Lanka to set up panel to probe Chinese port city project
The new Sri Lankan government today said that an expert panel will probe all the complaints and environmental concerns regarding China-funded USD 1.5 billion Colombo Port City project and will take action if there are conditions detrimental to national interest.
Pointing that several environmental organisations have raised concerns over the environmental impact of the project, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe told Parliament that the panel would look at all complaints and report to the Cabinet sub-committee.
Wickremesinghe said his government would take action if there are conditions detrimental to national interest.
On February 6, the government had said that it was yet to take a final call on the project, a day after it said that the controversial venture would go ahead as planned.
Wickremesinghe, however, clarified that the new government of President Maithripala Sirisena has not decided to abandon the project.
“We will consider the issue of our relations with China. We do not want to jeopardise our relations with China,” he said.
The port, expected to play a key role for China’s ambitious Maritime Silk Road project in India’s backyard, is being seen as the single largest private sector development ever in the island.
The project, would allow China Communication Construction Co Ltd, a Chinese government-owned infrastructure builder, to hold land in a high-security zone within close proximity to the Colombo port.
In the run up to the last month’s polls, President Sirisena and Prime Minister Wickremesinghe criticised the mega investments by China, stating that they were taken at high rates of interest and deeply indebted Sri Lanka.
Wickremesinghe said Rajapaksa government had failed to inform parliament on the deal despite queries from opposition.
The project envisages reclaiming of 230 of water front to be developed as a port city with roads, water, electricity, communication facilities to set up shopping areas, water sports area, mini golf course, hotels, apartments, recreation areas and marinas.
In September last year, Chinese President Xi Jinping inaugurated the construction of the project, part of China’s attempt to restore its ancient prestige and historical links along the maritime Silk Road through Southeast and South Asia.
The current Sri Lankan government in opposition was critical of the pro-China policy of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who built new sea ports, airports and highways with Chinese funds during his nine-year rule.