The Road that changed lives

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For Indunil Lakshan, 23, the Extension of the Southern Expressway Project in Sri Lanka has come as a blessing. Because of the project, he has been able to help his family move out of poverty and live a better life.

The story dates back to 2017, when he joined China State Construction Engineering Corporation (CSCEC) as a temporary driver. The company has built two sections of the said project, of which the total length is more than 96 km.

Later, Lakshan was sent to the capital city Colombo to work on another city-based project.

I was able to do a lot for myself  and my family during the past four years I worked here, says Lakshan.

When he got this permanent job, he started earning a steady income and was able to save some money. Later, he took out a loan to buy a mini truck for his father.

While I was working at the expressway(project), I bought a vehicle. My father uses the truck to transport goods to the city. Now we have a good income.”

Lakshan’s father, G.H. Gunaratne used to run a grocery shop before his son bought a mini truck for him. Now, Mr. Gunaratne transports vegetables from the village to Colombo city.

The expressway was completed in February 2020. Prior to the completion of the expressway, however, Gunaratne transported goods through the old road which is quite time-consuming. “Those days when the road was not good we took a trip once a week and our income was less than 100 USD per week. But it’s different now because of the expressway. We travel more frequently now and we can earn almost two times compared to early days.” Gunaratne explained.

With a steady income, Gunaratne has managed to repay the loan and is now making new plans.

He told CGTN, “I am hoping to buy another vehicle through a lease and to develop my own business. I have completed the house (construction) work and spent some money on the children’s education and made some investments.”

Sri Lanka has been an integral part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative. CSCEC has undertaken many projects including the Extension of Southern Expressway project which is a part of the BRI, and has employed more than 2000 locals for these works.

Cheng Huaqiang, Deputy General Manager of CSCEC Sri Lanka, explains, “Belt and Road Initiative aims at building community of common destiny for mankind , insists on the principle of extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefit providing China’s contribution to promoting the global governance system reforms”.

Lives has been changed for people who often travel between the Southern province and the capital city. The Southern province has many tourist attractions, making the Expressway an added bonus for travel agents and tour operators.

Gayan Gamage, who takes tourists from Colombo to the beaches in the Southern province, said “Since the expressway was completed the trips to South have increased and so has the income. The expressway has helped us improve our standard of living. Now we are all waiting for the end of pandemic so more and more tourists come to our country”.