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Tackling the Traffic Congestion Issues in Colombo

Tomohiro Ono, Advisor (JICA Expert) for the Improvement of Metro Colombo Urban Transport Network

Suddenly, my eyes were glued on one sentence in the document.

The "Colombo Urban Transport Master Plan" is a significant example of how countries are integrating messages from previous forums and the resulting declarations on EST in long-term plans for incorporating low-carbon transport.

The above statement was clearly mentioned in the Chair's Summary of the Eighth Regional EST (Environmentally Sustainable Transport) Forum in Asia which was held from 19 to 21 November 2014, at BMICH (Bandaranaike Memorial International Conference Hall), Colombo.

It was the moment of delight for all the staffs of the Ministry of Transport (MoT), Sri Lanka who has been involved in the 2 year study supported by JICA to formulate the "Colombo Urban Transport Master Plan". It was our moment to feel the certain reaction that it had been accepted by the international community.

I had been working as an "Advisor (JICA Expert) for the Improvement of Metro Colombo Urban Transport Network" for 1 year and 9 months in MoT, and I couldn't help to be moved to tears. So, here we are, after all of the hardness we faced during the process of the study. I remembered the days I challenged together with the Oriental Consultants Global team members to gain confidence from not only Secretary and the staffs of MoT but also from the Steering Committee members [1] and other related organizations.

Preparing for this kind of International Forum was also a new experience and a difficult one for the MoT staffs.

"My manuscript is there on the page of Welcome Messages for Hon. Minister Kumara Welgama!", Ms. Kumari the second year staff shouted with surprise. She was smiling with pride to see the result of her hard work. She also arranged everything for the evening reception on Day 2 of the Forum.

Mr. J.M. Thilakarthna Banda, Additional Secretary- Acting (Planning), and I joined the Plenary Session 5 to make presentations related to "Colombo Urban Transport Master Plan" for both MoT and JICA, and to participate in the following Panel Discussion. We had series of meetings when we were preparing the slide materials for the presentation. Even on the previous day, Mr. Dhammika Perera, Secretary of Transport called us to have a 2 hour meeting for the final checking on the slides including Ms. Damayanthi who belongs to the Research Unit of MoT. Improvement was done until the final moment based on the comments made from the Secretary.

Actually, Mr. Thilakarathna and his staffs in the Planning Division was the main counterpart for me from the first day I had started his work in Sri Lanka. They expressed opinions on how the Plan should be formulated using the scientific data collected through the Home Visit Survey, the first large scale survey done in Sri Lanka with 31,000 households samples.

They also went to see and learn the cases of other countries aggressively such as Japan, Malaysia, India, Viet Nam, etc. The Plan was created through these process and effort.

The closing of the Forum was also produced by Mr. Thilakarathna. Once finding that the Hon. Minister cannot come to the closing ceremony, he had immediately started to think of the speech which he had anticipated that he had to deliver at the end. I, as an advisor made some suggestions how the contents of the speech should be but not everyone can improvise a speech manuscript like him.

By preparing and attending this Forum, MoT staffs have certainly raised their capacity. As an Advisor (JICA Expert) for MoT, I am so proud of their growth.

Even though it is expected that we will face lots of challenges to implement and realize the Colombo Urban Transport Master Plan in the coming future, I am sure that our team in MoT will overcome those issues.

As the member of Ministry of Transport, we will do our best to tackle and solve the traffic congestion problem in Colombo.

PhotoMr. Thilakarathna making a presentation

PhotoMr. Ono making a presentation

  1. Presentation on "The Way Forward – Colombo Metropolitan Master Plan and Areas for International Cooperation"
  2. Presentation on "Sustainable Transportation and Climate Change Co-benefits –Activities of JICA-
  3. Colombo Urban Transport Master Plan (PDF/52.9MB)
  4. Eighth Regional EST Forum in Asia (external link)


  • [1] Steering Committee members for the Plan consists of 15 members in total. They were Ministry of Transport, Ministry of Defense and Urban Development, Ministry of Highways, Ports and Shipping, Ministry of Private Transport Services, Ministry of Environment, Department of National Planning, Department of External Resources, Urban Development Authority, Road Development Authority, Sri Lanka Transport Board, Sri Lanka Railways, Western Provincial Council/ Provincial Ministry of Transport, Colombo Municipal Council, Sri Lanka Traffic Police, and JICA.


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