21 October, 2019

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The Recent Announcement On The Port City

By Fr. Sarath Iddamalgoda

Fr. Sarath Iddamalgoda

Fr. Sarath Iddamalgoda

It was announced a few days ago that the work on Colombo Port City project will resume in October according to a revised plan giving it a new name “Financial City”. To our surprise neither the President nor the Prime Minister has explained to the people of the country how their revised plan of the “Financial City” will prevent the destruction of the marine environment and the loss of livelihoods of the fisherfolk, who will be deprived of their centuries old means of living due to sand mining to reclaim 269 hectares from the sea.

It is said that 3.45 million cubic meters of granite and 65 million cubic meters of sand have to be mined for the purpose of reclaiming this land from the sea. A panel of independent experts have warned of environmental damage this project would cause to the country.

Who would care to listen to them? Their views are discarded as rubbish.Port City

It now appears to the citizens of this country that environmental safety and security of all living beings are not matters of any importance to those in power, cash hungry planners, policy makers and politicians. What a shame?

Such arrogant attitudes are often manifested by our leaders, when dealing with issues of life and death, as far as people are concerned. Their belief perhaps emanate from their love for the neo liberal economic policies. What matters in neo liberalism is profits at any cost, no matter what happens to living beings on earth. “Profits” (mammon) is the god that they worship.

This attitude is also highlighted by lack of transparency on the part of the government as regards the new agreements that have been signed recently and lack of consultation with those who are going to suffer the impact caused by the project.

Regarding the safety of our people there is a significant example for the Sri Lankan government to consider from China. The Chinese city “Tianjin” densely populated (like Colombo) was similarly situated next to the port which exploded on the 13th August 2015. The Chinese academics have warned the authorities of many unacceptable environmental risks of having a densely populated city next to a port, but was unable to generate concern among the officials.

Could a fate similar to Tianjin await the financial city?

Once again we ask the political leaders of our land, particularly the President and Prime Minster for whose benefit are we reclaiming 269 hectares from the sea at the cost of the lives and livelihoods of our people?

For decades the world has seen the impact of this policy of NEOLIBERALISM. The unemployment, global warming, world poverty, food insecurity, desertification, the widening of the gap between the rich and the poor etc are results of this policy. “The very design of neoliberal principles is a direct attack on democracy.” ― Noam Chomsky. In such a context what can we say about “yahapalanaya”, freedom and democracy?

Nevertheless let us again remind President Sirisena who has taken the additional responsibility of protecting the environment (this Ministry comes under his purview) to consider the important question: why his government is not transparent regarding the revised PORT CITY plan. Will the Government publish the revised plan and the new agreement in keeping with their slogan of good governance?

All civil societies and people’ organizations let us wake up to meet this challenge!

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Latest comments

  • 4
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    Fr Sarath is right to once again raise the issue of the environmental impact of the Port City but I fear it is too late.
    I wonder if 20 years hence a younger generation will be regretting the 99 year lease just as the Cubans are regretting the 99 year lease if Guantanamo to the big power in their part of the world.

    • 6
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      Whether you call it Port City or Financial City, the end result is the same. This is only a damage control exercise by the present government for the sins committed by the previous government. Chinese government has put it’s foot down and has refused to budge, and the only thing Srilanka could do is to swallow it’s pride and find an escape route.

      Whatever Srilanka does, it is only in those 233 hectares of reclaimed land. It can do nothing in the 170 hectares leased to China for the next 99 years, and can forget for good the 20 hectares sold to China. What is the point of shouting from roof top about soverignty, when a country cannot raise the national flag at the doorstep of the capital.

      • 1
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        Take your point.
        Perhaps there is not get out clause signed by the Rajapakse’s
        Or the get out clause is at a colossal financial cost to the country.

        Perhaps that is why perhaps the “port city” is now named the “financial city”.
        The country’s finances are marooned.

  • 1
    1

    Thank god the damn agreement was finally signed.

    Lets get on with it since we are already late.

    Port City will re define the land scape of Colombo.

    • 0
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      Really? Never mind the Chinese I suppose?

  • 5
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    A problem in implementing development projects in countries like Sri Lanka is that there is a set of INGO’s who are funded by foreign countries objecting using damage to environment as a reason. These guys sit in nicely air conditioned offices and make statements. These statements are often not based on studies done on environmental impact but on assumptions. Therefore, it is difficult to take their objections seriously. It is virtually impossible to implement development projects without disturbing the environment. What is necessary is to see whether all the measures have been taken to mitigate the negative effects and impacts. Simply because a disaster happened in Tianjin is no reason to abandon a project in Sri Lanka. Although there are some negative impact on environment, Port City Project will have a positive economic and social impact in the long run. There are some who like to see ‘Poor Countries Stay Poor’ so that they can manipulate. We should take that into account in taking decisions on development projects.

    • 3
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      Yes, always blame the NGO/INGO, won’t ever ever take responsibility

  • 0
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    What the Singaporean Consulting Firm CESMA recommended was extension of the Central Business Area of Colombo (Colombo Fort Area. The water surface shadowed by the retaining structures of South Harbour Extension was considered as adequate and the Land Use Plan prepared for the reclaimed area was an integrated plan. The proposed development was well within the management capacities of Local Infrastructure Agencies and the CMC. It was not subjected to an SEIA or EIA and therefore the issues of using natural resources of the country for the development and lost livelihoods of fisherment did not arise.

    What the China Harbour Engineering Company has proposed is a township on the same reclaimed land. On paper it is a 3-stage development:
    a) Land Reclamation
    b) Master Planning, Infrastructure Development and Land development
    c) Land sales and physical development

    According to the program presented under the aegis of Chamber of Construction Industry and China Harbour Engineering Company, the full completion of the township would take 15-20 years but the property development company, which is expected to be a JV between CHEC and GOSL, would have their profits or otherwise made within 8-10 years.

    How the township would impact during the operational period is yet to be forecast.

  • 3
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    whatever the pros and cons of the said project, everything was started by the MR admini. and now we are trying argue about the role of new admini.under mithiri. the new admini. negotiated to find that now nothing could be done and if we are totally giving up we have to pay a huge compensation to china (?). when the project started at that time there were white vans and gotha and no one came foreword. now the note by FR. shows that we can have a free discussion without the ruling family!
    S.DAYAL

  • 7
    1

    If you are really worried about the environmental issues, the best thing is talking about deforestation of the country and saving different ecological niches (Sea bottom is also part of that too).

    There is no point of talking about the envionmental impact from this project as it is already finished. Besides, were you talking about this before the initiation of this project ?

    There are ministers and other politicians who destroy forests for timber and settling their people. Parrticularly, both Rishad Bathiuddin had done that. Recently, Hakeen had done that ?. President and Prime minister give a deaf ear to those.

  • 3
    2

    This guy living off people’s charity with the compliments of the catholic Church appears to time and again send out His master’s Messages.

    So much for the cassoak just like Emmanuel.
    dO NOT WORRY ABOUT THE ENVIROMENT JUST FOCUS TO SAVE THE CATHOLIC fAITH BEING DESTROYED BY eMMANUEL & nORTHERN CATHOLIC CLERGY.

    If you are really worried about the environmental issues, the best thing is FOR YOU TO PRAY.
    LEAVE THE JOB OF POLICY MAKERS TO THE POLITICI9ANS AND THEREOF.

    • 2
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      Yes, if environment is going bad, it is Almighty’s wish. HE wants it that way.

      Just Pray to god asking not to do that.

      • 2
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        Jim you’ve got it wrong. God can’t interfere in this matter because some poor woman was tricked by a talking snake to take an apple from a magical tree. That’s why we have this port fiasco!

        • 1
          1

          Taraki

          “That’s why we have this port fiasco!”

          The reason why we are having this typing is that jim softy’s parents were neither aware of contraceptives nor had access to them. Their simple mundane pleasure has turned into a big pain in this forum.

          As Buddha preached we should accept pain and pleasure as part of this life. First Noble Truth says suffering of birth, old age, sickness and death is unavoidable, so is jim softy.

          But pain is liberating force. In fact Jimmy is helping all of us to attain Nibbana.

  • 0
    1

    Upon what basis is money to be deposited in Financial City? Singapore became a financial city as they were handling and controlling the oil and gas wealth of the S.E Asian religion (Brunei, Malaysia, Indonesia all have oil and gas). Hong Kong became a financial city when China became communist, and 1% elite who continually screwed the Chinese masses, bunked to HK with 99% of China’s money.

    Well, the South Asian region doesn’t have oil or gas. India will not be turning communist in the near future….although let’s hope India becomes communist soon, and then we can secure the wealth of the 1% high-castes in our very own Financial City.

    Financial City deposits will be offshore hideaways, like in Switzerland and Panama, and also more recently like Singapore. Singapore will want to look clean, and so they are probably looking for an alternate shady spot to park illegal deals. Wonder how Trump or Clinton will view all of these things.

    I mean, this could be all Coomaswamy’s subtle suggestions. When he made his dignified and professional suggestions, he created a plan for magical city with financial statistics and graphs. This magical city is going to emerge out of thin air, with the Lankan populous working their lives and hearts out, to be on par with Singapore and Hong Kong. It would mean, of course, the eventual sell to…..India!!!! You see, Coomaraswamy knows that ETCA will be a no show, or a small show. But when the trap of the Financial City comes in, the only place to fall back on, will be grandmother India. Our gullible politicians gulped it down hook, line and sinker.

    At least when Rajapaksa did it, it was to be a Chinese submarine base (with some finances involved of course, replete with a car racing arena). There were supposed to be 2 casinos also. At least all was transparent and open, even if we eventually got bombed by the US. New plan Financial City will be a slower bombing process of course, but one that will hold the golden chance for the American invasion so they can look after their favorite place, India.

    With Commaraswamy’s Port City, finances are unknown and/or unreal. Local entrepreneurs are uncomfortable to whip up masses to work anymore for them. Masses refuse to work for the anymore anyway, preferring to work in the Middle-East.

    It is amazing the Ranil with his continual pro-US stance, now suddenly succumbs to China. The US must have some covert-operational reason for allowing this. Civil society must demand for transparency as is democratically due! No use saying this and that building is coming up, and giving statistics and figures of future trends, “papered with magical assumptions of higher growth” (Fareed Zachariah). What needs to be known is whose and what financial scheme are we going to deal with, and how far are masses to be whipped, to suffer the fulfillment of the growth speculation.

    The Hambantota port area has some meaning. Something constructive will actually happen there with Chinese ships going to and fro. But the Financial city poses too grave a risk with the neoliberal, free-market, castle-in-the-sky orientation, that has no true meaning for Sri Lanka.

  • 1
    0

    Careful Father,

    Some of the players in this continuing natagam, operate their mouths without putting their brain into gear.

    Better to wait till the works start and the cloud dusts hide The Kingsbury.

    • 1
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      operate their mouths without putting their brain into gear.

      That is how they wrote the bible.

      • 2
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        and the Mahavamsa….and…and…and…

        Couldn’t give a cuckoos tit for all these ‘non-existent Gods’.

  • 5
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    There is no need reclaim land from the sea and build a Port City or Financial,City both meaning the same.
    There so much undeveloped area along the coastal,area.
    Don’t these guys know Sri Lanka is Island with a lot I of undeveloped coastal area.

    Why disturb the nature?

  • 3
    0

    Rev.father, it is too late and cancellation is not a cakewalk, considering the amount of compensation we are expected to pay and the image of Sri Lanka in future international contracts. So, let’s focus on how we can transform this monster into yields.

    • 0
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      Which means Ranil Wickramasinghe was not aware of that aspect? The the cost of additional 2 hectares granted to the Chinese company in lieu of $125 -million compensation comes out of his pocket?

      Soma

  • 0
    0

    In regard to the compensation due to suspension can’t we take Ranil Wickramasinghe to FCID for misappropriation of public funds similar to the case of Basil Rajapaksha who distributed Divi Neguma funds to councils. Now which is worse?

    Soma

    • 0
      0

      Good point Soma.Not only that he must be forced pay for the damages caused to Mattla by storing paddy.
      This is what happens when a monkey gets hold of a knife!

  • 0
    0

    Fr Sarath,

    Thank you for your article and activism.

    Unfortunately Chinese loans will be needed in the future even more than today and environment is secondary. I don’t think that the Financial Center will bring any advantages to the country. We will end up with worse environment and debts to pay.

    From where would the estimated 80-100000 financial professionals come from? China?

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