Navigating a Green BRI in Sri Lanka

  • Divya HundlaniEmail author


The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which spans over 60 countries, will play a leading role in shaping the international practice of sustainable and ‘green’ development, particularly in emerging economies like Sri Lanka. As China positions itself as a global economic leader through major investments in BRI countries, it is also promoting itself as a global environmental leader on key issues like climate change. President Xi’s support of the Paris Agreement, financial commitments to the South-South Cooperation Fund, and prioritization of “green and low-carbon infrastructure construction and operation management” in the 2015 plan ‘China’s policies and Actions on Climate Change’ all signal China’s commitment to implement a green BRI. Further, new investment institutions for the BRI such as the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) have pledged to mitigate climate change, conserve biodiversity, and support green economic growth.

This chapter examines the challenges China may face in implementing a green BRI in Sri Lanka, specifically in the Hambantota and Colombo port projects. The paper identifies the environmental needs of port operations and the difficulties in addressing these needs in Sri Lanka, including a lack of clear standards, insufficient technical know-how and limited financial resources. Sri Lanka is vulnerable to coastal degradation from industrial activities, freshwater pollution from industrial waste and sewage runoff, and increased emissions and pollution from industrial and construction operations. The paper discusses how Sri Lanka can and should position itself for green economic growth, including by setting standards for low emissions and pollution levels, and it suggests potential policies to promote renewable energy sources in BRI operations in Hambantota and Colombo.



The author wishes to thank Dinusha Panditaratne and Barana Waidyatilake for their assistance and the participants at the forum on “Belt Road Connectivity and Eurasian Integration: Meeting the Culture” for their feedback; all remaining errors being the authors’. The opinions expressed here are of the author and not of LKI, and do not necessarily reflect the position of any other institution or individual with which the author is affiliated.


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© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute of International Relations and Strategic StudiesColomboSri Lanka

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