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China facilitates Sri Lankan post-war construction

09-17-2013 22:45 BJT

After 2008’s financial storm, many foreign investors pulled out of Sri Lanka. China, however, stayed put, offering aid for local capacity development. To date, Chinese assisting loans to Sri Lanka total $3.6 billion.

As soon as the Sri Lankan civil war ended in May 2009, engineers from the China Railway No.5 Engineering Group arrived in Jaffna to facilitate the construction of new roads in the area. To ensure their safety, employees were living in the former barracks of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, or the LTTE. For them, the scenes they saw four years ago feel like yesterday.

"Bullet holes were everywhere. Houses and roads were badly damaged. Many cities and villages were really a no man’s land, spooky even in day light," said Xie Guan Huang, manager of China Railway No.5 Engineering Group.

Tensions lingered when the war first ended. For safety concerns, employees were guarded by armed soldiers.

"We had strict rules about where to go. We couldn’t set foot on land that hadn’t been cleared," Xie Guan Huang said.

26 years of war effectively destroyed the basic infrastructure on the Jaffna Peninsula. Electricity outages were frequent and resources for construction had to travel some 400 kilometres to reach the site. But despite the challenges, the roads have been completed to a high specification.

“Our bikes are smiling. Everything is good here. And now our bikes are in a very good condition, and we are not going every time to the garage. So now it’s good. I love China,” a Jaffna resident said.

China is the first country to offer post-war reconstruction in Sri Lanka. 80% of roads in the north of the country have been built by Chinese companies, totalling 1200 kilometres. The China National Aero-Technology Engineering Corporation is one such company.

"Highway A9 is a major pass from the north to the south, but had been blocked for the past 27 years. The red dots here mean mines, and half of the 154-kilometre road goes through mine fields, which is a huge hindrance. We have created 3000 jobs during construction and have had 5000 locals participating in the past 28 months. So this highway is a joint project with people from both countries," said Liu Hongguang, deputy G. M. of China Nat'l Aero-Technology Engineering Corp.

Chinese teams can be seen in almost all major construction projects in the country, including the Puttalam coal power plant. The plant, the largest in the country, provides 40% of Sri Lanka’s power. As a result, Sri Lanka became the only country free from black-outs in South Asia in 2012.

"It has been four years since the end of civil war, and tremendous changes have taken place in this country. Now wherever you go, you can see new projects. I feel we are doing something very meaningful for this country’s development," said Li Chaoyang, CEO of China Machinery Equipment Corp.

Infrastructure facilitated by Chinese companies and capital will have an increasingly important role to play in Sri Lanka in the future.




Editor:James |Source:

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