5th October 2015, Colombo, Sri Lanka: Sri Lanka celebrated World Habitat Day for 2015 at a National event held at the Maligawattha Housing Scheme in Colombo. The event, which drew the participation of over 2,000 community members, was organized under the patronage of the Hon. Sajith Premadasa, the Minister of Housing and Construction. The Minister of Megapolis and Western Development, the Hon. Patali Champika Ranawaka, Deputy Minister of Housing and Construction, the Hon. Indika Bandaranayake and the Chief Technical Advisor of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), Mr Tim McNair, also participated at the event. Representatives from key housing and urban sector agencies in Sri Lanka and private sector organisations were also present. This important national event marked the beginning of a week-long celebration which focuses on this year’s World Habitat Day theme, “Public Spaces for All”.
The Chief Guest at the event, the Hon. Sajith Premadasa, highlighted the Government of Sri Lanka’s commitment to upgrading low income settlements within the city of Colombo as well as a nationwide effort to provide permanent housing solutions to thousands of residents who do not have permanent homes. Addressing the gathering, the Hon. Patali Champika Ranawaka highlighted the importance of accounting for the needs of all communities and planning for sustainability in developing cities and the Megapolis in the Western Province of Sri Lanka.
Mr Tim McNair shared the UN-Habitat Executive Director’s message with the gathering. Emphasising the importance of public spaces in urban areas, he stated “Public space is a vital component of a prosperous city. Well designed and managed public space is a key asset for a city’s functioning and has a positive impact on its economy, environment, safety, health, integration and connectivity. The quality of life for people in cities is directly related to the state of its public spaces.”
The event featured several cultural presentations by local school children emphasising the importance of community spirit and national unity. The event concluded with the handing over of prizes to school children for art and essay competitions and house ownership deeds to 1,000 residents.
A number of subsequent national events have been planned by the Ministry of Housing and Construction to celebrate World Habitat Day 2015 and Urban October.