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Fisher folks, environmentalists and religious leaders against the Colombo Port City, Sri Lanka

The Colombo Port City Project is one of the most controversial infrastructure projects in Sri Lanka contested by the People’s Movement Against the Port City.


The Colombo Port City Project is one of the most controversial infrastructure projects in Sri Lanka [6]. The original proposal to create a Colombo Port City was made in 2004. It involved small-scale sea reclamation subjected to a thorough and comprehensive study. In 2010, there was an initial report which was not considered comprehensive enough, and the project has changed several times during the following years [7]. 

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Fisher folks, environmentalists and religious leaders against the Colombo Port City, Sri Lanka
Country:Sri Lanka
Location of conflict:Colombo
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Infrastructure and Built Environment
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Urban development conflicts
Ports and airport projects
Aquaculture and fisheries
Specific commodities:Sand, gravel
Biological resources
Project Details and Actors
Project details

Port City Colombo is a city development project built as an extension of the existing Colombo CBD with an initial investment of US$ 1.4 billion and an expected US$ 15 billion overall investment when completed. Spanning 269 hectares, it is a sea reclamation project joined to the current central business district. Port City Colombo is made up of 5 different precincts which is the Financial District, Central Park Living, Island Living, The Marina and the International Island.

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Project area:565
Level of Investment for the conflictive project15,000,000,000
Affected Population:50,000
Start of the conflict:01/01/2015
Company names or state enterprises:CHEC Port City Colombo(pvt)ltd. (CHEC) from China
The China Communications Construction Company Limited (CCCC)
Relevant government actors:The Government of Sri Lanka,
Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA)
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:The People’s Movement against the Port City,
Christian Solidarity Movement (CSM)
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Local ejos
Trade unions
Local scientists/professionals
Religious groups
Fisher people
Forms of mobilization:Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Media based activism/alternative media
Objections to the EIA
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Refusal of compensation
Environmental ImpactsPotential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Food insecurity (crop damage), Soil contamination, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Floods (river, coastal, mudflow), Noise pollution, Soil erosion, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover
Socio-economical ImpactsPotential: Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Specific impacts on women, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Project StatusUnder construction
Conflict outcome / response:New Environmental Impact Assessment/Study
Project temporarily suspended
Proposal and development of alternatives:The People’s Movement against the Port City demands the abolition of the project.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:In the beginning of the conflict, wide protests highlighting negative impacts faced by the fisherfolk and local communities, as well as the adverse impact on fish breeding areas, damage to coral reefs and coastal erosion, halted the project. However, currently, the project is ongoing and the outcome is not clear. [6]
Sources & Materials
References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

Revival of Colombo Port City Project: Implications for India (Patrick 2016, National Maritime Foundation) [6]
[click to view]

Women from the fishing community in Sri Lanka protest against Port City (Sunday Times, 27.08.2017) [1]
[click to view]

Protests against Colombo Port City Project (UCA News, 26.08.2016) [3]
[click to view]

China to Build Vast Controversial Port City in Sri Lanka (The Guardian, 11.03.2016) [8]
[click to view]

China's Jewel in the Heart of the Indian Ocean (The Diplomat, 09.05.2016) [9]
[click to view]

Protests against the reopening of Colombo Port City (Asia News, 01.09.2016) [11]
[click to view]

The webpage of the Colombo Port City Project [4]
[click to view]

Why the Port City is Bad for the Country? (The Sunday Times, 12.06.2016) [7]
[click to view]

Sri Lanka clears the decks for controversial Chinese project (South China Morning Post, 11.12.2015) [5]
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Advertisement of the project Port City Colombo "A World Class City for South Asia" (25.10.2017) [2]
[click to view]

The Protest organized by The People's Movement Against Port City Against Port City Project in Sri Lanka (04.04.2016) [10]
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:Irmak Ertör, ENVJUSTICE, ICTA-UAB
Last update18/08/2019
Conflict ID:3536
Legal notice / Aviso legal
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