Feature: China's Belt and Road Initiative boosts poverty relief in Sri Lanka

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In Sri Lanka, global visitors yearn for the buddhist culture of the sacred city of Kandy, which dates back to thousands of years ago, and the picturesque scenery of the old British-style town of Nuwara Eliya, or "city of light."

For Chinese tourists, when shuttling between the two scenic places through mountainous areas carpeted with velvety green tea plantations and if observing carefully, they may find some signs written in Chinese at the brand-new bus stops along the C11 Road, the most convenient path between Kandy and Nuwara Eliya.

Th Chinese signs that read "Donated by Hunan Construction Engineering Group of China" and "This project is funded by China Development Bank" belong to the China-built C11 project designed to improve the local traffic condition and the livelihood of up to 800,000 people along the road.

The project is part of Beijing's efforts to enhance regional infrastructure development under the Belt and Road Initiative proposed by China.

Thanks to the renovated and widened road, the mountain-locked Kandy-Nuwara Eliya region, which produces high-quality tea, vegetables and flowers, are now able to transport these products at a cost less than half of that before the C11's opening.

As a result, more and more local residents living along the road have begun to make a living by opening small shops and vegetable stalls. Among them is Lalith.

Before the construction of the C11, Lalith was unable to leave home to work in relatively developed areas because his kid was too young and his wife was not in a good health condition. Without regular income then, he could not feed his family well .

But things started to turn around as the C11 project started. The English-capable and hardworking Sri Lankan was employed by the Chinese contractor with a daily wage of nearly 10 U.S. dollars, no less than the average level of the whole country.

After the road was put into use, Lalith bought a tri-wheeled cart with his savings from his work at the construction site and started his own vegetable business, which has so far doing well due to a surging market demand, lifting his family out of poverty.

"Without the C11, my family would not have had the opportunity to strive for a well-off life," said Lalith who expressed his appreciation for China's funding and building of the project.

In addition to traffic improvement, another focus of China's Belt and Road Initiative is to boost power generation as a sufficient supply of electricity holds the key to poverty relief.

Since the 2011 commissioning of the Norochcholai power station, a China-built coal plant based in Puttalam, a town north of Colombo, Sri Lanka's power generation capacity has grown by 300 megawatts and its electricity price has dropped 25 percent, providing an effective solution to the country's long-standing lack of power supply as well as high electricity price.

For Rajarathna, a Puttalam farmer, the benefits from his country's production capacity cooperation with China are more than tangible.

With electricity from the Norochcholai Power Station, Rajarathna spend 20 dollars every month in irrigating his one-acre vegetable field, a sharp drop from the 138 dollars he spent when he relied on diesel fuel.

Rajarathna told Xinhua that he earns as much as 4,800 dollars annually by planting vegetables, and his wife, with a janitor job at the power plant, makes over 120 dollars a month. The farmer said they are now leading a very comfortable life.

As to maritime cooperation, the Colombo South Container Terminal, operated by China Merchants Group, is considered one of the best hubs geographically on the maritime Silk Road.

Currently, the China-run terminal has users from 14 countries and is predicted to generate profits worth 1.8 billion dollars in the coming 35 years with revenue-creating ability and efficiency Sri Lanka has never seen.

Sri Lanka will benefit from China's experiences in reform and opening up as well as achievements in poverty relief, Dr. Saman Kelegama, executive director of the Institute of Policy Studies, told Xinhua.

Kelegama said China's friendship toward Sri Lanka has never been uninterrupted, which can be shown by the laudable changes brought to the country by the construction and completion of a series of China-aided projects.

The new types of cooperation between the two sides, including those under the Belt and Road Initiative, will yield tangible results for both peoples, he added. Endit

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