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Development for whom? Reimagining urban development in Colombo, Sri Lanka


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Across the globe urban landscapes are being reshaped. Cities are being re-created to provide better housing, traffic flow, and shopping and recreational experiences. In Sri Lanka, post-war ‘development’ is reshaping Colombo, the capital city, to attract new capital for economic growth, which is underpinned by idealised images of a sanitised, safe and orderly city. It is thus cleansed of the old ‘undesirables’ — settlements and informal trading displaced to make way for new capital in redeveloping and upgrading to a ‘world class’ city, in which land and housing becomes increasingly unaffordable for the majority. While recognising that developing the city is indeed a potential engine of economic growth and a lever of social transformation, how does one reimagine the city in order to construct processes that generate as well as distribute the city’s wealth? To engage with the question, the Centre for Poverty Analysis hosted a symposium in December 2012 on ‘Reimaging Development in Colombo’. This paper will draw out the main issues discussed, which highlighted the increasing disparities of wealth and opportunity and the necessity for spatial equity in access to land and housing to ensure more inclusive urban development.

Keywords: Sri Lanka; public spaces; reimagining development; urban development; world-class cities

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2015

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  • Journal of Urban Regeneration & Renewal is the essential peer-reviewed journal for all professionals concerned with physical, economic and social regeneration of urban communities. It publishes in-depth articles and real world case studies on the latest strategy, policy making and current and best practice in the field. Guided by its expert Editor and Editorial Board, each quarterly 100-page issue does not publish advertising but rather in-depth articles written by and for urban regeneration professionals analysing current and best practice in the planning, consultation, funding, delivery and long-term management of regeneration programmes, as well as the latest policy making, developments and research in the field.

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