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Port City Project, Sri Lanka

Sri Lankan fishermen and EJOs fight against the Colombo Port City development Project, an offshore city with luxury apartments and facilities that will generate adverse impacts on marine biodiversity and on the livelihoods of local communities.


The Colombo City Port is a planned city in Colombo which is meant to be built on reclaimed land next to the Galle Face Green, an ocean side urban park located beside the financial and business district of Colombo. The key features of Colombo Port City include a marina and a yacht club, a central boulevard, a sea view apartment complex and a five-star hotel, in addition to a shopping and entertainment centre, office spaces, a mini golf course, and many other modern facilities. Since the beginning the project has faced resistance by the local communities and environmentalists for the adverse impact that would be caused to marine ecology, environment and fishermen’s livelihood [2][5].  The project is the landmark of the infrastructure development programme launched in 2009, after the end of the civil war, by the former government headed by Rajapaska. It was suspended after Rajapaksa lost the elections in January 2015, with the new government saying it wanted to review all projects to ensure they were environmentally viable and corruption-free. However, in March 2016 the government decided to allow it to proceed, in a move seen as an effort to reassure China.

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Port City Project, Sri Lanka
Country:Sri Lanka
State or province:Western Provinec, Colombo District
(municipality or city/town)Colombo
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict: 1st level:Infrastructure and Built Environment
Type of conflict: 2nd level :Land acquisition conflicts
Urban development conflicts
Tourism facilities (ski resorts, hotels, marinas)
Ports and airport projects
Specific commodities:Tourism services
Project Details and Actors
Project details:

The total quantity of rock materials needed to reclaim the sea is 3.45 million of cubic meters. For this purpose, the authorities have identified 11 quarries from the districts of Gampaha, Colombo and Kalutara. Following the EIA report, only 43% of the available granite materials will be required for the project [10].

Project area:270 [1]
Level of Investment:Between 15,000,000,000,000 - 20,000,000,000,000
Type of populationSemi-urban
Affected Population:About 30,000 fishermen [10]
Start of the conflict:2009
Company names or state enterprises:China Communication Construction Company Ltd. (CCCC) from China - Investor, land reclamation and construction works
CHEC Port City Colombo(pvt)ltd. (CHEC) from China - land reclamation and infrastructure works
Jones Lang LaSalle Incorporated (JLL) from United States of America - partner in project development
Pinsent Masons - legal advices
Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PWC) - consultancy
AECOM from Canada
SWECO group (SWECO) from Sweden
Relevant government actors:Coast Conservation and Coastal Management Department

Prime Minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe

President, Maithripala Sirisena

Mahinda Rajapaksa (former President 2005-2015)

Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA)
International and Finance InstitutionsAsian Development Bank (ADB)
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:People's Movement against the Port City

National Fisheries Solidarity Movement

Christian Solidarity Movement

Environmental Foundation Limited

Center for Environmental Justice Sri Lanka
Conflict and Mobilization
IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Local ejos
Social movements
Religious groups
translation missing: en.m.mobilizing_groups.fisher_people
Forms of mobilization:Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Objections to the EIA
Official complaint letters and petitions
Street protest/marches
Appeals/recourse to economic valuation of the environment
Impacts of the project
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Noise pollution, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation
Potential: Global warming, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity, Other Environmental impacts, Soil erosion, Groundwater pollution or depletion
Other Environmental impactsThe construction working and the sand extraction will impact on the underwater rich biodiversity in both Dredging Site and the Project Site of the Port City. This will especially occur in the districts of Gampaha, Colombo and Kalutara where the authorities identified 11 quarries from which supply the needed materials [10].

Impacts on the level of ground water in the sites of granite extraction for construction materials. Studies suggest that if the granite rocks are destroyed the ground water level in the area will decline.

The project may increase the negative impact of climate change such those caused by sea level rise, storms and other extreme events [11].

Colombo City itself hosts a variety of wildlife habitats including charismatic, threatened and endangered species (Saltwater crocodiles, Spot billed Pelicans, Fishing Cats, Western Purple Face Leaf Monkey). By creating green spaces and waterways, some of these species will colonise the space [11].

For further information consult the Comments sent by Environmental Foundation

Limited on Supplementary EIA on Colombo Port City Project [11].
Health ImpactsPotential: Malnutrition, Health problems related to alcoholism, prostitution, Accidents
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Other socio-economic impacts
Potential: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, displacement, Increase in violence and crime, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Militarization and increased police presence, Social problems (alcoholism, prostitution, etc..), Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Other socio-economic impactsLoss of livelihoods for fishermen living nearby the site of the project and in the areas where the construction materials are extracted. Fishermen who live along the coastal area of Kammalthota to the Rathmalana claim that their income has been already reduced due to the depletion of fish resources as a result of sand mining. The fishermen of Modera complain that due to sand mining they suffer the loss of their seashore which was used to tie up their boats [10][12].

Following the new city development the people who dwell in the city will be cut off from the rest of citizens in the mainland. The group of people who could afford an apartment in the City Port would stand out as a different community altogether since their life styles will be different and interaction with mainland community will be minimal. This might create a new rift and conflict between these two groups of people [12].

Impact of the loss of the Galle Face due to its aesthetic value and the benefit that this public space provides to the thousands of people that use it for recreational purposes [11].
Project StatusPlanned (decision to go ahead eg EIA undertaken, etc)
Conflict outcome / response:Court decision (undecided)
New Environmental Impact Assessment/Study
Project temporarily suspended
Development of alternatives:Environmental Foundation Limited asks for the need of adhering to prevailing law of the country in implementing this project, especially in terms of developing a proper EIA for the project in order to assess its feasibility.

Local fishermen community and local EJOs ask for the halt of the project in order to preserve their livelihoods, the local biodiversity and the Galle Face Green as a public space, accessible for all [11].
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:According to Environmental Foundation Limited, the Project does not have an essentiality and it has been developed by the CHEC and CCCC as an unsolicited proposal with little or no benefits to the Sri Lankan people. Rather, it will generate a number of adverse impacts in many different sectors including marine biodiversity, coastal erosion, fishery stocks, fish breeding sites and fishing grounds, coastlines to practice fisheries, extensive demand on energy and other utilities and, generation of solid waste. Moreover, the environmental assessments carried out in this regard are inadequate and incomplete, and thus the most of the impacts are yet to be identified and quantified. Last, the works that had already been carried out was illegal on the grounds of not carrying out a proper impact assessment of the project activities as required by the EIA legislation in Sri Lanka (Section 16 of the Coast Conservation Act as amended).
Sources and Materials
Related laws and legislations - Juridical texts related to the conflict

Coast Conservation Act as amended, Section 16 (2011)
[click to view]

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

[11] Environmental Foundation Limited, Comments sent by Environmental Foundation Limited on SEIA on Colombo Port City Project, January 2016. [Accessed 20th July
[click to view]

[1] online newspaper, Weekend Nation, All eyes on Colombo Port City, By Jithendra Antonio, Apr 16, 2016. [accessed 18th July 2016]
[click to view]

[9] Online article from Asia News, Police charge peaceful protesters, including nuns, who oppose a port city project By Melani Manel Perera, 3rd May 2015
[click to view]

[10] Article on line from Colombo Telegraph, EIA Report On The Environmental Impact Of The Colombo Port City By Fr. Sarath Iddamalgoda, 5th January 2016
[click to view]

[2] Article online from The Hindu, Protests against China-funded Colombo Port City project continue By T. RAMAKRISHNAN, 6th April 2016. [Accessed 20th July 2016]
[click to view]

[8] Article on line from The Daily News, Supplementary EIA report on Port City Project, Lakmal Sooriyagoda, 18th November 2015.
[click to view]

[7] Article online from Colombo Telegraph, Port City Is Detrimental To Sri Lanka: People’s Movement Against Port City, unknown author, 14th April 2016. [Accessed 20th July 2016]
[click to view]

[3] Official website of Colombo Port City Project. [Accessed 20th July 2016]
[click to view]

[6] Article on line from Clombo Telegraph, People’s Movement Against Port City Wants Project Halted, unknown author, 17th March 2016. [Accessed 20th July 2016]
[click to view]

[12] Environmental Foundation Limited, Why the Port City EIA Needs to be Reassessed Concerns on the Port City Development, March 2015
[click to view]

[4] Online newspaper, Daily FT, Colombo Port City Project: Monster or transformative opportunity? , unknown author, 9th April 2015. [Accessed 20th July 2016]
[click to view]

[5] Online article from Associated Press, Sri Lankan protest Chinese funded port city project By BHARATHA MALLAWARACHI, 4th April 2016. [Accessed 20th July 2016]
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Protests against Colombo Port City
[click to view]

Other documents

Colombo Port City Project
[click to view]

Chinese President Xi Jinping and President Mahinda Rajapaksa launch the I phase of the Colombo Port City Project
[click to view]

Fishermen protesting against the Colombo Port City Project
[click to view]

[click to view]

[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:Paola Camisani
Last update12/08/2016