Sri Lanka: Locals concern about environmental & land impacts and lack of public consultation over Chinese projects
Author: Amantha Perera, Chinadialogue, Published on: 4 December 2018
“Fears grow over Chinese projects in Sri Lanka”
For a decade… Chinese funded projects…were coming up in Hambantota at break-neck speed. The most visible Chinese backed projects were the new highways cutting south through the western slopes of the island, two port projects and a new airport, among others.
…Sri Lankan…owes at least one fifth of its over US$50 billion foreign debt to China. The situation was worsened by a stagnant economy and non-preforming projects like the Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport, known as the world’s emptiest airport. The port has recorded negative growth. The new government…came up with a plan: they would hand over a majority control of the Hambantota Port to the Chinese in a US$1.2 billion deal. …[T]he agreement also included provisions for an additional 15,000-acre investment zone that would cover large portions of land in Beragama. …. Last year, public protests against the investment zone…ultimately stalled the plans despite the port handover going through. However, the government is yet to scrap the plans so the villagers remain fearful they will still lose their land.
Information on the environmental impacts of the port and highways [built by CCCC] has been limited. However, available reports, such as the environmental impact assessment of the Southern Highway extension, or the supplementary environmental impact assessment of the Port City raise serious concerns. …In 2015…, the new government said it would reevaluate the progress of Chinese projects. The Port City construction was halted from early 2015 till mid-2016 but recommenced after the Chinese investors and the new government reached an agreement on landholding.