upon the present government to take action to develop the network of drains in Colombo before undertaking any more mega pet projects elsewhere.
True, other parts of the country, too, need development as much as Colombo but if the government continues to neglect the country`s commercial, financial and administrative hub and its suburbs in this callous manner it might as well forget its plan to make Sri Lanka Asia`s Miracle.
Let the bottom line be that a modern drainage system should be built urgently in Colombo. (It may be named after some egoistic politician, his grandpa or his granny.) Piecemeal remedies, however necessary they may be in the short run, will not help solve the problem, which cannot be wished (washed?) away.