Colombo on par with top world cities

The CHEC Port City Colombo (Pvt.) Ltd is confident that the increasing mutual understanding between China Harbour Engineering Company Ltd (CHEC) and the Government of Sri Lanka has paved the way to further strengthen cooperation between the two parties and bring the project back on the right track, which is going to be the largest FDI in Sri Lanka.

CHEC said, Sri Lanka and China are proud of a very long history of mutual friendship and economic cooperation, and that Port City, the flagship project, would play a pivotal role in China’s One Belt,One Road (OBOR) initiative due to Sri Lanka’s strategic location in the middle of the maritime silk route.

Liang Thow Ming, Chief Sales and Marketing Officer of the CHEC Port City Colombo (Pvt.) Ltd during a discussion held with a Sri Lankan media delegation at the CHEC office in Beijing, China, last week said, the Port City Project doesn’t merely target the Sri Lankan market, but has earmarked the whole South Asian market including, Indian, Pakistani and Bangladesh markets, with a population nearing 1.7 billion.

Ming told the visiting Sri Lankan media delegation that their vision is “building a world class city for South Asia”. He elaborated:

“So, we have targeted the whole South Asian market. We will try to lift Colombo on to the same level of top metropolitan cities in the world. We want to put Singapore, Dubai or perhaps Tokyo, in Colombo.

Most liveable city

This is the ultimate goal we are trying to accomplish. Our mission is to develop the most liveable city in South Asia. Steps will also be taken to make Colombo a stopover destination for tourists by attracting them to the Port City. At present, Colombo is not a stop-over destination for tourists and they just bypass it, most of the time.

“Strategically located at the epicentre of South Asia, Port City, Colombo offers access to a thriving region poised for future expansion as a key link between Asia and the West. Building on the foundations of the rapidly growing Sri Lankan economy, this project will produce a vibrant city; a financial hub that fosters a living, working and learning environment unmatched in the region.

Ming further said, “Earlier, the Port City Project had to undergo some hardships due to its suspension. But, now it has returned to the right track and is the pioneering project being carried out by CHEC in Sri Lanka.

The Ministry of Megapolis and Western Development and the Urban Development Authority are the partners of the project. In 2002, current Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe who was also then Prime Minister initiated a study on this project and a request was made in 2004 for a City Development Project, which included a reclamation of 116 hectares at the same location that we are reclaiming right now. The difference is, now we have a bigger project of 269 hectares. In 2004, the project proposal came in and eventually, it was not implemented due to some reasons. In 2010, the previous Government had decided to re-initiate this project.

“The agreement was signed by Chinese President Xi Jinping and former Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa, on September 17, 2014, to commence the Port City Project. However, the project was suspended in March 2015. After that, we had a series of discussions with the Government. Based on its results, we have reached a mutual understanding.

Therefore, the suspension was lifted about a year ago and the suspension order retracted on 09-03-2016. Still some commercial discussions are going on which resulted in a brand-new tripartite agreement being signed between the Government, UDA and ourselves on 12-08-2016. Consequently, the project re-commenced on 13-09-2016”, Ming detailed.

He said, “this project fulfils the needs and aspirations of two different countries. As far as China is concerned, we have the One Belt, One Road (OBOR) Initiative, while Sri Lanka is also situated in the maritime silk road. Where Sri Lanka is concerned, it is looking for a massive infrastructure investment and development. Therefore, we will try to uplift the Sri Lankan economy.

The Port City Project is an investment amounting to US$1.4 billion just only for land reclamation and the construction itself. Subsequently, the overall investment of the entire project would amount to US$ 15 billion. Obviously, there will be many other added incentives and advantages to the Sri Lankan population and the country’s economy”.

Quality of life

According to Ming the total project consists of 269 hectares, of which some 91 hectares will be used for public infrastructure, roads, parks and bridges, all of which would contribute to improve the quality of life. The balance 178 hectares will be used for residential, commercial offices, hospitality projects, marina and a few other services.

He said, “when the project is fully completed, we expect to have 5.65 million square metres. The project would also provide another 1.5 million square metres of office space. The expected city population would be 250,000. In addition, the project would create 83,000 new job opportunities.

“Thereclaimed land of the Port City has been designed with five unique precincts; Central Park Living(35HA) , Financial District (42HA), International Island (113HA), the Marina (20HA)and Island Living (194HA).

A lagoon, 300 metres in width will be created adjacent to Galle Face Green, making it safe for people to swim in. Though the suspension of the project has affected the breakwater construction, the reclamation of land is taking place on schedule and nearly 45 per cent of the work has already been completed now.

“When we compare with similar projects globally, Palm Jumeriah in Dubai (572 HA), Pearl in Doha, Qatar (400 HA), Marina Bay in Singapore (360 HA), Port City in Colombo (269 HA) and DIFC in Dubai (51 HA), the Port City in Colombo is 20 percent smaller than the Marina Bay in Singapore. However, when we look at these numbers, the Port City is going to be a flagship project.

The Port City is being developed by an international team of staff and consultants from 16 countries such as, Australia, Canada, China, Greece, India, Italy, Malaysia, the Netherlands, Russia, Singapore, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, UAE, UK and USA”.

Ming said, “this is going to be the largest FDI to be ever made in Sri Lanka. CHEC is supposed to do the investment, IDB finance, engineering and reality aspects. Then we proceed to fund and perform the construction itself from the reclamation and subsequently through the infrastructure. The responsibility of the Sri Lankan Government is to give us the right to carry out the reclamation over the sea that belongs to the country.

Secondly, I think, the role of the Government is to bring all necessary utility connections through the boundary of the project itself. Finally, the role of the Government is to help us obtain all necessary licences and permission as required by the laws of the country to implement the project.

Mutual understanding

CHEC has got 116 hectares of lands for 99 years while the Government has another 62 hectares for its use and its development agenda.

“The suspension of the project was about one and a half years, so that everything was delayed for about one and a half years. The significant difference was that the Government now assumes people’s rights over the Port City. It is a very significant improvement as far as the Government is concerned. Beyond that, a lot of positive developments have been made.

The increasing mutual understanding between the Company and the Government has further strengthened the cooperation between the relevant parties. The project is predominantly handled by locals, including many of its senior positions. The Port City Project is scheduled to be completed in 2041, giving Sri Lanka a world class city for South Asia.

“Generally, before the suspension, there had been a lot of misconceptions rather than the actual damage to the environment. Every construction job causes some kind of damage to the environment.

It is of course, a matter how we manage it. We operate within reasonable limits in construction projects of this nature. However, there were more misconceptions than the actual damage that is being done. We strictly follow regulations imposed by the Government on environmental protection. We have a Master Plan approved by the UDA and passed by the Sri Lankan Parliament”, Ming concluded.

The Port City, second to none of the other such projects around the world, will add a dramatic skyline to Colombo while providing coveted living and office space at a prime location in the City. 

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