While the Chinese Government has expressed its wishes that the review of the stalled Port City Project to be completed as soon as possible, the government of Sri Lanka is still awaiting the completion of the relevant feasibility studies.
Speaking to The Nation, Minister of Ports and Maritime Affairs, Arjuna Ranatunga said that the project is now undertaken by the Urban Development Authority (UDA). “The Cabinet has decided to assign the Port City Project to the UDA. Decisions regarding the project will also be taken by the UDA together with the Board of Investment (BOI). The public will be informed of these developments soon,” he said. He also added that they were awaiting the completion of the new Environment Impact Assessment (EIA). Asked about complaints of fishermen and concerned environmentalists opposing the project, the minister said that they too will have to be considered only after the feasibility study.
The Nation also spoke to the Chairman of the UDA, Ranjith Fernando who said that the EIA currently underway is funded by the China Harbor Engineering Company (CHEC).
The Port City project was suspended by the government in March this year, following allegations of corruption and environmental concerns. However, the government recently expressed its willingness to renegotiate the deal with the CHEC. Still, the Port City faces serious hurdles centered on the EIA.
The project claiming to be the single biggest private sector development in the history of Sri Lanka may also be the biggest environmental disaster to hit Sri Lanka, critics argue. A recent hearing of an ongoing court case against the Colombo Port city Project has revealed that an EIA was not conducted by the Central Environmental Authority (CEA) prior to the initiation of the project. It has also been revealed that the CEA did not issue a license for the ongoing sand mining activities of the project.
Speaking on the issue, Ravindra Kariyawasam of the Centre for Environment and Nature Studies accused the government of failing the public with the recommencement of this project. “However many feasibility studies the government does, the grave threats faced by the country will still remain the same,” he said. “Not only does this endanger the environment, it also poses a threat to livelihoods,” Kariyawasam added.