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The State of Sri Lankan Cities Report


Sri Lanka has a population of 21 million people, with only 18% residing in urban areas. According to the World Urban Prospects: The 2014 revision report, the country is one of the worlds’ least urbanized, and by 2050, the nation’s urban population is expected to reach only 30%. Significant challenges remain in the areas of urban planning and design in Sri Lanka, including environment management, strategic city management, land and housing developments, and the management and maintenance of infrastructure. In addition, limitations on the capacity, resources and functions of the Local Authorities delay the formulation and implementation of urban planning.

Data that is currently available on Sri Lanka’s cities is considered insufficient for informed investment and development decisions. As cities grow, it is vital that policy makers and city leaders have access to reliable and verifiable information in terms of urban indicators to support decision-making. While there is considerable information on Colombo and the Western province, other cities lack detailed and composite information. This results in policymakers allocating resources to urgent, short-term issues rather than on long term, progressive changes.

The State of Sri Lankan Cities Report

The Project

This project aims to produce a report on Sri Lanka’s cities, entitled State of the Sri Lankan Cities 2017 Report. To produce the report, the project will collate information, develop composite maps and databases, and build capacity of the LAs to use the data, which will enable better planning and encourage investment towards a better urban future. The State of Sri Lankan Cities Report will present a well-informed and action-oriented analysis of the state of urbanization of major human settlements across the island. It will include quantitative and qualitative city-based data and conduct specific analyses of key national, provincial and municipal urban development issues in the nine provincial capitals in Sri Lanka.

The project also hopes to build the capacity of local authorities to analyse the data and understand the opportunities and potential of the cities to contribute to increased GDP, peace and security, and sectorial development challenges. It is hoped that the databases developed will be extended over time to cover the rest of the 23 Municipalities and 41 Urban Councils in Sri Lanka.


Overall objective: To enable municipal areas in Sri Lanka to become urban centres with increased economic growth, good governance and resilience; with reduced urban and peri-urban poverty; and be habitable spaces to live in.

Specific objective: To improve information and analysis of information on the provincial capitals as the first step in promoting informed and evidence-based policy and integrated city planning, as well as private and public sector investment.

Project Approach

  • Assessing data: The project team will assess the spatial data that is currently available in the selected cities, analyse available data and plan how to address gaps.
  • Capacity building: A needs assessment will be conducted at the start of the project to assess capacity gaps and identify the most effective approach to collect data, update and maintain databases, and carry out analysis. Capacity building on data analysis and updating will be provided for LAs.
  • Data collection: Up-to-date satellite images of all selected cities will be analysed to obtain information on key indicators. Data gathered will be disaggregated by gender and age. Random field sampling will be subsequently used to verify data assumptions and secondary data will be obtained from Ministries and key partners. Primary data collection will be carried out in the capital cities in each province, except in the Western Province, where much of the data is available.
  • Analysis and writing: The key themes for the report will be decided, following stakeholder consultations. Thematic chapters will be developed by the team with the guidance of a Chapter Lead and technical advice from UN-Habitat. The final draft report will be peer reviewed by national and international experts.
  • Printing and launch of report: The completed report will be edited, translated into local languages, and printed. The launch of the Report will be held jointly with the relevant Ministries and key project stakeholders.

Location: 9 Provincials Capital Cities in Sri Lanka

Key Outputs of the project:

  • • Assessment of 9 Provincial capitals in Sri Lanka to provide improved data
  • • State of the Sri Lankan cities publication & launch
  • • Strengthened institutional mechanism and capacity for sustainable urban planning, monitoring and management

Development Partners/Partners

Development Partner: The Government of Australia – Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT)

Partners: Sri Lanka Institute of Local Governance, UDA, Local Authorities of the 9 Provincial Capitals, Asia Foundation, University of Moratuwa

Related Publication

The State of Sri Lankan Cities feature article series provide concise, policy-oriented analysis of key urban development issues facing urban policy makers and planners. The articles are preliminary reports of research activities undertaken by UN-Habitat and partners as part of the on-going State of Sri Lankan Cities project; the themes addressed in the articles will be explored in greater depth in the State of Sri Lankan Cities report, due to be released in 2018.

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