Sri Lanka celebrates ‘World Habitat Day’
October 10, 2017 – Text and pix by P D DE SILVA
“World Habitat Day celebrations would have been more meaningful if every Sri Lankan family had a proper house to live in. There are more than 2.5 million families who do not have proper housing facilities,” said Minister of Housing and Construction at the national celebration of the 31st World Habitat Day held in Matara on 2 October. The theme for the World Habitat Day this year is ‘Housing Policies Affordable Holmes’.
“This celebration would have been more meaningful if we could have provided these 2.5 million families with a suitable dwelling house,” the minister reiterated. “Of these more than 216,000 are homeless and landless families. “It should be a constitutional right that every family unit whose members have voting rights should own a plot of land of their own and have the right to build a dwelling house on it. I believe that this is a right which should be made a constitutional right of every Sri Lankan citizen.”
“The most important part of today’s celebration is the handing over of title deeds to 100 families in the Matara District, housing loans to 1,000 families, providing Sevana housing assistance to 50 families, ‘Viru Sumithuru’ housing assistance to 25 families of war heroes, ‘Sonduru Piyasa’ loan schemes to 100 families and ‘Shilpa Saviya benefits’ to 127 young men and women. These benefits and assistance to the above will cost the Government Rs. 16.53 million which is your own money collected by way of taxes.
Athlete Manjula Kumara who hails from Morawaka was gifted the title deeds and keys to a house worth Rs. 4.2 million situated at Moratuwa by the Urban Settlement Development Authority.
“We have established 464 new villages within the two and a half years we have been in power. We hope to increase this figure to 500 by the end of this year and with the gracious help of the Minister of Finance we hope to achieve our target of 2,500 new model villages by 2020 before we seek your vote again,” the minister pledged.
for the Ministry of Housing and Construction
“I propose to increase the allocations for the Ministry of Housing and Construction in my budget proposals next month,” said Minister of Finance and Media Mangala Samaraweera during his address at the 31st World Habitat Day celebration held in Matara.
Minister Mangala Samaraweera made these comments before Minister Sajith Premadasa said, “I am pleased with the progress and achievements made by the Ministry of Housing to provide suitable dwelling to every family in the country. It was only two months ago that I attended the ceremony to vest the 442nd model village with people and today I am told that the 465th model village is being vested with the people.
“The World Habitat Day was proposed to the United Nation by former President Ranasinghe Premadasa in 1987. Sajith is following in his father’s footsteps and carrying on with his vision of providing shelter for all. More than 223,000 have benefited from the projects carried out by the Ministry of Housing and Construction. Even today more than 1,500 families will benefit by Rs. 16.53 million.”
“Please do not be misled by elements that are trying to create ethnic and religious unrest to destabilise this country. Matara is a unique city where religious and ethnic harmony prevails. There is a church adjoining the sacred Matara Bhodiya while the main mosque is only a few metres away.”
“Some elements are accusing this Government of selling our land to foreign countries. We are not selling our land to foreign nations. I also want to emphasise that it is accepted fact that if a country is to develop it has to attract foreign investment. I promise you that we will revolutionise the development in the southern province within our tenure. We intend to carry forward President J.R. Jayawardena’s visions and develop this country.”
Available housing is beyond the reach
of the houseless
“Today 1.6 billion worldwide live in inadequate housing of which 1 billion live in slums and informal settlements. While millions of people lack suitable homes the stock of vacant houses is gradually increasing,” said Dr. Chanaka Thalpawela Sri Lanka Manager for UN-HABITAT reading out the message sent by Dr. Joan Clos Executive Director of UN-HABITAT.
“An analysis of housing affordability over the past 20 years reveals that despite increasing demand, housing and rental housing has been largely unaffordable to the majority of the world population. Hence this is why ‘Housing Policies: Affordable Homes’ has been selected as this year’s world habitat day theme.
“Priority should be given to address the housing needs of the poorest and most vulnerable especially women, youth and those who live in slums. Promoting sound housing policies is also crucial for climate change, resilience, mobility and energy consumption. Hence we like to remind decision makers that it is important to locate housing at the physical and holistic centre of our cities. As we strive to create cities for all, an urgent action for achieving affordable homes requires a global commitment to effective and inclusive housing policies.”
State Minister of Enterprise development Lakshman Yapa Abeywardena reminisced his memories of President Ranasinghe Premadasa and thanked Sajith for taking his father’s vision of providing a ‘suitable shelter to all’ forward.
Member of Parliament Buddika Pathirana, Secretary to the Ministry of Finance W.K.K. Athukorala, and District Secretary Matara Pradeep Rathnayake addressed the 31st World Habitat Day celebration held at the Jayasuriya grounds in Matara.