Sri Lanka’s Army, Navy and Air Force offices in Colombo are being moved to a massive 48-acre complex at Akuragoda in Pelawatta, Battaramulla, opposite the present Army Volunteer Force Headquarters, making way for the Colombo city development programme.
The Urban Development Authority (UDA) has started clearing the area to begin the construction work. According to official sources, the Army, Navy and Air Force headquarters and several of its Colombo establishments will be housed in one area at Akuragoda with preliminary plans already drawn up. Several other administrative offices were also being shifted to the Sri Jayawadenapura, Kotte area.
At present around 500 acres of prime land are occupied by the armed forces with the country’s five star city hotels, banks and commercial buildings clustered in the same area. This area will be cleared for the proposed US$ 500-million tourism zone in Colombo's Beira Lake area with a US $100-million hotel-casino complex.
The Shangri-La group based in Hong Kong is to be given the land housing the present Army Headquarters and military sports ground in Colombo to build a US $75 million luxury hotel and apartment complex. The armed forces occupy prime property in Colombo City and this perhaps was a legacy from British regime when Colombo was a garrison city and at the same time was the principal port and administrative centre, the sources said.
President Mahinda Rajapakse placed the UDA under the command of the Defence Ministry as part of the City of Colombo Development Plan to attract investors and tourists. The plan was initially drawn up in 1999 and re-announced in 2008, but shelved because of the opposition of shanty dwellers, who make up nearly half the city’s population. The government has already launched the Colombo city development programme aimed at making Colombo an International Business Centre and Financial Hub integrated with Tourism and Accommodation Facilities. Measures have been taken by the UDA to clear shanties where 66,000 families live in Colombo’s prime lands in an extent of 450 acres and use such land for other purposes.