Colombo, October 31: A mega project to build a $1.43-billion port city along the shoreline of Sri Lanka's capital Colombo will be placed for cabinet approval next month with construction expected to begin in December, an official said here Thursday.
The project, which aims at reclaiming a 230 hectare site from the sea to build a mini-city that is expected to include a Formula 1 racetrack, is projected by the Sri Lankan government to attract $15 billion in investment for the country, Xinhua reported.
The state-run Sri Lanka Port Authority (SLPA) overseeing the venture has already signed a $1.43-billion agreement with China Communications Construction Co Ltd. to build a city on the 230-hectare site.
The 39-month-long construction project will also include ecoparks, residential areas, offices and shopping malls, according to the SLPA.
It will be adjacent to the Colombo harbour, which is also being expanded by a Chinese company.
Project Director Susantha Abeysiriwardene told reporters that if the cabinet approves the project, construction could begin in December after an opening ceremony in the middle of next month.
"Once we have obtained permission from the cabinet of ministers, we hope to sign relevant agreements and begin construction by December," he said, adding that initial work has already been started.
A section of the reclaimed land will be handed over to the Chinese company while the rest will be parcelled off to other investors under a 99-year lease, Ports and Highways Deputy Minister Rohitha Bogollagama told media earlier this month.
The new real estate will be among the most sought after locations in Colombo and is adjacent to star-class hotels including a $500-million Shangri-la hotel, which is still under construction.
Since Sri Lanka ended a 30-year civil war in 2009, China has emerged as the island nation's largest loan provider funding massive infrastructure projects of highways, railways, a coal power plant, an airport and a harbour that are estimated to be worth around $4 billion.
China’s increasing influence in the Sourth Asian region has raised much concern and fear that it was throwing “a string of pearls” around the superpower India. Wickrama however, assured that, “For us, it is purely a commercial interest to develop our ports. We will not allow any military base at our ports nor will we allow them to be used for any strategic military purpose.”