Colombo Telegraph

The Recent Announcement On The Port City

By 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.

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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