The Elders of Colombo

The Elders of Colombo

This photo-story explores perspectives on Colombo through the eyes of some of its older residents. While none of them are famous or influential public figures, the people in this story all hail from various backgrounds and professions, and have lived through decades of watching the city morph and change around them. View full feature...
World Class Spaces: Coming soon

World Class Spaces: Coming soon

Slave Island (or Kompannyaveediya as the locals prefer to call it), among the most culturally rich neighbourhoods in Colombo, it is also one of the most commercially lucrative. In the post war years, the residents of Slave Island have seen their more than century long idyll being disrupted in massive upheavals as a state driven projects have sought to wrest away the land from them in a bid to beautify and ‘modernise’ Colombo. Neighbourhoods like Mews Street have experienced violent, forcible evictions by a militarised Urban Development Authority, while other neighbourhoods like Station Passage have faced a more humane State, albeit temporarily. The acquisition of Java Lane, a densely populated, historic, largely Malay Muslim neighbourhood, is a case in point which illustrates the single minded approach of the gentrification drive, blind to the loss of intangibles such as community, shared culture and human co-dependencies. The people however, have not been taking all of this sitting down. Through the valiant efforts of local community activists and their supporters, the citizens of Slave Island have been determinedly fighting for their rights. While deals struck with large corporates who pay big sums of money for hugely subsidised prime land appear to be honored to the letter, the Government’s promises to the people of Slave Island hide massive injustices under a barely-legal façade of fairness. View full feature...
Evicted Under The World Bank’s Watch

Evicted Under The World Bank’s Watch

Sway produced by Iromi Perera and Selvaraj Rajasegar for CPA in July 2015. ***** This is the story of 91 families from St. Sebastian South Canal in Colombo 12, Sri Lanka. In late 2013, they found out that they were going to lose their homes due to the rehabilitation of the St. Sebastian canal under the World Bank funded Metro Colombo Urban Development Project. The families had not wanted to move away to the new housing being given to them. Their new homes were in newly built high-rise apartments in the outskirts of Colombo and the families had instead asked for housing closer to their original homes so that their livelihoods and children’s schooling would not be disrupted. They had made clear their opposition to the proposed location at awareness sessions held in January 2014 by the then Ministry of Defence and Urban Development, the authority handling all development work in Sri Lanka after the Urban Development Authority was brought under the Ministry of Defence in 2010. The community had continued their opposition to relocation and even voiced their concerns at the site office located in the community, which was also functioning as a grievance redress mechanism. However, they suffered the same fate as thousands of other people who were forcibly evicted from their homes by the Urban Development Authority since 2010. In September 2014, the 91 families shifted to Methsara Uyana, an 11 storey apartment complex with 718 apartments, officially declared open on October 27 2014 by former President Mahinda Rajapaksa. View full feature on...
From Shanty To Home

From Shanty To Home

The Centre for Policy Alternatives continues to document and support communities in Colombo who were forcibly evicted or relocated under the previous Government’s Urban Regeneration Project, which was carried out by the Urban Development Authority and the then Ministry of Defence and Urban Development. Thousands of families living in the UDA built high rises continue to live in hope that the new Government and UDA leadership will provide them with better solutions and justice for what took place under the previous regime, while their living conditions and quality of life continue to deteriorate. This photo essay by Abdul Halik Azeez commissioned by CPA looks at the lives of residents in two complexes – Methsara Uyana and Sirisara Uyana. Located in Wanathamulla, these two complexes have around 1100 apartments in total and had families from all over Colombo relocated there in 2014. The size of an apartment is 400 square feet and families have to pay one million rupees over thirty years in order to get a deed. This is irrespective of whether families had deeds to their original location or not, and those who did have deeds were not compensated for their acquired land. Visits to the two complexes for this photo essay took place in late May 2016, a week following the floods. View full...