China-funded highway extension to open in Sri Lanka

Colombo, Jan 1: A China-funded $180-million extension to Sri Lanka’s first highway will be opened in January-end, an official said here Tuesday.

The extension will have two interchanges at Wathawana area in Galle city, Deniyaya Road and in Kokmaduwa along the Weligama Kananke Road. The four-lane 35-km extension of Sri Lanka’s first-ever expressway was constructed at a cost of $180 million with funds from EXIM Bank of China, Xinhua reported.

The expressway will be extended further from Matara city to Hambantota district, said Ranjith Premasiri, secretary to the ministry of highways, Ports and Shipping.

According to the highways officials, plans are afoot to further extend the expressway to link a Chinese-funded harbor and international airport in Hambantota and feasibility studies for the proposed extension have already been completed.

The first phase of the southern highway was completed in November 2011 at a cost of $700 million and also partly funded by the Chinese government.

A $272 million Chinese-funded southern railway project began construction in October. It will run parallel to the southern highway.

Since a 30-year war ended in the island nation in 2009, China has emerged as Sri Lanka’s largest loan provider with $1.2 billion of loans in 2009 and $821 million in 2010.

In 2011, the amount fell to about $784 million, but China remains involved in almost all the large scale projects taking place, according to the finance ministry.

Some of the biggest projects include a $1.3 billion coal power plant on the northwestern shore as well as a host of other investments in the south of the country that are estimated to exceed $4 billion, including a $1.2 billion harbour.

IANS