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Reading: Squandering Opportunities: Sri Lanka’s Overlooked Development Potential


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Squandering Opportunities: Sri Lanka’s Overlooked Development Potential


Nihal Perera

About Nihal
Nihal Perera is Professor of Urban Planning at Ball State University, as well as the founder and Director of the CapAsia immersive field-semester in Asia. In addition to the USA, he has taught in Germany, Hong Kong, India, Italy, Myanmar, and Sri Lanka. The two-time Fulbright Scholar awardee: to China (2006–07) and Myanmar (2015-16) was also Senior Research Fellow at the National University of Singapore (2010) and has received three Fulbright-Hays awards. Perera‘s research, as a leading scholar of social space, focuses on how ordinary people create and negotiate their own spaces. His publications include articles on feminizing the city, competing modernities in Chandigarh, competing visions for Dharavi and books entitled Decolonizing Ceylon (OUP 1999), Transforming Asian Cities (Routledge 2013; Co-eds with Tang), and People’s Spaces (Routledge 2016).
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Let me begin by asking:

If people have to spend hours in buses, if the bus plays loud and annoying music and does not stop for the passengers to get off, if women/girls have to constantly defend themselves from men/boys on buses and in public spaces and are restricted to particular places and times, if men are afraid to go out at particular times and visit certain places, if people are stressed out, constantly struggle to get before the other, and not reluctant to look down upon others due to ethnicity, caste, class, sex, or political allegiance, if parents have to be vigilant of their kids, if citizens bribe to get ordinary work done, if education requires tuition classes and spending the whole day, if getting the doctors attention requires paying, and if national leaders get enormously rich after they assume public office, is this development? Would building dams and highways, cleansing areas of the poor and the powerless, beautifying and gentrifying urban neighborhoods, and/or building megapolis develop such society? Who benefit from such projects?

How to Cite: Perera, N., 2016. Squandering Opportunities: Sri Lanka’s Overlooked Development Potential. Bhumi, The Planning Research Journal, 5(1), pp.30–43. DOI:
Published on 25 Dec 2016.
Peer Reviewed


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