Drainage and housing solutions for a
flood-prone town

A planning team comprising 2 engineers, 2 town planners and a landscape architect connected very deeply with the community of Santhipuram where, over a month, they developed drainage and housing options for hundreds of families whose houses are flooded each year for one to three months because of sea level rising and rain.

Julia Hurley is a Planner in Spiire's Geelong Office.
See the story at Spiire click here

Santhipuram: From Hardship to Heroes
A Drainage, Housing and Village Improvement Plan
July 2014

Santhipuram project


To see the detailed draft plan click image at left

9MB PDF document

Land survey

Land survey


Digitizing the land use survey

Eighteen months after completion of the land use survey by 22 Mannar youngsters, a set of digitized maps has now been produced. The Land Use Survey Report captures the layers of information needed for the town plan currently under development.

The digitized maps were handed over to the Urban Development Authority who were keen to incorporate them into the Mannar Urban Development Planning Report. Town Planner, Joy Pratheevan and Bridging Lanka Officer, Kelvin Thomas worked tirelessly to complete this pain-staking work.

Joy and Kelvin met most nights after their primary jobs to undertake this task, frequently working past midnight. This labour of love has produced up-to-date and essential maps. The original young survey assistants were trained by National Physical Planning Department’s Town Planner, Prabakaran Ponnuthurai.

PIA National Director, Steve Dunn

Urban development Urban development Urban development

Urban development “lockdown”

Looming deadlines for the Mannar town plan galvanised Bridging Lanka into proposing a three day “lockdown” to produce an overall urban development concept for Mannar that would address major issues including drainage, roads, transport, areas of future settlement and town centre redevelopment.


The concept was discussed with UDA’s Director of Development Planning and NPPD’s Director General who both gave their approval. Steve Dunn, National Director of the Panning Institute of Australia, came to Sri Lanka especially to facilitate this three day “lockdown” workshop.


Eminent Sri Lankan urban designers and architects, Ashley de Vos and Lalith Muthukumarana, Colombo-based town planners, local technical officers, UNOPS engineers, Urban Council Vice Chairman and residents all worked hard to develop an overall concept plan for Mannar and structure plans for the various sectors including infrastructure, economy, social and environmental.

Pond Pond Pond Pond

“Kulam” (pond) rehabilitation

Mannar Island had more than 70 ponds (“kulam”: sizeable water bodies) that were the natural drainage system for the low-lying island. Successive governments and residents encroached upon the ponds, filling them in for the construction of housing. The result has been serious annual flooding throughout the urban area.


The remaining dozen or more ponds are mostly polluted and disused. The proposal was to rehabilitate the ponds and transform them into attractive recreational precincts in a town with little open and recreational space.


In partnership with the Urban Council, the volunteers conducted several community meetings with the many pond and foreshore project stakeholders. For the pond these were: St Xavier’s Catholic Boy’s School principal, staff and students, Hindu residents, Muslim mosque members and local residents. For the foreshore development these were: local traders, fisheries officers and fishermen, and Mosque trustees.


Several meetings were held with the staff and engineers of the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) resulting in an agreement that Diaspora Lanka’s planners will be responsible for designs for the Nedunkulam Pond based on community wishes and that UNOPS will fund and undertake the earthworks, drainage and landscaping. If successful, this partnership will be extended to cover the rehabilitation of two additional ponds.

Town Planning

Mannar Town Plan

Bridging Lanka (BL) worked closely with the Urban Council Mannar (UC), Urban Development Authority (UDA) and the National Physical Planning Department (NPPD) to develop a people-centred town plan that incorporates Government plans for this urban precinct and will serve the residents of Mannar well into the future. This project is supported by Planning Institute of Australia members.





Knowledge Transfers

Bridging Lanka brought 10 Australian planning professionals (town planners, landscape architects, urban designers, social planners) to lead community consultations and produce detailed drawings for two significant town plan projects - ponds rehabilitation and foreshore development.



The Melbournians, members of the Planning Institute of Australia, and staff of private sector agencies Tract and Capire, contributed their expertise. The teams also visited the UDA office in Jaffna, assisting their staff write the Mannar development reports. While in Colombo, they were hosted to breakfast at the residence of the Australian High Commissioner to Sri Lanka, Robyn Mudie.




Land use survey

Met with the Mannar Urban Council Chair, Vice Chair, Secretary and Council Members to update them on the town planning process and flag the recruitment of 22 Mannar youngsters for the Land Use Survey and negotiated with UDA and NPPD to conduct a two day training session in Mannar

Advertised, interviewed and recruited 22 youngsters to undertake the land use survey, organised the land use survey training and recruited a town planner to direct the daily survey tasks during the three week period.


Meeting with the Minister

Negotiated meeting with UDA Directors, Director General NPPD, town planners and the Minister for Industry and Commerce with the Mannar Urban Council to discuss a staged process for the town plan

Invited the Mannar Urban Council Chairman, Vice Chair, Secretary and Technical Officer to Colombo to attend the meeting with Minister Rishad Bathiudeen and bureaucrats to increase their awareness of the town planning process.

Planning Committee

Mannar Planning Committee

Convened the inaugural Mannar Planning Committee attended by the Director General NPPD, Director UDA, local technical experts and the UC Members and staff. This committee will be responsible for the development of the Mannar Town Plan Discussed the new initiative of planning for a Greater Mannar City which would extend the current urban boundaries and respond to the anticipated future expansion of the area Commenced process to have this committee recognized at the national level.