China must take care of Hambantota port in Sri Lanka

It is now the responsibility of China, as Sri Lanka handed over the port to it on a 99- year lease, to safeguard the biodiversity of the area from negative port impacts.

opinion Updated: Dec 10, 2017 23:06 IST
Hambantota port,China,Sri Lanka
A file photo of a group of Sri Lankan visitors at the new deep water shipping port watch Chinese dredging ships work in Hambantota on March 24, 2010. (Reuters)

So, the Sri Lankans have handed over Hambantota port, to the Chinese for 99 years, since they were in Chinese debt.

Sri Lanka is one of the 34 biodiversity hot-spots of the world, with several endemic species-species found nowhere else in the world. Tourists love to visit for its natural beauty.

A few years ago, I drove from Colombo via Hambantota (already by then being developed) to Yala National Park. With me was a superbly informed Sri Lankan naturalist-turned-guide, Mevan Piyasena. He’d point out the extraordinarily fragile eco-system, untouched and flourishing during the years of the war.

We stopped at a turtle breeding project, and several ocean-life rich spots. It was truly enchanting. He’d mentioned Hambantota, and the fear of its ruining the seas.

Ports don’t safeguard the waters. There’s enormous pollution from the fuel used contaminating the air, the noise from the ships and actual dumping in the waters from waste, which also implies sedimentation. Some of this is toxic too, and greasy.

All these activities also change the temperature of the waters in the port, drastically impacting which creatures survive and which ones don’t. Several international agencies concur.

Now that the Chinese have this asset, it is their responsibility to safeguard Sri Lankan biodiversity from negative port impacts. China must show the world what the greenest port on the planet looks like, on a fragile island, in the era of climate change.

I am not anti-Chinese, it’s just that I care for the planet more. For me-and for us all-nothing less will do.

(The writer is the founder and director of the Chintan Environmental Research and Action Group)

First Published: Dec 10, 2017 23:04 IST