Sri Lanka’ opposition party intend to scrap an impending $1.5bn port project, agreed between China Communications Construction (CCC) and the current government, if it wins the presidential election next month.
Former prime minister and opposition leader, Ranil Wickremesinghe, denounced the plans to turn the nation’s capital, Colombo, into a port city, as a haphazard reclamation” of land with no regard for environmental damage.
Claiming that the 233 ha development, where construction begun in September, would destroy the West coast of Sri Lanka, he said: “I will stop it. We have to protect our coastal area. If the port city is built, we will lose the coastal area.”
Current president, Mahinda Rajapaksa, remains favourite to win his third term in office but former health minister, Mithripala Sirisena, has emerged as a credible opponent, and Wickremesinghe will become prime minister if the latter wins.
Opponents of the port plans allege that the Sri Lankan government were not transparent and did not follow appropriate tender procedures while some tourism companies fear the port city will harm the visitor-friendly beaches.
However, Sri Lankan central bank governor and former economic adviser to current president, Ajith Nivard Cabraal, told Reuters: “At a time when Sri Lanka is enjoying a high confidence level and investments are flowing in, such a statement for political purposes will discourage investors”.
According to state media, 108 ha of the city will be reserved for CCC to cover its investment costs.
Colombo’s port city, which will also feature a luxury marina, a series of high-rise properties and a Formula One racetrack, falls into the Chinese government’s plans to create a “silk maritime road” to connect China and Europe via Sri Lanka.