China launches major water project in Sri Lanka

China has started a major water supply project in Sri Lanka, using “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 earlier been involved in the construction of the $1.2-billion Lakvijaya coal fired power plant in Sri Lanka.

Once completed, the project will yield clean drinking water for 600,000 people in 42 villages not far from Colombo.

The CMEC will build a water treatment plant with a supply capacity of 54,000 cubic meters a day and other infrastructure within three years. That would include laying over 1,000 km of pipes.

Analysts say the new venture is 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 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 terminate in Venice after crossing into the Mediterranean via the Suez Canal.

Analysts say New Delhi is carefully observing China’s growing relationship with Sri Lanka and Maldives — two countries with which India has had a special relationship. 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-denominated loan will come from the Exim Bank of China and the the Yuan loan from the Chinese government. The first phase of the Hambantota port was also financed by China.

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