09/18/2020, 08.43
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Premier Rajapaksa: New Colombo port will benefit everyone

by Melani Manel Perera

The former president maintains that once completed, the China-funded facility will employ 83,000 people. The project, launched in 2014, was blocked by the previous government and then restarted. The protests of the dispossessed local population and environmentalists. Beijing's Belt and Road will not benefit the country.

Colombo (Asia News) - The capital’s new port will be the country's main source of income, maintains the Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa. He was speaking during a visit to the large construction site, six years after building work began. The prime minister, brother of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, said that once completed, the facility will employ approximately 83,000 people.

Rajapaksa, who also played golf during the construction site inspection, launched the project in 2014, when he was president of the country. He defended the project, which was criticized above all for its environmental impact. The previous government, under the leadership of President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, had blocked building in March 2015 due to environmental and regulatory problems. A year later, construction resumed.

The expropriation of land, provoking an outcry from some local residents, was completed last December. Once reclaimed, the area of ​​Galle Face, where the port city will rise, was open to investment. Overall, the entire project will cost 12.7 billion euros.

Environmentalists, activists and ordinary people claim that the structure will cause serious environmental damage and have been protesting against its construction for years. “The excavation works, with the removal of sand and stones, have damaged the territory. Coastal erosion has increased along the areas of Panadura and Aanawilundawa, which has caused many families to lose their land near the sea, "Ravindra Kariawasam, coordinator of the Center for Environmental and Naturalistic Studies in Sri Lanka, told AsiaNews.

The new port, financed in part by Chinese state investors, is a part of Beijing's Belt and Road Initiative, a major investment plan to strengthen trade links between China, the rest of Asia, Europe and Africa. But for Kariawasam, the work will not bring economic benefits to the people of Sri Lanka: “Only the prime minister, who is involved in the construction of the structure, will benefit from it, not ordinary people. Rajapaksa went to play golf there for his own enjoyment, not that of the poor”.

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