Opposed to the Colombo Port City Project, fishermen willing to bear cancellation costs (Photos)
by Melani Manel Perera

As Sri Lanka’s prime minister goes to China to ink the final deal, activists take to the streets to protest, delivering two petitions to the secretaries of the prime minister and the president. Fishermen are willing to bear the cost of the cancellation of the US$ 1.5 billion Chinese project in order to save the local environment and their means of subsistence.

Colombo (AsiaNews) – Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickeremesinghe is in China on an official visit and is set to sign a series of trade agreements, including the final go-ahead for the Colombo Port City Project.

At home though, hundreds of fishermen, activists and Christian leaders are in the streets of the capital calling on the government to "stop immediately" the project and comply with the electoral promises it made at the time of the election.

The protesters said that the fishermen could meet the losses for five years if the US$ 1.5 billion Chinese project does not go ahead.

Activists delivered petitions against the construction of the port city to the secretaries of the prime minister and the president.

The Colombo Port City Project was launched in September 2014 under former President Mahinda Rajapaksa. The leading company in the consortium building the port city is a major Chinese contractor, China Communications Construction Co.

From the beginning, the plan sparked local opposition, and was initially suspended. However, environmentalists and fishermen have always feared that the Sri Lankan government would eventually accept the plan and allow it to proceed.

In January, the People's Movement against Port City, a leading protest group, presented a document with 128 negative opinions against the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA).

The study stressed the project’s indescribable damage to the local ecosystem, since it entails reclaiming 269 hectares along the capital’s shoreline.

"The project will have a severe impact on marine resources and fishermen's livelihoods,” Fr Sarath Iddamalgoda told AsiaNews.

In addition, “It will negatively affect 80 per cent of ordinary citizens," noted the Catholic priest who is a member of the Christian Solidarity Movement (CSM), one of the groups organising the protest together with the People's Movement against Port City.