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Interview with Omar Kamil, CMC Special Commissioner

POSTED by DINIDU DE ALWIS on JUL 17, 2011 (1)

The Colombo Municipal Council has been running under a Special Commissioner for the
past few years, and whilst the city has seen many improvements over the period, it has not been without its critics. Critics say that the lack of elected representatives in the Council has led to a top-down process of development which is sometimes authoritarian. I spoke to him for The Nation on this, and some questions that were raised on twitter. (Emphasis at the end, mine.) Me: The city of Colombo has been undergoing development and beautification over the past couple of years, but there are complaints that the development and cosmetic changes to the city are focussed extensively on the Colombo 2, 3, 5, 7 areas, with low attention being paid to other sectors. Why is this happening? Kamil: The general improvement in the city in the past has been that the more commercialised areas have always had a better infrastructure this covers the areas of Colombo 3, 5, 7 and Fort. But Colombo has 15 wards, and we have been allocating funds and also attending to the necessary work in all 15 wards. Of course, certain roads in Colombo particularly the Galle Road have seen an improvement. But thats an A1 road, and it needs to be improved. At this very moment, we have started the rehabilitation of Bloemandhal Road, which runs from Armour Street right upto Mutwal. We are moving, from time to time, in different directions. You may see an immediate improvement in the areas that you mentioned, but certainly the CMC will continue to rehabilitate areas which need to be further developed in the near future. Me: The city of Colombo generates a massive amount of solid waste. How is the CMC dealing with the issue of the large amount of waste, and are we moving towards recycling or other forms of waste management as opposed to the currently practised dumping? Kamil: We collect around 750 tonnes of garbage daily and dispose this pile of garbage. Still the process of disposal is through what we call a covered dumping. We have been made available land by the Urban Development Authority in Kolonnawa, and we have been disposing it in a very orderly way, which has not created any environmental hazard or opposition in the way that were dumping. Me: On the same dirty subject, what steps have been taken to minimise the air pollution in Colombo? Kamil: As far as air pollution is concerned, at the moment we have not come to anywhere close to critical levels. Although we have about 200,000 vehicles coming into the city everyday, we

have been fortunate that the pollution levels have been minimised. We are at the same time thankful to the Registrar of Motor Vehicles which has now begun to ensure that vehicles that are more than three years old conform to certain restricted guidelines, where if they go beyond those parameters then they may not be able to get their licences. There is a certain amount of regulation in place so that air pollution level is something we can be to an extent complacent about. Me : With the development of Colombo, there have been a lot of slum dwellers who have been evicted. Which areas are you planning on taking up next, and how do you ensure that these people can continue their lives afterwards? Kamil : I must say that in Colombo we have about 1,500 underserved settlements, wherein about 200,000 people are living. These people are living mostly in the outskirts of the city, in Kirulapone, Mutwal, Grandpass, Maligawatte, et cetera. They are also part of the national economy. These are the people who work in the railways, in Municipal Council, in the construction industry who are working in factories. They are part of the community that lives in these settlements. From time to time, we are taking steps to improve their environment, their basic amenities, their infrastructure facilities, and if the opportunities come to relocate them in more accepted areas, CMC will be happy to work along with the community. We are the first level of local government to the ordinary man, and they turn to the municipal council the moment they have a problem. It is our duty to certainly ensure their welfare is looked into. Me : How long do you see your role as the Special Commissioner being continued for? Kamil : It all depends on the government deciding on when were going to conduct elections. At the moment all the Municipal Councils in the entire country have been granted an extension, and until such time the MC elections are called, I will continue this role. Me : There are a lot of allegations from various parties that the city development has taken a very iron-fisted approach, with minimal public consultation. This matter is exacerbated by the lack of elected representatives at the CMC. How would you respond to that? Kamil : The elected representatives were found to have faulted. It was the decision taken by the independent commission of inquiry that recommended that the Council be dissolved. The situation is such that the elected representatives did not deliver, and there were a lot of allegations of mismanagement at that time. In this past two years, Colombo has been managed without an elected body, Colombo has seen progress, there has been much appreciation and commendation from all sections. There has

not been any justifiably disagreement about the current administration in this council, not in parliament not outside. At the end of the day, public wants services to be delivered. Quality of the service is what matters. There is definitely an improvement in the quality of the service that the people are getting now, than what they got during an elected council in the past few years. Me : In clarification, are you saying that the way the CMC is functioning now is much more effective and efficient than with an elected, representative body? Kamil : At the end of the day, what matters to the ordinary man, is the ends justify the means. If he sees that the service has improved and if he sees that he can get the service that he wants from the council, thats what matters to him. Published on Sunday, 17 July, 2011.
Tagged as B e a u t i f i c a t i o n , C M C , C o l o m b o , D e v e l o p m e n t , E l e c t i o n s , K a m i l , M u n i c ip a l C o un c i l , O m a r + Categorized as J o u r n a l i s m


T says:
July 18th, 2011 at 9:17 am

Hes completely evaded the question on evictions and well, the solid waste bit is just a blatant lie. Is he saying that mountain of garbage is his idea of orderly disposal?

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