Colombo, Development, Disaster Management, Politics and Governance

Colombo goes under water, and not for the first time

These pictures were taken between 10.00am and 11.30am on the 14th of May 2010 after Colombo experienced rains for about 2 hours. It speaks volumes of the continued failure of the CMC to deal with drainage and flooding issues for the last 20 – 30 years.

Furthermore, I was trying to get from my house to work and the following roads were blocked due to flooding,

  1. Duplication Road
  2. Reid Avenue
  3. Horton Place
  4. Both Viharamahadevi – Museum Roundabouts
  5. Thurstan Road
  6. Thunmulla Junction

It continues to rain and Colombo continues to flood!

View Colombo flooding in a larger map

Update, 15 May 2010: Taken by Deshan Tennekoon, more photos of the flooding published on Groundviews here.

  • Pearl Thevanayagam

    If I recall correctly it was on May or June 05, 1992 that Colombo went under flood waters and Vivienne Guanardene was evacuated by Colombo Mayor Ganeshalingam, her neighbour,
    who went to her bedisde to rescue her.
    Minister Sellasamy provided Pajeros to Daily News to record the event.
    Colombo 7, Rajagiriya and Maradana were flooded out.
    The short-sightedness of a booming hotel industry was blamed for the building of tourist resorts along mangroves along the Northwest and Western coasts which resulted in the deluge at the time.
    Economic progress should not preclude natural barriers to disasters such as floods. Also sandfilling mangroves encouraged endemic diseases such as malaria and typhoid due to proliferating anophilles mosquitoes chased away from their natural habitat of swamps stretching from Chilaw to Matara.
    It is all very well to encourage entrepreneurs in the hotel industry but nature has a way of striking back when its balance is disturbed.
    Modern developments for economic progres should not ignore nature.

  • Yes, this is not the first time. And surely it won’t be the last time too. These things will continue like this until people realize that they are cheated and they raise against the political elite. And that too is far away.

  • Magodis

    When it rains this hard, no city’s drainage can cope with it. Cities are designed to handle a certain range of weather and not rare, extreme weather. In any case, CMC is not the only party responsible for draining Colombo’s rain waters.

    Why must Groundviews blame even such acts of God on the government/CMC? Are you turning out to be more and more like The Sunday Leader for which everything that goes wrong in the country is the fault of the Rajapaksa family?


    CMC Officials turned a blind eye to repeated reminders. Forwarding herewith a copy of the letter addressed to Colombo Municipal Council and other officials.

    Registered post.
    December 18, 2009.

    The Chief Municipal Engineer
    Colombo Municipal Council
    Town Hall

    Dear Sir,
    Municipal Drain runs on the boundary of the Premises assessment numbers
    87/1 and 91 Dudley Senanayake Mawatha. Colombo 8

    We have on numerous occasions in the recent past brought to your notice about the grave inconvenience and serious health risks that we owner residents have to put up with as a result of arbitrary blockade of the Municipal Drain by the

    1) Title-holder of the residential premises no; 30 Shady Grove Avenue . Colombo 8
    2) Title holder of the residential premises no; 32 Shady Grove Avenue . Colombo 8
    3) Title holder of the residential premises no ; 34 shady Grove Avenue Colombo 8
    Please note that no 2 and 3 of the aforesaid premises are occupied at present by
    No 2) by a Leaseholder in carry on with a spiritual interest group
    No 3) by a leaseholder carry on sale center of the Micro Cars Limited.

    November 17 and 18 2009, heavy rain not only caused disruption to normal life but severe hardship too, to many people in and around Colombo Municipal area and catastrophic consequences to residence in the aforesaid premises.

    Premises Number 87/1 referred to above, went under waste water floods due to the reason that the municipal drain runs parallel to the border line of the property overflowed. Resultant Waste Water rose to a level of 2 feet, forced occupants, including a long-suffering very old owner occupant of the house to be relocated in a nearby home and occupants to continue their daily life in an inescapable and unhygienic conditioned. The flood water remained contrary to the weather being improved on the 19th of September because the free flow of waste water down the Municipal drain was blocked at random by the owners and occupants of the aforesaid premises.

    This is not a new experience that we have encountered. Over the last few years we have brought to the notice of Municipal authorities about the above grievances and aggravate and unendurable civic injustice perpetrated on us by the aforesaid residents. The deliberate action to willfully blockading the free flow of waste water down the Municipal drain by the aforesaid residents has caused us indescribable hardships and exposed us to grave health problems since stagnated waste water breed mosquitoes transmit dengue and other infectious deceases.

    The odour and the polluted foul smell emanate from the stagnated municipal drain may not seems to be a concern for the perpetrators and those unscrupulous owner and occupants of the said premises since they have covered the total area of the municipal drain with cement boards and blockade drain at random preventing free flow of storm water.
    The owners of the premises no. 32 had not only blocked the drain but they have put up temporary structures over it as well. Premises number 34 Shady grow occupants recently covered the entire drain with cement slabs and over it constructed a stage to exhibit their automobiles to entice the passing by commuters and pedestrian on the Dudley Senanayake Mawatha. The toilet constructed without prior permission from the Municipality in the said premises have had allowed the human solid and liquid waste into the blocked Municipal Drain.
    All of us occupants in the said 87/1,87/1A ,87/1B, 87/1C, 87/3 ,87/4, 87/4,1/1 87/4-1/2 , 89 , and 91 premises had to be treated for life threatening disease dengue, Chikungunya , and some members of the family in the 87/1 continuously suffering aftermath of the dreadful disease Chikungunya.

    Spreading infectious diseases and failure eradicate the Malaria mosquito menace not only caused human misery but consequential to national misfortune it also has embarrassed the Government in power. It is most opportune time the Municipal authorities deem to act without any delay in eradicating the root cause of the disaster and arrest the problem before it becomes a tragedy.

    We are forwarding the above facts for your urgent attention and hopethat the fundamental principles of justice and fair play would prevail, and that you will take appropriate action immediately to
    1) Take away temporary cement pads and some unauthorized and unlawful structures on the municipal drain.
    2) Put a stop to any human solid and liquid waste entering into the municipal drain at the aforesaid points and places.
    3) Allow free flow of storm water to run down the municipal drain without any blockade in order to eliminate overflows and inundation.
    4) Make possible the sun light (natural light) penetrate into the drain sans any barriers of unlawfully constructed structures and roofs over the municipal drain thereby aid elimination of harmful bacterial growth, naturally, environmentally sustainable manner.
    Thanking you,
    Yours Truly.

    Shelton Dharmaratne.
    87/1 Dudley Senanayake Mawatha.
    Colombo 8.
    Tele. 112 686213

    Copies to;
    Special Commissioner, Colombo Municipal council.
    Chief Medical officer do
    Director/engineer – Water supply and drainage board.

  • CW

    Is this also Mahinda’s fault?

  • Raf

    Drainage has been ignored by Sri Lanka in the name of development not only on Colombo but in all other cities. This is one of the reasons why mosquitoes and descease plague every nook and corner of our nation. Every little town has open drains filled with litter and stagnant water. The stench is unbearable. People walk arould these places as if this is the way towns are meant to be. All water ways are used as dump sites by industries and householders. Some people even direct their sewer outfalls into these water ways without any consideration for fellow human beings who bath and wash their clothes in these polluted waters. Unless we protect our precious environment it will make us a very sick people.

  • Assas

    Please do not worry Land Reclamation and Development Coorportaion will fill some more lands and distribute amoung politicos and supported public servents and genarl public can have more floods in future. Please see if any body interested the flood management plan available in the Department of Iriigatipon. Being trying to stop unauthorised filling I had to leave Country for fear of life. What the genarl public who suffer with flooding shall organise and demelish all those big houses in Kirimadala Mawatha, Asiri Hospital and soem in and around Colombo 7 and other araes.

  • Kanishka Ratnapriya

    Its amazing how people jump to politicized conclusions on something as trivial as our own streets flooding. It shows how polarized our community has become. I’m not blaming the MR regime for this! I’m blaming the CMC who were told year after year under multiple administrations to deal with flooding issues and have failed, year after year.

    Its kind of frustrating.

  • Observer

    Note that there aren’t floodings in other countries… This is a unique phenomenon only witnessed in Sri Lanka. Kanishka, [Edited out] I will try and find you a city in this world that won’t disrupt your life even 1 out of the 365 days due to any circumstance! So you can carry on you perfect life blissfully in perfect order with no disruptions. If I never get back to you, you will know why. Because no city is built perfectly!

  • Pearl Thevanayagam

    Some 80,000 dislocated due to the persistent rains. The warnings came 20 years ago if not before.

    The government should re-think its strategy of economic advancement to compete with other Asian economic powers and retain its own environmental balance.

    There were environmental experts who have been sounding the warning signals for a very long time but post 1977 these warnings have gone unheeded and now we are paying the price.

    Sri Lanka is but a small island paradise, but it should not give in to short term boom such as tourism industry which only reaps rewards for major conglomerates and not the rightful citizens.

    We should listen to environmental experts and pay heed to their advice.

    Otherwise we too could suffer the fate awaiting Bangladesh or Maldives.

  • Dr. H.M. M. B. Seneviratne/ disman

    We have to transfer ourselves from Relief management to Disaster management and Disaster Management should be the realm of the Properly qualified Disaster manager, not a group of people who think disasters cannot be managed

  • Kanishka Ratnapriya

    Dear Observer, I hope your house gets flooded.

  • Observer

    I know my house will get flooded one day again. It has happened. Who knows it may even burn down one day. I only hope we can all get out in time without harm.

  • Pearl Thevanayagam

    Floods are what nature brings when mankind ignores nature’s warnings. Unlike wars floods can be curtailed with some forward thinking and unselfish planning.

    But who wants to listen to environmental experts and disaster management consultants when short-term profit motive of entrepreneurs take precedence over sense and sensibility.

    And the capitalist government would move heaven and earth to bring in much needed kudos in th form of toursim industry and CIC chemicals which pour in toxic effluvia into Colombos’ waterways and allowing flood waters to cog our drainage system.

    After all this govt. has to placate China, Pakistan, India, South Korea and of course the UK and US who would bring in their new-fangled theory for the economic upliftment of this island and to hell with long-term environmetal sustainability.

    After all did we not denude our natural forests for tea so that the British empire could make its mark as the sole exporter of tea where they colonised.

    Now the ad jingles say Yorkshire Tea? When did Yorkshire grow tea?

    We sold our patent of neem and gotulola to Germans. While Thailand with UScollaboration are marketing all their horticulture we are still teetering on marketing our indigenous produce while they are fresh!!

    Waitrose, the Quen’s spermarket sells a sweetless 100gm papaya at £2.00 while Sri Lankans let te brids peck away our fruits.

    While we pay obeisence to the West and let them plunder our wealth and our patency we remain a backward economy thanks to our politicians who would continue to let the West dictate our economic policy.

  • From November, 2015: After the torrential downpour, most of the roads near Thunmulla Junction last night were completely under water. Havelock Road was impassable for anything other than a good SUV or 4WD. This was shot down Philip Gunawardene Mawatha, outside the Colombo University.