Hambantota, located at the south end of Sri Lanka, only 10 nautical miles from the international shipping route in the Indian Ocean, is now racing along a developmental fast-track.
From the foundation stone of the Sri Lanka-China Industrial Zone being laid in Hambantota at the beginning of this year, to the official launch of operations at the Hambantota Port through a Sri Lanka-Sino joint venture at the end of the year, cooperation between Sri Lanka and China in Hambantota has flourished in 2017, with the vision of further developing Hambantota gradually becoming the reality.
PORT: BUILDING, OPERATING IN UNION
On the construction site of the almost-finished second phase of the Hambantota Port, gantry portal cranes and some other port facilities raise their heads upwards to the sky.
Liu Zhaohui, the Assistance Project Manager from China Harbour Engineering Company Ltd. (CHEC) said, "we had finished all the civil engineering of the project by Nov. 2015 and most of the handling facilities will have been delivered to the project site within this year. Only two bunkering barges will be remaining, by mid-May next year, and the second phase will be entirely completed."
On Dec. 9, Sri Lanka and China officially launched the operations at the Hambantota Port through a joint venture between Sri Lanka Ports Authority and China Merchant Port Holdings.
Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said on the day of the official launch that, "we have made arrangements for the management and long-term success of the Hambantota Port. The Sri Lankan and Chinese joint venture, which has taken over the management of this port, and its operations, will ensure an additional port in the Indian Ocean."
The Sri Lankan side is highly confident in the future operations of the Hambantota Port, so are the Chinese.
"We are aiming to turn the Hambantota port into a major hub connecting neighboring countries as well as the rest of the world. That is the national vision of Sri Lanka and it is also our mission as an operator," Deputy General Manager of CM Port, Hang Tian, told Xinhua in a recent interview.
Hang said, "we strongly believe that the Hambantota Port will play a more important role in Sri Lanka's shipping industry than the Colombo Port, since the former is located closer to the international shipping route. CM Port will apply their advanced experience of running ports in Shenzhen, China, to the Port of Hambantota."
EXPRESSWAY: DIFFICULTIES OVERCOME, GOALS ACCOMPLISHED
Twenty kilometers north of Hambantota, lies the construction site of the fourth section of Sri Lanka's Southern Highway Extension Project. On a daily basis, Sri Lankan and Chinese workers hustle and bustle together to build the highway, while precast beams are piled up on the ground. One after another, bridge piers are being erected with parts of the bridge floor which have already been well laid.
"We have finished half of the overall work this year despite elephants, peacocks and monkeys living in the jungle close to the construction site causing some difficulties to our work," Yang Senyan, the Contractor's Representative of this CHEC project said.
Yang added, "it is clear to us that the wildlife is of great value to both human and nature, therefore, in order to reduce the impact of construction on the local wildlife, we built two special bridges as part of our project, with the space beneath the bridges left for the animals to ramble from one side to the other."
Sixty kilometers west, is the first section of the Southern Highway Extension Project. With mountains, gullies and swamps, the condition of the terrain here is much more complicated than the fourth section of the project.
China National Aero Technology International Holding Corporation's Vice Project Manager, Zhou Yue, explained that the first 13 kilometers of the section traverses the well-known Ellewela flooded area, while the last 17 kilometers is a hilly terrain.