Image courtesy Yamu

The media of the 13th Friday had two very different statements on the fate of the ‘Port City “ project. The Daily Mirror reports The Government of Sri Lanka through its acting cabinet spokesman; Minister Lakshman Kiriella stated, “The Port City Project has been automatically stopped as there were so many shortcomings in the EIA report. We must go through it and rectify those shortcomings before re-start the project,”

But an interview to the Hindustan Times 13th Friday, given by a Chinese official by name of Mr. Zhang seems to differ. He states, “There were some criticisms and doubts (about the project).  This project is aligned development goals of Sri Lanka. We have very good relations with President Maithripala Sirisena,” On concerns about damaging the environment, he said: “We focus a lot on environmental protection. For marine projects, we have very strict standards about purity of water body. We have 24 sentinel stations. If there is any influence on water quality, we will change implementation plans”.

Two questions arise; the first is who decides on the fate of the project? The Government of Sri Lanka or the Chinese officials? Can China over rule Sri Lanka in matters of Sri Lanka’s sovereignty?

This then raises other questions as to weather Minister Kiriella was misinformed ? The Chinese official seems to suggest that there were no serious shortcomings in the EIA. But Minister Kiriella tells us that there was. Given this state of confusion it might be best if the EIA in question was held up for public scrutiny.

The need to examine the EIA is also made urgent in the light of the comments made by the Chinese official. He talks about environmental protection only in regard to the water quality around the project area. Should not the EIA also address potential impacts to the mainland? If it appears that the EIA was a sloppy, quick and easy job to satisfy a bureaucratic need to overcome national safeguards, it should e seen as treason against the nation.

Have the citizens of Colombo been warned that their air quality will plummet downwards as the pollution from the new city is blown in by the sea? Has the export of all hazardous waste from the new city been part of the conditions or is Sri Lanka seen as their dumping ground? Has the source of water to this new city been identified? Will be loose our water right to our watersheds? Where will the energy to power this city come from? Is Sri Lanka going to be burdened with dirty power plants to supply their needs? Has the local impact of the removal of rocks and sand to fill up this new land been evaluated?

We are supposed to be a free, independent country. Just because some greedy individuals signed a flawed document as a ‘contract’ are we not in a position to defend ourselves? Will our leaders stand in our defense and protect our rights or will they acknowledge a new set of rulers, compromise our rights and bow before them ?

  • Sharanga Ratnayake

    While acknowledging that the EIA report is important, and that building stuff everywhere should not be the only developmental concern, what exactly do you want the government to do at this point if the EIA report found that the project shouldn’t be continued? Are they supposed to actually stop it? This is a $1.5 billion project, and more than half of it is already invested. Do we pay them back? Where do we find the money to pay them back? Besides, the economy runs on Chinese loans, and our rather nationalistic, independent foreign policy is entirely dependent on China. Can we afford to say no to them after they’ve invested close to $1 billion on this one project?

    It was mistake for Ranil to say that he’d stop this project before the election. Being a veteran politician, he should have been able to evade the question. It’s an even bigger mistake to actually make an EIA report. EIA reports should be made, and taken seriously, but not after a billion dollar project is halfway through. Releasing the EIA report now is nothing but a disaster. People tend to forget what it was like one and a half months ago. Frankly, the main political project at this point should be to keep Mahinda out of power. Until a more stable government is elected, and Mahinda is firmly out of power with no way to return in any meaningful way, those who voted for Maithri should be patient and lenient on the government.