I spent a few days here this week attending the Asia Pacific Adaptation Forum. Apparently the Brits called this island the pearl of the Indian Ocean, and I guess there are parts of the country that may still evoke such encomium. But frankly Colombo is, like almost all cities in the developing world, a dump. Striving for GDP growth at all costs third world cities reek of the ugly by-products of "progress." At least this is true outside their rich denizen's compound walls.
This said, there are certainly some dilapidated picturesque sites here and there. The Wellawatta railway station, right on the beach, just across the road from my hotel, is a good example. The nearby post office of the same pleasantly doubly double consonant and alliterated name is too.
|Bored Railroad Clerk and Customer|
|Dilapidated yet Picturesque Wellawatta Station|
|Sri Lanka Letter Box|
|Welcome to the Wellawatta Post office|
|Modernization: Free WIFI and sorted trash|
Japan is precisely the opposite. As far as I can make out they lavish funding on quotidian public works, and clean and maintain them intensely. See for example my recent blog post on public lavatories in the Osaka subway stations. Or how about these incredibly beautiful manhole covers, decorated with egret and stork motifs. This is not an art exhibition, these are sewers!
|Japanese Manhole Cover|
|Another Japanese Manhole Cover|
|Sri Lankan Manhole Cover|
Maybe the key to sustainable development is not the cliche solutions development gurus are always rabbiting on about (money, mainstreaming, technology transfer, knowledge platforms). Maybe it is instilling a culture of appreciation of beauty, precision and maintenance.
I'm doomed to miss my connection in Hong Kong and spend another 8 hours in another airport lounge there waiting for my connection to Osaka. Hong Kong Airport is, like so many others in Asia these days, glitzy and comfortable so that will be comforting. Yet, somehow, simply too boring to spur me to write a blog post.