An increase in the number of people moving to urban areas, population growth and a lack of government planning and investment, has led to an increase of informal settlements and overcrowding in existing settlements in Sri Lanka. With no secure tenure of land, many poor people have no affordable alternative but to illegally occupy government land, leaving them vulnerable to eviction.
Sri Lanka’s urban informal settlements are characterised by poor quality housing and inadequate water, sanitation, drainage and solid-waste infrastructure, resulting in pollution, ill health, and poor social wellbeing. In Colombo, Sri Lanka’s capital and largest city, around half of the city’s 650,000 residents live in informal settlements: 33 per cent have limited access to clean water and 39 per cent have limited access to a decent toilet.
Homeless International has worked directly in Sri Lanka since 2007, supporting the local organisation Sevanatha. Before then, we supported Sevanatha’s post-tsunami reconstruction work through a regional network of non-governmental organisations and community groups, the Asian Coalition for Housing Rights (ACHR). Much of our work in Sri Lanka has been focussed on the long-term redevelopment of housing and water and sanitation infrastructure in tsunami-affected areas.
We are currently working with Sevanatha to develop a Colombo-based initiative. This initiative aims to establish a citywide civil society network, helping more poor communities to work together to upgrade their settlements and push for pro-poor changes in government policy and practice.