A Starry Guide to Ribbon Urban Development in South-Western Lanka

Rohan Gunasekera, 1 October 2015, from http://www.economynext.com/New_urban_agglomeration_emerging_in_southern_Sri_Lanka-3-3136.html, where the title is New urban agglomeration emerging in southern Sri Lanka”

NIGHT-TIME LIGHTS   Satellite image of night-time lights showing how urbanisation has spread (Source-World Bank)

 ECONOMY NEXT – Sri Lankan cities are more liveable than others in south Asia but it has the fastest urbanisation rate with new agglomerations emerging in southern Galle – Matara in addition to the existing one around Colombo, the World Bank said. “We begin to see in Sri Lanka not only the growth of individual cities but multi-city agglomerations,” said Ede Jorge Ijjasz-Vasquez, senior director of the World Bank.
Cities are being connected with ‘ribbon growth’ along road connections between cities, he told a forum where the World Bank’s new report on urbanisation was launched. There is rapid growth of urbanisation along the periphery of cities like Colombo and other regional cities and their transport arteries.

“We see the emergence of the Galle-Matara agglomeration,” said Ijjasz-Vasquez. “A network of cities is beginning to form which needs a very different way of looking at urbanisation in Sri Lanka.”
How groups of cities are connected, the ways in which corridors grow and way in which regional development takes place matter to the island’s economic growth. “It is a fantastic opportunity if managed well,” said Ijjasz-Vasquez. “Sri Lanka is a country that has urbanised fast and well and has a large urban population. Therefore it is important to make the right choices today to propel country forward.”

The report, ‘Leveraging Urbanization in South Asia: Managing Spatial Transformation for Prosperity and Livability’,  draws on night life data derived from satellites to show the growth of urbanisation. It said Sri Lanka had the fastest expansion of urban area relative to urban population, with a ratio of more than seven. While the country’s total urban area grew at a rate close to that for the region overall, its urban population growth rate was much slower than for the region overall. “The rapid expansion of urban area relative to urban population reflects the sprawl and ribbon development that are characteristic of Sri Lanka’s urban development,” the report said.

The report said a multicity agglomeration is a continuously lit belt of urbanization containing two or more cities, each of which had a population of at least 100,000 living within its administrative boundaries in 2010.
(Colombo/October 01 2015)

 An ADDITONAL MEMO from Michael Roberts:

Mohan Samarasinhe’s comment in response to this graphic presentation by Rohan Gunasekera says that Sri Lanka needs, now, to devote attention to the development of the north. This comment is well-intentioned, but marred by a highly “presentist reading” of the striking map highlighted above. The heavy urban growth you see TODAY is not just a product of the post-1948 era. On the contrary, it is an outcome of

A = the population distribution that the British found when they took over and compiled the first censuses in 1814/16 and 1824/27.

B = the road and rail network the British colonial dispensation developed in the 19th century (see Fig 2).

C = the opportunity structure and processes of capitalist and middle class formation in the British colonial period and, thereafter, in the era of independence (see Figure 3 compiled by Percy Silva and Kusuma Gunawardena, Dept of Geography C’bo). Indeed, Mohan is from down south, but was educated in Colombo and has a pad there while living abroad. He is one dot in the elements charted by Percy and Kusuma.

Incidentally the fact marked by A above was the result in its turn of the “drift to the southwest” from the 12/13th centuries, the growing importance of the spice crops and coconut in the south western parts of the country and the migration of people from Kerala and southern India to the south western parts of the island (here referring to those who became segments of the Karava, Salagama and Durava communities as well as the Bharatha, Colombo Chetty and Moor communities).

I note too that the rail network and educational facilties helped the upper castes of the Jaffna Penisula to prosper, while the flow of peple to the north central regions revealed in the 1971 chart was aided by both the rail network and the colonisation schemes of the post-48 era.  Moreover, the Pooneryn bridge and improved road to the Jaffna Peninsula along the northw estern coast, seconded by the renovation fo the Jaffna rail line and A9 road must surely be assisting the north…. NOW. Alas it dos not mean that the hearts and minds of the Tamil intelligentsia will follow the road and rail.

2 = Road & rail Network

1=1971 Internal Migration


Filed under economic processes, landscape wondrous, modernity & modernization, sri lankan society, the imaginary and the real, working class conditions, world events & processes

4 responses to “A Starry Guide to Ribbon Urban Development in South-Western Lanka

  1. Mohan Samarasinhe

    This is a wonderful but it will be a good thing for Sri Lanka’s future if development of this magnitude is created and encouraged in other parts of the country, the North and East in particular, to stop the criticisms directed towards the Sinhala majority government.

  2. A NOTE FROM Professor Gerald Peiris: “Michael,
    I agree. What you have added completes the background.
    About the night lighting photograph, however, I should add that the amazing upsurge of domestic electrification (9.1% of households in 1971, with even the ‘Urban Sector’ having only 34.5% of the residences ‘electrified’) to 92% of all households (including those of the ex-war zone) in 2014 is why the satellite image looks so colouful. It must have been the cloud cover that reveals the interior consisting of many Areas of Darkness (to borrow from Naipaul).

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