Almost all the premier educational institutions in the island are located in the western province. Universities in the province include the University of Colombo, the University of Sri Jayewardenepura, the University of Kelaniya, the Open University of Sri Lanka, the Sir John Kotelawala Defence University, the University of Moratuwa and the Sri Lanka Institute of Information Technology. The Western Province also has the largest amount of schools in the country.
The western province consists of three districts: Colombo, Gampaha, and Kalutara.
Colombo District is 642 km2 in area and its main city is Colombo. The other popular and important cities in the district are Dehiwala, Nugegoda, Maharagama, Homagama, Avissawella and Moratuwa. The Kotte Urban Development Council that was created in the 1930s with a modern building at Rajagiriya has been succeeded by the Kotte Urban Council, a large extent of which was removed and tagged onto the Colombo Municipal Council, ward of Borella, while the Battaramulla Urban Council was dissolved and a small extent of Battaramulla was tagged onto the Kotte Urban Council. The Kotte Urban Council turned to be the Sri Jayawardanapura Kotte Municipal Council in 1997.
Dehiwala-Mount Lavinia is a newly created city lying immediately south of Colombo. It is the result of certain key urban suburbs and communities being combined for administrative purposes. The centres include Dehiwala and the beach resort of Mount Lavinia. It is also home to Sri Lanka’s National Zoological Gardens which remains one of the Asia’s largest. Dehiwala and Mount Lavinia lie directly south of Wellawatte along the Galle Road artery which runs alongside the coast to the south of the country. It is one of the most liberal regions in Sri Lanka and plays host to the island’s annual Rainbow Kite Festival.
Gampaha District is 1,386.6 km’ in extent and its main city is Gampaha. Other popular and important cities are Nittambuwa, Wattala, Ja-ela, Negombo and Veyangoda.
Gampaha is an urban city situated north of Colombo and separated from Colombo by the River Kelani. The name “Gampaha” in Sinhala means “Five Villages”. This city is located in the centre of the Gampaha District and is about 4 kms from Miriswatta on Colombo-Kandy Road. It is surrounded by Yakkala, Miriswatta, Weliweriya Udugampola and Ja-Ela towns.
In the recent years, Gampaha has undergone rapid development, many new shopping complexes, roads, bridges and flyovers have been constructed. Private institutions have been behind most development programmes in that area.
Another district of the western province is Kalutara which is 1,606 km’ in extent and its main city is Kalutara. The other important and popular cities in this district are Panadura, Beruwala, Aluthgama, Horana and Matugama.
Kalutara is a resort town located approximately 40 kms south of Colombo. Once an important spice-trading cantre, the city’s name is derived from the River ‘Kalu’. In the 11th century, the town was temporarily made a capital on the order of a South Indian Prince. The region was later planted with coconut trees, of which by-products are used for both internal and external trade. The location also boasts fortifications dating back from the times when Portuguese, Dutch and British vied for control of the area. The 38-metre long Kalutara Bridge was built at the mouth of the River Kalu and serves as a major link between the country’s western and southern border. At the southern end of the bridge lies the 3 stories-high Kalutara Vihara, a Buddhist temple built in the 1960s which holds the distinction of being the only hollow Dagoba in the world. Yet another famous historic temple built in 1873 in Kalutara is the Asokaramaya Buddhist Temple situated in Kalutara north.
The Kaluthara district is the south most district of the western province.
Text by Neil Kiriella