Sri Lanka says Chinese-funded Port City may go ahead after all

The government of Sri Lanka yesterday said it would consider letting the suspended, $1.5bn Port City project restart if it gets environmental clearance.

Cabinet Spokesperson Rajitha Senaratne told local media that the cabinet had also decided to take the project away from the Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) and hand it over to the Urban Development Authority (UDA).

Once the clearances are secured, the government will consider recommencing the project– Rajitha Senaratne, Sri Lanka Cabinet Spokesperson

"Once the clearances are secured, the government will consider recommencing the project," Senaratne said.

"On a proposal made by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe to instruct the central environmental authority to start a complete environmental impact assessment with the assistance of relevant institutions and on the completion of its studies to reconsider the recommencing of the above project was approved by the cabinet of ministers," Senaratne added.

Work on the ambitious Colombo Port City project (pictured) was inaugurated by Chinese President Xi Jinping and former Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa in September last year. The scheme was to be a node in China’s "Maritime Silk Road" concept, a string of ports facilitating sea travel and trade between China and Europe.

But President Rajapaksa was ousted in an election on 8 January and the man who won, his rival Maithripala Sirisena, had vowed to be less accommodating to Chinese interests, and the project was suspended.

The port city was to have shopping areas, water sports area, hotels, apartments, recreation areas and marinas.

The project was to be funded and built by China Communications Construction Company. Its subsidiary, China Harbour Engineering Company had already begun land reclamation.

However the government said last month that it had appointed a fresh committee to study the possibility of continuing the project.

Image: Artist’s impression of the Chinese funded Port City development in Colombo

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