2.0 Urban Low Income Sector in Sri Lanka
The island of Sri Lanka lies close to the equator and just off the southern tip of India, in Indian ocean. Therefore,it experiences a tropical climate which is hot and humid.
The port of Colombo which is located along the southwestern coast is the commercial capital of Sri Lanka. Until recently it was also the administrative capital and still houses many government institutions. Being a primate city, most of the industries are still located in and around the city.
Colombo Urban Area (CUA) consists of fifteen local authorities with an estimated population of 2.1 million (1991). Data on population and projected population growth in local authorities of CUA are given in annex one. According to the Department of Census and Statistics, population would increase to 2.37 million in 1997 and 2.6 million in 2002. A phenomenal growth rate and high population density were discovered during 1971 to 1991 in a majority of local authorities in the CUA. While the density for all of Sri Lanka was only 230 persons/s.km. density for the CUA was 7844 persons per s.km. and 16,380 persons /s.km.for Colombo Municipal Council in 1991.
Acute problems arisen from the urbanization in Sri Lanka are confined mostly to Colombo and to its surrounding areas. Most significant problems are solid waste, deterioration of water quality, flooding and stagnation of water courses, air pollution, the environmentally poor housing, loss of natural resources and traffic congestion. Most parts of CUA are flat topography with an elevation from 0 to 20 meters from mean sea level. City of Colombo is located to the south of Kelani river which has intersected the CUA into a Northern and a Southern parts. The area of CUA, south of the Kelani river has an integrated system of canals and lakes which mainly serves as a storm water drainage system. The inland wet lands and low lying lands constitute a major part of the land use in the CUA. 40% of the population in CUA are low income earners who are mostly living in temporary make-shift structures (shanties) on low lying lands. Poor people who are living in low lying areas are badly affected by the environmental pollution.
According to the studies carried out on poverty situations in Sri Lanka more poor people live in rural areas rather than in urban areas. However, sometimes, urban poor suffer more than rural because of the lack of access to land, acute shortage of basic services and environmental pollution. According to the field survey carried out by Urban Development Authority in 1979 there were 256,470 population constituting 43 percent of the city population lived in slums and shanties. Since data is not available for all local authorities in CUA, the situation is presented below only for Colombo city.
The presence of large number of slums and shanties is taken as a visible index of city poverty. Slums and shanties in Colombo are considered as poor urban areas.
The government had launched several development programs to improve the living condition of low income people specially in the CUA since 1970. The public sector housing programs implemented until 1984 were to construct new housing units for slums and shanty dwellers and to increase the owner-occupied low income housing stock through legislative mechanisms.
The Million Houses Program (MHP) implemented between 1984 to 1989 changed the role of the government in housing development from provider to enabler. It was a national program which focussed mainly on rural and urban poor. The program consisted of several sub programs. The lead agency which was responsible for implementation of rural and urban housing sub program was the National Housing Development Authority (NHDA). The Urban Housing Sub Program (UHSP) was implemented in all urban areas in the country with the support of urban local authorities (ULAs). The UHSP was the most effective housing program implemented in low income areas in CUA. This program had been designed to provide assistance for low income families to resolve land tenure problems, to obtain housing loans at low interest rates and to provide basic environmental services such as water, sanitation, access roads, electricity and community centres. Technical and financial assistance were given to ULAs by the UNICEF under its Urban Basic Services Program (UBSP) through the CMC and the NHDA. United State Agency for Intentional Development (USAID) supported the NHDA for housing loan program.
The public sector housing programs had several significant achievements during the last four decades. Specially under the MHP, more than 60% of families in low income settlements had obtained the ownership of land. Households in 120 settlements in Colombo Municipal area had obtained land user rights under these public programs. The government had developed appropriate planning and infrastructural standards which were affordable to many low income families.
But in early 1990s a number of issues were identified at settlement level as well as with the existing projects and programs. NHDA under its UNCHS supported community participation training program had conducted about 88 community workshops in low income settlements in CUA during 1992 / 1994. Community groups with local authority officials have identified the following as major problems in urban low income settlements.
a) Household level
* Lack of toilet facilities
* Lack of safe drinking water
* No drains for waste and surface water discharge
* No environmentally sound shelter - lack of ventilation, lights, privacy and safety and indoor air pollution
* Lack of space and no proper mechanisms for solid waste disposal
* Insecurity of land tenure
b) Neighbourhood and community level
* No pipe born water supply
* No sanitary excreta disposal system
* No proper solid waste disposal system
* No proper drainage system
* No proper roads and streets
* Lack of recreational areas and library facilities
* Lack of enforcement of planning and building regulations
c) Program and policy level
In 1993 the Ministry of Housing, Construction and Public Utilities has identified following as major issues with regard to the existing urban housing programs in the country.
* poor linkages and lack coordination between programs of central and local governments.
* limited coverage
* inadequate funds available for housing loan program and the provision of public infrastructure for low income settlements in the CMA
* lack of attention for community management
* limited absorptive capacity of many local government institutions and
* inadequate community and NGO participation and
* too much dependency on the state and grants.
According to the above information Solid waste management has been a major environmental issue at household level as well as neighbourhood and city level.