MARCH 13, 2024 | Colombo Urban Lab
Colombo Settlements Survey 2023

Colombo, March 14, 2024 – SEVANATHA Urban Resource Center and Colombo Urban Lab are pleased to announce the launch of the Colombo Settlements Survey Report for the year 2023, in collaboration with the Colombo Municipal Council. The report provides the latest data on all 1360 urban settlements in the City of Colombo, with key findings and recommendations. The Colombo Settlements Survey is the third iteration of the Survey, which was previously conducted in 2002 and 2012 by SEVANATHA in collaboration with the Colombo Municipal Council. The survey collects data on key indicators including tenure, access to basic services and level of housing development as well as on the socio-economic aspects of the settlements. Consecutive crises such as COVID-19 and the economic crisis have had a disproportionate impact on the urban poor, and as such there is a need for research that seeks to better understand and contextualise low-income communities in Colombo. This data is crucial in ensuring that policy initiatives for improving the lives of the urban poor are grounded in the lived realities of those communities. 

The report found that Colombo has a unique pattern of low-income settlements that does not conform to sprawling slums and shanties that are seen in other cities in the region. Settlements are small and fragmented in nature with a majority of settlements having 10-20 houses. Settlements with over 200 houses accounted for only 2.8% of all settlements. A majority of low-income settlements in Colombo are fully upgraded, and therefore should not be included in the definitions of slums or shanties. Characterisations of these settlements as “underserved” are also inaccurate as the majority of settlements receive service provisioning. Over 97% of settlements have individually metered water and electricity, and in 80% of settlements a majority of households have individual toilets. While settlements achieved high scores for physical infrastructure indicators, they fared worse for social indicators, with low rates of community savings and credit schemes, and a lack of community centers and active CBOs. In addition, access to recreational space was very limited with only 4% of settlements having an open space within the settlement.

Commenting on the release of the report, Iromi Perera, Director and Founder of Colombo Urban Lab stated, “It is extremely important to note that working class settlements in Colombo are quite different to other cities in the Global South in terms of the state of their physical infrastructure and characteristics. The fact that over 90% of Colombo’s settlements can be classified as permanently upgraded is also testament to the hard work and investment of working class communities who not only consider Colombo their village, but also have incrementally built and improved their housing over time.”

Read the Colombo Settlements Survey 2023 report here.

If you would like a hard copy of the report, please email us at [email protected]

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