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A look back at China's infrastructure projects aiding Sri Lanka

Source: ?China Daily | 2021-02-09

Feb 7 marks the 64th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Sri Lanka.

History has shown that the two countries have had a close friendship even before the official establishment of diplomatic relations. The two countries have developed extensive economic, political, religious, cultural and social ties. So far Sri Lanka has implemented a number of infrastructure development projects with the assistance of China in conjunction with the Belt and Road Initiative adopted by the Chineese government.

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A view of Port City Colombo in Sri Lanka [Photo/sasac.gov.cn]

The Colombo International Financial City (CIFC) is a major Chinese investment project in Sri Lanka. The city will be built on 269 hectares of land near the Galle Face Green in Colombo. This is the first time in Sri Lanka that a port city has been built by filling the sea. The Port City Project plan has been submitted by China Communications Construction Limited and its construction is being carried out by China Harbor Engineering Company. The project will be implemented by the Sri Lanka Ports Authority and the Board of Investment of Sri Lanka will provide tax relief for the investment. The Colombo Port City is under construction in two phases. The first phase is expected to be completed in 2024.

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Workers unload low sulfur fuel oil from the Kaige tanker at the port of Hambantota in Sri Lanka in April. [Photo: Xinhua]

The Hambantota Port Project is another major project implemented under the Chinese loan scheme. Opened on Nov 18, 2010, it has three berths. This port is considered to be the first inland port in the world. The first phase of the investment is $361 million, of which 85 percent was provided by EXIM Bank of China. The Port of Hambantota is a public-private partnership between the Sri Lanka Ports Authority and China Merchant Port Holdings. The company owns 69.55 percent of the port, and 30.45 percent of the shares are owned by the Sri Lanka Ports Authority. This is on a 99-year lease and all shares can be purchased by the Ports Authority after 70 years. Hambantota Port Project is part of the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road.

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Mattala International Airport. [Photos Provided to China Daily]

Mattala International Airport is also a project funded by the Chinese government. Opened in 2013, it is the second international airport in Sri Lanka. China Harbor Engineering Company has carried out its construction and EXIM Bank of China has provided $190 million loan. It even has the latest aircraft landing facilities. Aimed to be used for both foreign and domestic flights, it connects to the Port of Hambantota and facilitates cargo handling and transportation.

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A worker holds onto shelter as rain falls on the construction site of project Section 3 of the Extension of the Southern Expressway in Sri Lanka on Sept 23, 2018. [Photo by Li Ping/chinadaily.com.cn]

The Colombo-Matara Expressway is another project implemented under a Chinese government loan. It is the first type E road built in Sri Lanka. The 126-kilometer-long road connects Colombo, the capital of Sri Lanka and Matara, one of the most important cities in the south of the island. It takes about four hours to travel from Colombo to Matara by normal roads but using the expressway can shorten the journey to within less than two hours. The Colombo Outer Circular Highway will be connected to the first section of this expressway and the road will be extended to Hambantota. The EXIM Bank of China has also provided a loan of $180 million to extend the road to Hambantota.

China has also provided a loan of $989 million for the Central Expressway project. This expressway will connect Hambantota Port, Katunayake International Airport and Kandy. This is the largest loan provided by the EXIM Bank of China to Sri Lanka, according to the Ministry of Finance. The estimated cost of the project is $1.16 billion. About 85 percent of the loans will be from China.

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The Norochcholai coal power plant project is also being implemented on Chinese loans. [Photo: Xinhua]

The Norochcholai coal power plant project is also being implemented on Chinese loans. This is the first coal power plant built in Sri Lanka. This power plant consists of three units generating 300 megawatts each. Chinese engineers were in charge of its construction. The main contractor for the project was the Chinese Mechanical Engineering Corporation. The project was funded by the EXIM Bank of China and is wholly owned by the Ceylon Electricity Board. The coal required for the plant comes from Russia, Indonesia and South Africa. The total power generation capacity of 900 MW generated by this power plant is connected to the national grid from Anuradhapura and Veyangoda through high voltage transmission lines. The first phase was inaugurated on March 22, 2011.

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Sri Lanka's Lotus Tower is lit up in pink in support of the International Breast Cancer Awareness Month marked every October in Colombo, Oct 26, 2020. [Photo/Xinhua]

The Lotus Tower is another project implemented in Sri Lanka under a Chinese loan. The tower is being constructed by the National Electronics Importers and Exporters Corporation of China (CEIEC) and the China Aerospace Long March International Trade Company (ALIT) with a loan from EXIM Bank of China. The Lotus Tower has been built facing the Beira Lake in Colombo. Its main sources of revenue are tourism and leasing of transmission antennas. The tower is expected to function as a radio and television transmission antenna and will be able to accommodate 50 television services and 20 telecommunication service providers. Its shape resembles a lotus flower, which symbolizes the purity, fertility and development of Sri Lankan culture. It is 350 meters high and covers an area of 30,600 square meters. The Lotus Tower is 11th tallest completed tower in Asia and it is also the 19th tallest tower in the world.

The Nelum Pokuna theater in Colombo was also built with the assistance, manpower and management of the government of China in collaboration with the government of Sri Lanka. This is the largest performing arts theater in Sri Lanka. The Chinese government has provided 1 trillion Sri Lankan rupees ($5.1 million) for the construction. This was created by the Beijing Institute of Architectural Designs (BIAD). The architecture of the building is inspired by the 12th century lotus pond in Polonnaruwa, built by king Parakramabahu. It is shaped as a stylized lotus flower with eight petals. The main auditorium has 1,288 seats as well as four finished parts, which can be moved up and down. In addition to the main auditorium, there are two other auditoriums that can accommodate up to three concerts or plays. The height here is 29 meters. It was opened on Dec 15, 2011.

The Bandaranaike Memorial International Conference Hall in Colombo, built in the shape of an octagon to showcase the national features of Sri Lanka, is also a donation from the Chinese government. It is a true symbol of Sri Lanka-China friendship. The conference hall has the facilities to translate a speech into seven languages simultaneously. The building also includes a main hall with seating capacity of 1,500, six different rooms with discussion facilities, a lounge, a ballroom, a cinema and a number of office rooms. Sri Lankan workers and artisans contributed to its construction along with more than 400 Chinese workers and technologists. The conference hall was opened in 1973 and provided the opportunity for the Sri Lankan public to volunteer to participate in its construction.

The Maduruoya South Bank Development Project is another project funded by the government of China to assist the development of Sri Lanka. The project is being implemented with 100 percent loan assistance from EXIM Bank of China and the total estimated cost is 6.969 trillion Sri Lankan rupees. With this project, 39,000 hectares will be newly developed and the sluice will be raised by two cubic meters. Accordingly, the additional water will increase by a capacity of 229 cubic meters. Simultaneously, the highway system in the area will be developed. The project will directly benefit 12,000 farming families. Along with this, a sugar factory will be set up in the area and the government aims to attract investors for it. It is hoped that eco-tourism business associated with this project will be developed in relation to Thoppigala and its proximity to the East Coast.

The Moragahakanda - Kalu Ganga Development Project, the largest multipurpose irrigation project in operation in Sri Lanka, is also a major operational project being implemented with loan assistance from the government of China. The Moragahakanda Kalu Ganga Project, initiated with the assistance of the Chinese government at a cost of $310 billion, is being implemented with the objective of resolving the agricultural and drinking water problems of the farming community in Rajarata. The project is expected to add 25 megawatts of electricity to the national grid and supply water to 87,000 farming families in the Matale, Polonnaruwa, Trincomalee and Anuradhapura districts during the Yala season.

The China-Sri Lanka Friendship Nephrology Hospital in the Polonnaruwa District is currently being built with Chinese assistance for kidney patients, and expected to be the largest hospital in South Asia. This 200-bed hospital, valued at 1.2 trillion Sri Lankan rupees, is equipped with all modern medical equipment to treat kidney disease. This special hospital in Polonnaruwa would add more value to this city and the hospital would treat thousands of people suffering from chronic kidney diseases. It will provide all clinical services, laboratory services and counseling services to patients with kidney diseases, including kidney transplant surgeries and blood transfusion services.

China and Sri Lanka have maintained a friendship first forged through the ancient Silk Road, and ties between the two countries have been growing stronger than ever. Bilateral relations have evolved into a multidisciplinary strategic relationship in many areas, including political, economic, social, educational and cultural. Undoubtedly, this has ushered in a new and bright start in common diplomatic relations between the two countries.

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