01/31/2022, 13.07
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Colombo opens new port to public: economic and environmental damage remains

by Melani Manel Perera

The construction licence was issued without any environmental impact assessment. Fishermen suffering the consequences. In some cases, there will be charges for filming and photography. 



Colombo (AsiaNews) - Tens of thousands of visitors have crowded the waterfront of the new port area in recent days. Some 90,000 people have poured into the marina so far since the opening of the promenade on January 10 to enjoy a walk, take photos and spend a few carefree moments. 

But environmentalists have also pointed out the negative aspects of the infrastructure. Interviewed by AsiaNews, Ravindra Kariyawasam explained that the reality is frightening, "but most people do not understand it".

The expert says the new port is leading Sri Lanka's economy and environment into a deeper crisis. The Chinese company behind the project was granted a construction licence in 2016, but without first conducting an environmental impact assessment. However, a lawsuit had been filed the year before, forcing the Central Environment Authority to do its own assessment.

The licence was granted anyway and this, according to Ravindra Kariyawasam "is one of the illegal things the government has done". As a result, the environmental damage caused by the new infrastructure was never taken into account. "The people of our country, especially the fishing community, and people living in the hinterland are already experiencing the negative effects of coastal and soil erosion, sand mining and quarrying in the hinterland," the environmentalist added.

Secondly, the problems affect the city's economy: local authorities have set fees for taking photos at certain times within Port City, which is known to be part of Beijing's Belt and Road Initiative. Payments will in fact end up in the coffers of the China Bank of Colombo.

Private events and professional and commercial filming will be allowed within the port area at certain times of the day for a fee, i.e. before opening to the public or on request. The authorities said that the fees were introduced for reasons of public safety and to provide a better service given the high rate of visitors and requests received after the opening of the promenade, which is currently open to visitors (free of charge) every day from 9am to 6pm.

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