Built on land reclaimed from the Indian Ocean and funded with $1.4bn in Chinese investment, glossy plans for Port City inspire a mixture of optimism and alarm
Iron cannons installed by the Dutch to ward off colonial rivals still line Galle Face Green, a grassy, mile-long promenade along the Colombo seafront. Further out to sea, within range of the guns, a new world power is leaving its mark on Sri Lankas capital.
Currently, Port City is just a flat expanse of blank land jutting out into the ocean, growing a fraction larger each day, as dredging ships pour what will eventually amount to 65 million cubic metres of sand.
Within a few years, however, Port City will be the site of glass skyscrapers, a busy financial district, hospitals, hotels and even a theme park. Across the world, Chinese companies are developing President Xi Jinpings Belt and Road Initiative by building new roads, ports and bridges but in Sri Lanka they are building a whole new metropolis.
It is a completely new city that will nearly double the size of Colombo right now, says Janaka Wijesundara, a former director at Sri Lankas Urban Development Authority. It is going to drastically change the entire landmass.
Built on 665 acres (2.6 sq km) of land being reclaimed from the Indian Ocean, the city is designed to be a smaller Singapore, with its own business-friendly tax regime and regulations and possibly a different legal system to the rest of Sri Lanka.
About 80,000 people are expected to live in the city, with another quarter of a million commuting in every day.