China Harbour Engineering Company Limited (CHEC), the developers and the owners of the Colombo Port City project, has proposed to extend the Marine Drive via an underground tunnel, that will ultimately connect the country’s South with the Northern region.
The US $ 150 million project is likely to be on Public Private Partnership (PPP) basis, but the government is likely to make an annuity payment to the project owner during the period it operates the project as the toll collection is unlikely to be sufficient to generate a return.
However, this would not weigh on the country’s budget or escalate the already high borrowings because the annuity payment would be made from the State’s operating budget as opposed to the capital budget.
The technical feasibilities are currently underway, said sources close to the matter.
The project has been designed to expand the existing Marine Drive through an underground tunnel through the Galle Face Green which will then be connected to an elevated highway on the Port City, which will link up to the New Kelani Bridge.
There could also be an extension of the Galle Face Green promenade when the project reaches completion.
The environmental lobbyists and transport sector specialists have for years raised serious concerns about the possible adverse environmental impact from the US $ 1.4 billion Port City project and of the likely additional congestion in Colombo once the project becomes fully operational.
An Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is currently underway for the Marine Drive extension project to ascertain the possible negative impact on the environment.
The project sponsors have decided to preserve the aesthetic beauty of the Galle Face Hotel and also to ensure that the project does not spoil the fascinating view of the Galle Face Green.
Meanwhile, in a separate development, another feasibility study is currently being carried out to construct a Light Rail Transit (LRT) system between Colombo Port and Katunayake. The study is due to be completed this week.
Sri Lanka’s coalition regime banks on PPPs to develop the country’s physical infrastructure, a clear shift from the former regime’s debt-funded, state-led development model, which proved highly unsustainable.
However, the current regime is also accused of selling the country’s national assets to foreigners with geo political interests for a song, a development vehemently opposed by the majority.