OMLANKA

Making Asian cities livable for the present, future is the challenge before us: Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe

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Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe has observed that the challenge before leaders is to make the Asian cities livable for the present and the future. The sustainable development of our globe depends on whether we succeed or fail.

He also hailed Singapore as a prime example of a well-managed metropolitan environment that has shown a path to successfully build large yet livable cities.

He made these observations delivering the Keynote Address under the theme "Livable and Sustainable Cities of the Future: Transcending Challenges of the Anthropocene." The Prime Minister said he used the term "Anthropocene" to describe the times we live in because it is an era indelibly shaped by human activity. The Summit also incorporates the CleanEnviro Summit and the International Water Week.

In his address, Premier Wickremasinghe said: "Urbanization has been a transformative trend that has propelled economic growth.By bringing people and enterprises together, large cities have become centres of industrialisation and modernization. They have reaped the benefits of economies of agglomeration. When firms and workers cluster together there is improved productivity and job creation. Mega cities have gone one step further: they have become highly productive centres which connect workers and businesses with global markets. Cities, therefore, have become hubs of wealth creation, attracting waves of people with opportunities for advancement not available in their villages.

In Sri Lanka, the key thrust of the initiative will be the Western Megapolis and the two connecting corridors which will cover nine million people. The Southern corridor will include three large eco-friendly Tourist Resorts of over 500 acres each in addition to a fully restored Galle Heritage Fort.

We will aim for maximum livability by implementing sewerage and solid waste projects, an Eco Zone, and Riverine Buffer Zone Development. The plans include the development of the ports of Colombo and Hambantota in the South. The new landfill adjacent to the Colombo Port is planned as an offshore Financial Centre.

Four Special Economic Zones will provide the infrastructure for industry. Plans for the megapolis were prepared by Surbana Jurong and the Ministry of Megapolis are in the initial stages of implementation.

I can see a future where a sprawl of mega urban centres stretches from Beijing to Bangkok to Jakarta to Mumbai.Although cities across Asia are growing apace, only three (Singapore, Tokyo, and Kobe) are in the top 50 of the Mercer Quality of Life index. Colombo was the highest ranked South Asian city, but still only stood at 137 out of 231 cities. At least 15 Asian cities are in the bottom 50 of this ranking."

Prof. Maithri Wickremesinghe and Ministers Rauf Hakeem, Sajith Premadasa and Malik Samarawickrema also were present at the occasion.

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