The Government yesterday handed over the contract of the Moragahakanda dam project, which is estimated to cost US$ 382 million to a Chinese company, further cementing its status as the country’s largest loan provider.
Sinohydro Corporation was given the construction of the Moragahakanda Project, which will be the second largest tank ever built in Sri Lanka, according to the Mahaweli Authority. When completed, only the Victoria Dam will be larger. In terms of estimated cost the Moragahakanda Project is even larger than the Hambantota Port, which cost US$ 361 million as per Government records.
Irrigation and Water Resources Management Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva who was present at the signing ceremony commended the Chinese on their economic success and stated that “Sri Lankans must also start working like the Chinese”.
He went on to insist that when the Government’s development plans are completed, Sri Lanka will also be on par with the US$ 5,000 per capita income of China.
“We are grateful for the assistance given by China. In a few years we hope to become a country that will not depend on foreign loans and fund our own development. This is yet another step in that direction,” he said, addressing the gathering at the signing ceremony.
Chinese Embassy officials, including Deputy Head of Mission Ren Faqiang, also participated in the signing ceremony.
Under the first stage, the project is expected to provide water to cultivate 82,000 hectares of farming land in the Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Trincomalee and Matale Districts during both Maha and Yala seasons of the year.
.The Ministry also insists that the tank will guarantee water supply to meet drinking water needs as well as industrial purposes. Under this 5,000 hectares are being newly developed for agriculture.
The second stage of the Moragahakanda project involves constructing the North Central Province Channel which will provide water to cultivate 135,189 hectares in the North Central and Northern Provinces during both the Yala and Maha seasons. Eight service reservoirs will also be built to complete the project.
The venture was initially launched on 25 January 2007 but the work done so far has been largely from Government funds.
The Finance Ministry Annual Report states that China has retained the position of being Sri Lanka’s top funder with a total of US$ 784 million in loans last year. Total commitment in 2011 was US$ 2,076 million in comparison to US$ 3, 261 million in 2010 but the China component has grown.
China was Sri Lanka’s largest lender in 2009 and 2010, giving US$ 1.2 billion and US$ 821 million respectively. In 2009, that figure accounted for 54 per cent of total foreign loans, and 25 per cent in 2010.
According to the latest data, China had pledged funds for infrastructure development programs including two highways and provincial roads in 2011 that totalled US$ 784.7 million.
However of this amount there are no grants given by China even though Japan, Sri Lanka’s second largest funder with US$ 523 million, has allocated US$ 23 million as grants while India has given US$ 9.1 million. The largest amount of grants still comes from UN agencies, notes the report.