4.4 “Kulam” (pond) rehabilitation
Mannar Island had more than 70 ponds (“kulam”: sizeable water bodies) that were the natural drainage system for the low-lying island. Successive governments and residents encroached upon the ponds, filling them in for the construction of housing. The result has been serious annual flooding throughout the urban area. The remaining dozen or more ponds are mostly polluted and disused. The proposal was to rehabilitate the ponds and transform them into attractive recreational precincts in a town with little open and recreational space.
In partnership with the Urban Council, the volunteers conducted several community meetings with the many pond and foreshore project stakeholders. For the pond these were: St Xavier’s Catholic Boy’s School principal, staff and students, Hindu residents, Muslim mosque members and local residents. For the foreshore development these were: local traders, fisheries officers and fishermen, and Mosque trustees.
Several meetings were held with the staff and engineers of the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) resulting in an agreement that Diaspora Lanka’s planners will be responsible for designs for the Nedunkulam Pond based on community wishes and that UNOPS will fund and undertake the earthworks, drainage and landscaping. If successful, this partnership will be extended to cover the rehabilitation of two additional ponds.
The planners completed their pond designs, which were welcomed by most of the community. Regrettably, late in the piece, the school, which borders the pond, withdrew its support as it wants to capitalize on any lands nearby for future school expansion. The Government Agent of Mannar has decreed that all ponds in Mannar come under the jurisdiction of the Urban Council which wants the ponds project to proceed. The Lands Officers of the District Secretariat are willing to ensure the project goes ahead. Further negotiations are now needed.
4.5 Digitizing the land use survey
Almost a year after completion of the land use survey by 22 Mannar youngsters, trained by the NPPD and UDA, a set of digitized maps has now been produced that captures the layers of information needed for the Mannar Development Report. Town Planner, Joy Pratheevan and Diaspora Lanka Officer, Kelvin Fernando worked tirelessly to complete this pain-staking work. Joy and Kelvin met most nights after their primary jobs to undertake this task, frequently working past midnight. This labour of love has produced up-to-date and essential maps.
4.5 Urban development “lockdown”
Looming deadlines for the Mannar town plan galvanised Diaspora Lanka into proposing a three day “lockdown” to produce an overall urban development concept for Mannar that would address major issues including drainage, roads, transport, areas of future settlement and town centre redevelopment. The concept was discussed with UDA’s Director of Development Planning and NPPD’s Director General who both gave their approval. Steve Dunn, National Director of the Planning Institute of Australia, came specifically to Sri Lanka to facilitate this three day “lockdown” workshop. Eminent Sri Lankan urban designers and architects, Colombo-based town planners, local technical officers, UNOPS engineers, Urban Council Vice Chairman and residents all worked hard to develop an overall concept plan for Mannar and structure plans for the various sectors (ie, infrastructure, economy, social and environmental.
• Digitize the maps and drawings from the workshop for the report.
• Write up the material from the workshop.
• Integrate the “lockdown” material into the Mannar Development Plan Report.
How you can help
• Consider volunteering for the next Knowledge Transfer. We need urban designers, landscape architects and drainage/water engineers.