Right to Information Transparency and corruption in public service

Lotus Tower; why isn’t it open?

K. Prasanna

The Lotus Tower located on D. R. Wijewardhana Mawatha, Colombo 10, stands at 350 meters. Built at a cost of $104 million it is considered the highest such tower in South Asia. However, the tower remains unutilized at present. Even though work on the tower was supposed to be completed by 2015, for reasons unclarified, it remains incomplete even today. The tower was originally meant to provide broadcasting facilities to 50 television and 35 radio channels. It was also expected to support the development of tourism. However, the promise of Colombo’s picturesque view from the Lotus Tower still remains an illusion.

The construction of the Lotus Tower started on 12 November 2012. After payment of Rs.560 million as an interest for loans taken for its construction, the government has made no apparent income from the tower. The project was initially expected to be completed in 912 days before, at the contractor’s request, the contract period was extended from 2012 to October 2017. Meanwhile, other shortcomings such as the lack of a proper feasibility study, questions over land acquisition, failure in taking action over some transactions related to elevators and stairs, as well as a delay in the construction’s contract and a limiting of the loan amount were identified by a study conducted by the Auditor General’s Department.

A right to information application (WSWF 2020F16) filed to the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission of Sri Lanka (TRCSL) inquired about the tower’s being handed over for public use. Although President Maithripala Sirisena declared the Lotus Tower open on 16 September 2019 it was later closed again for construction work. According to the letter by the contractor to the project engineer on 30 May 2019, construction was set to be completed between 3 June and 27 June 2019. But, after the tower was opened it had to be closed again as the construction work was deemed incomplete. 

TRCSL has stated that the tower doesn’t incur on the commission a monthly cost. Therefore, it can be assumed that no work is being done on the tower at present. Tenders have not yet been called for hotels, shopping complexes or companies to place their services and businesses in the tower premises. Therefore, no income is obtained from the tower at the moment. However, the tower’s electricity bill continues to be paid using public money. At the same time, no staff has yet been appointed for the maintenance of the tower. At present, it is managed by the planning division of the TRCSL.

In addition to the facilities for 50 television channels and 35 radio channels, the tower also contains a shopping complex on the first floor, banquet halls on the third and fourth floors, and a rotating restaurant on the sixth floor. It also includes a conference hall with 400 seats, luxury rooms, hotels, and a telecommunication museum. A park has been set up in the 10 acre land of the tower premises. Below the ground level, the tower contains four floors. It is complete with express elevators which can reach the 85th and 90th floors in two minutes. There is little doubt of the tower’s being an asset and a source of income if it was opened for the public and enterprises.

Even though it is said that the Lotus Tower will only be used by Sri Lankans and will be used to promote tourism, all that is yet to be seen. At present, the tower stands tall but without a designated purpose.

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The views and opinions expressed in this publication are those of the authors. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the Sri Lanka Press Institute.

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