China has started a major water supply project in Sri Lanka, using its “soft power” to deepen its relationship with Colombo.
The China Machinery Engineering Corporation (CMEC) has launched the $230-million enterprise — the largest ever undertaken by the Sri Lankan government, Xinhua quoted an official as saying.
The Chinese company had been earlier involved in the construction of the $ 1.2 billion Lakvijaya coal fired power plant in Sri Lanka. Once completed, the new project will yield clean drinking water that would benefit 600,000 people, spread in 42 villages, in an area not far from Colombo.
The CMEC will build a water treatment plant with a supply capacity of 54,000 cubic metres a day, and other infrastructure, within a three year time frame. That would include laying over 1,000 km of pipes to carry the water.
Analysts say that the new venture is only one of several steps that Beijing and Colombo have taken to consolidate their relationship.
China sees Sri Lanka as one of the important elements of the 21 century Maritime Silk Road (MSR), which will connect its Fujian Province with Europe. The MSR would transit through the Indian Ocean via India, Sri Lanka, Maldives, and Nairobi in Kenya. It would finally terminate in Venice after crossing into the Mediterranean via the Suez Canal.
Analysts say that New Delhi is carefully observing China’s growing relationship with Sri Lanka and Maldives — two countries with which India has had a special relationship. The Hindu had reported that on Thursday, the >Indian Air Force dispatched five transport aircraft , including three C-17 Globemasters and two IL-76s, carrying a large consignment of potable water, after a major fire destroyed the generator of the Male Water and Sewerage Company, the biggest water treatment plant in the Maldives.
One naval warship, INS Sukanya, capable of producing 20 tonnes of fresh water a day, which was pressed into service, will remain berthed off Male harbour until the desalination treatment plant has been repaired.
China is also engaged in the expansion of Hambantota Port in southern Sri Lanka, with two loans of $600 million and one billion Yuan, the website of the Sri Lanka Ports authority said. The dollar loan will come from the Exim Bank of China and the government of China would provide the Yuan loan.
The first phase of the Hambantota port was also financed by China.