The Government has more or less given the green light for the Colombo Port City Project, with the original agreement amended by reducing the extent of land to be reclaimed from the sea and without any part of this area granted to China on a freehold basis, a minister said yesterday.
The original agreement, signed by the previous regime, sought to reclaim 233 hectares from the sea adjoining the Colombo Port. The Chinese company, investing in the US$1.4 billion project, was to retain 108 hectares including 20 hectares on a freehold basis with the rest on a 99-year lease while the rest was to be vested with Sri Lanka. However, the new Sri Lankan Government is working out amendments to the original agreement. Ahead of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s visit to China on April, 6, Strategic Development Minister Malik Samarawickrama and Law and Order Minister Sagala Ratnayake will visit China on February 29. Mr. Samarawickrama said he would discuss a host of matters including the Port City Project and the setting up of an economic zone in Hambantota with an investment by a Chinese company.
The Prime Minister had on an earlier occasion said a Chinese company had sought 1,000 acres of land in the area for a ship building project. When asked about the Colombo Port City Project, he said, “We will discuss how we are going to proceed with that.” Asserting that the government has agreed, more or less, to move ahead with the project, he said the original agreement was needed to be amended. “We are not too keen on offering any reclaimed land to China on a freehold basis. We also intend reducing the extent of land to be reclaimed so that the project is environmentally firendly,” the Prime Minister said. “We are discussing all these sticking points and need to finalize them,” he said when asked whether China was agreeable to any change.
The project was inked by the previous regime in 2014 and was launched at a function attended by Chinese President Xi Jinping. However, the current government suspended the project citing several irregularities. According to the China communication Construction Company, the suspension had caused a daily loss of US$380,000.
(DN - 23022016)