Colombo’s Galle Face Green under (de)construction?

With the usual running spot closed for the holidays had to make do with the partially closed confines of Galle Face Green. Galle Face is still my favourite public space in Colombo to get a breath of clean air without the usual automotive perfumes. It is sad to see the place closed off and cut up. With the humans squeezed to the narrow road in front of the Galle Face Hotel and the promenade like algae clinging to a few wet spots off a drying pond. Towards the middle a barely built pier just above the waves. Lining the walk are a scatter of rusting containers (which are used as offices in construction sites). These things add an air of half hearted-ness that also seems to have crept to my google search to get an idea of what’s going on.

It is the “Green” part of Galle Face that is closed. Something to do with legal problems unusual for activities euphemistically called “development”. It had escaped quite dire threats before. A half hearted Google search initially unearthed a few links to the Sri Lanka Urban Development Authority whose website seems to be down as I write this. A post on Sachini Perera’s blog and a Sunday Observer artical linked in a post on confirms that Galle Face is now in the paws of the Sri Lanka Ports Authority which (as I write this) does have a live website . However the SLPA website’s projects page doesn’t contain any mention of work on the Green.

The plans that are on hold seem rather grand. Numerous completion dates are being bandied about on the thread. Inevitably, such things lead to cynical thoughts of kelptocrats, kickbacks, and associated etceteras. BUT humble self is reasonable and sniffs about for the positive. At least there seems to be something green growing in the fenced of part.

As with yesterday, there’s no room (and mood) for running. Just a stroll through the warm wet salty and fresh spray. Served without a price tag and taxes. Between the strollers and the horizon something that might be the Navy is lurks. The sunset takes place behind sulking clouds. Found this picture linked from Indi’s site that depicts the way I prefer to remember Galle Face sunsets.

It is dark by the time we return to the chariot. Takes the best of my third world driving skills to ooze through the crowds and the vehicles competing for parking spots on the hopelessly narrow road. There are a few vendors holding on, with the twirling hand held windmills and food carts (some with lights that look like kerosene lamps). The throng coming in off Galle road seems as thick as the old days. In it is a scantily clad Europeanish tourist (my assumption based on appearance) looking suitably impressed by the exotic east. A talented photographer with good low light reflexes could click a few masterpieces worthy of national geographic. The day before I had a glimpse of the large sign at the intersection that proudly proclaimed the completion date of the project as some time in 2006. Didn’t get to verify it this time as I was too busying guiding the chariot.

The morose tones in this post has a lot to do with the effect of the fencing, the dwindled crowds, and/or the weather – all of which made the whole place seemed smaller. As a I kid there was excitement in the vendor carts (something like this and this) selling kudala to the hiss of Kerosene lamps. There would be kites flapping all the way up towards the Intercon and the green sloping down from Galle road without being throttled by half finished third world style brutalist constructs.

Yes yes I’m no longer 10 and my childish nostalgia is unsympathetic to the complexities and needs of urban development. And given my claim of being reasonable, I should take a more nuanced view of post colonial architecture in a developing economy in a time of yada yada.. Reasonable people are also patient and don’t reach for the placard, the law suit, or the shrill letter to the editor. At least not yet. They also do not start another one of those futile circular tiring conversations or strings of blog comments about the deplorable state of the country. As rational types, they certainly do not got home to repeatedly stick long serrated Tetanus rusted needles into Voodoo dolls. Particularly when such a silly practice is a result of misunderstanding Voodoo practices.

Lastly. they are not insensitive enough to demonise the poor UDA or the SLPA the who seem to have their own problems. All they would hope for is the joy of the green filled with people. Perhaps that is an unreasonable hope. VTD, SLN?TVN?


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