Port City rising, govt. rejoicing
Posted on October 26th, 2017

Editorial Courtesy The Island

Megapolis and Western Development Minister Champika Ranawaka declared the other day that the first phase of the Chinese-funded Colombo Port City project was nearing completion. He was in seventh heaven! We thought he would weep or at least mewl in public when he made that announcement. Why did we expect him to cry?

Ranawaka wraps himself in the flag. He wears his heart on his sleeve and keeps telling us that he will even risk his life to prevent anything bad from happening to the country. He is also surrounded by some patriotic environmentalists. So, how on earth can he rejoice when the Port City project makes some progress?

It may be recalled that on Dec. 16, 2014, in the run-up to the last presidential election, the then Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe declared that the Port City project, which had been approved by the Rajapaksa government, would destroy the coastal belt from Negombo to Beruwala and, therefore, he would scrap it after forming a yahapalana government. He earned plaudits from the yahapalana camp, of which Ranawaka is a prominent member, various environmental and religious organisations and poor fishers; the protesters voted for Maithripala Sirisena, in the presidential race, overwhelmingly, hoping for an end to the Port City project after a change of government.

But, alas, the yahapalana government did an about-turn. It initially suspended the Port City project, which was subsequently allowed to be built on a bigger land area to be reclaimed from the sea because it was desperate for Chinese loans. China had the last laugh. It dug up land to build an inland port in Hambantota and started filling up part of the sea to construct a city in Colombo, under the Rajapaksa government. After the 2015 regime change, it got the Hambantota Port for a song on a 99-year lease besides thousands of acres of land in the area and also resumed the Colombo Port City project. Now, the yahapalana leaders are all cock-a-hoop about the Chinese projects while the protesters they took for a ride are gnashing their teeth!

Ranawaka is lucky that he has, at last, got something to hold on to as the Megapolis minister; without the Port City project, he would have been left with some menial tasks such as removing stray dogs and cattle from roads in the Western Province in the name of urban development. That may be the reason why he is happy about the progress of the Port City project. But, there are some mega issues he will have to sort out before the project reaches completion.

An electrical engineer by profession and one of the few intelligent politicians in the current Parliament, Ranawaka can’t be unaware of the massive strain the national grid is sure to come under when the Port City gets fully functional. The Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) is already struggling to meet the increasing demand for power and buying electricity at extortionate prices from the private sector. There are complaints that even the export processing zones experience frequent power cuts. Blackouts and brownouts are not infrequent in all parts of the country. If rains fail for a couple of months, the CEB complains of massive losses due to thermal power generation and power purchasing (fraught with corruption). How does the government propose to ensure a reliable power supply to the Port City? Does it have plans to increase the CEB’s generation capacity substantially within the next few years?

The Colombo Municipal Council (CMC) cannot even provide a satisfactory service to the ratepayers within the existing city limits. Piles of waste have appeared in some parts of the city during the past several months. Motorists complain of the bad road conditions in the city. Some roads are hardly motorable for want of repairs. Underground sewers burst because they are as old as the city itself. So, how does the government propose to manage garbage and sewage in the Port City?

Cities are known for their enormous thirst. The National Water Supply and Drainage Board cannot ensure a reliable water supply even in Colombo. Spells of drought lead to water cuts as the Kelani Ganga water levels recede. How will the government quench the thirst of the concrete Godzilla rising from the sea?

The ongoing Port City construction work may help the government satisfy its yen for dollars and give it something to flaunt by way of infrastructural development, which is conspicuous by its absence in most parts of the country. But, it has also exposed the yahapalana leaders as a bunch of hypocrites and is bound to cause unforeseen problems which they had better prepare themselves for if disastrous consequences are to be averted.

3 Responses to “Port City rising, govt. rejoicing”

  1. Senerath Says:

    He is not an ‘electrical engineer by profession’ he is just and electical engineeing graduate. He has not achieve status of a professional engineer.

  2. L Perera Says:

    Perhaps the minister concerned is not that that dumb. If there is shortage of electricity, there could be another contract
    for the supply of electricity ( like Solar or Sea Wave powered turbines ) that the Chinese would vie for.

  3. Hiranthe Says:

    Maga lier!! Pacha Ranawaka mislead the youths in 2015.

    You will pay badly for the damages done to Mother Lanka.

    Can’t you at least solve the waste and sewer problem in Colombo??

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