This paper presents evaluations of government policies by poor residents of Colombo who were active participants in initiatives to improve housing and basic services. Their testimony tells of the radical break from conventional, top-down approaches within the government's Million Houses Programme during the late 1980s and early 1990s. Community development councils and a participatory methodology known as community action planning meant that residents and community leaders worked with government officers to identify problems, set priorities and develop solutions. But it proved difficult to sustain these in the face of widespread poverty, entrenched government institutions and power structures antagonistic to community participation. The grassroots testimony also tells of the difficulties of preventing NGOs from controlling the initiatives and politicians from undermining them. The participatory approaches were abandoned when the government changed in the mid-1990s.
Environment and Urbanization (2000) 12 (1) 73-86 [DOI: 10.1177/095624780001200106]