Urban Wetland Park (Nugegoda).

The architectural highlight of Nugegoda – Colombo’s favourite centre of cheap clothes and choking traffic – has ceased to be its arching flyover. Strange as it may sound, there really was a time when residents were atwitter with excitement at the rising curlicue of concrete stretching across that brief section of the traffic-ridden Highlevel road.

However, as of just a few days ago, Nugegoda has also become home to an urban wetland park – the government’s attempt to breathe life into the town’s close knot of concrete-happy architecture. Amidst the fumes and noise of the dusty Nawala Road now lies an 18 acre reprieve of freshly reclaimed land. Consisting of cycling and jogging paths, fountains and benches, and even an old army tank – for children to clamber over – this water and walkway recreational space finally provides Nugegoda residents with a place where they can, well, chill.

Unfolding over a long strip of land, peachey-white sand paths are fringed by lush greenery, twisting along the wetlands to offer the picturesque solution to exercising, courting and relaxing in the city. Whether going for an evening stroll or umbrella shaded tryst, this definitely beats hopping manholes and dodging buses on the Highlevel Road – or lingering down residential lanes for alone time with a lover.

Right now the park is very new, ergo untouched by vendors selling ice cream or those flashing gadgets that whirr and whizz through the air. There’s not a great deal to do beyond walking around not inhaling exhaust fumes – nowhere to grab a Fanta or some wade – but it’s likely that’s going to change soon. Apparently a floating restaurant (?) is on the way.

As with the beautification projects in Battaramulla (The Diyawanna Walkway) and Independence Square, the park provides a much needed public space for nearby residents – the sheer crowd milling across its sandy paths only two days post-opening shows just how much. With a few more benches and places to eat, the place could be great. The wetland park has quite literally changed the face of the town overnight. From its former existence as an unlovely tangle of ill-planned shops and houses, there’s finally something pretty in Nugegoda – somewhere to go besides McDonalds.

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