Who Owns Your Road…?

A simple question yet tough to answer. There are mainly two types of roads: public and private. A road is considered private when one or more citizens own it. An owner(s) is responsible for the maintenance of these roads. Further, to use a private road one must receive the permission of the owner(s).

In contrast, a public road falls into two types: government-owned or an open public road. The maintenance of government-owned roads is the responsibility of the government whereas open public roads are not owned or maintained by any individual or the government. Open public roads exist when members of the public have been using the road for ten or more years. In such instances the courts can establish a public right-of-use for such roads however the underlying landowner has object to rights-of-way. In these cases the government cannot spend any money to repair open public roads without acquiring these roads.

Overall, government-owned roads are the most common. In Sri Lanka, there are several types of roads. All roads in Sri Lanka are divided into five Classes and several Sub-Classes.

The Municipal Council Ordinance, Urban Council Ordinance and Pradeshiya Sabha Act are three separate laws that prescribe Local Authorities to maintain a road inventory.

Road ownership can become quite complicated at the Local Authority level. There are instances of the duplication of investment in the maintenance of roads between Local Authorities and the RDA or PRDA. Further, in some cases, several Local Authorities are unsure of which roads they truly own and require that their roads be gazetted.

Among the Subnational Governance Program’s suite of tools is the Spatial Technology for Revenue and Asset Management (STRAM) system. The STRAM system is important for Local Authorities because it will contribute to enhancing the efficiency of Local Authorities in service delivery and tax collection as well as assist in promoting accountability not only between citizens and a Local Authority but also between different governing bodies including RDA, PRDA and UDA. Part of the STRAM system aims to systematically inventory all LA-owned assets which includes roads. Through this process of checking any existing road inventories and gazetting roads, Local Authorities will end up with a clear picture of their responsibilities, in terms of road maintenance, to the public.


Click here for more information on STRAM


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