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Press Releases

December 15, 2021

Opening of the New Kelani Bridge, Colombo’s new gateway: a Japan-Sri Lanka friendship bridge

photoPanoramic view of the New Kelani Bridge
photoIlluminated view of the New Kelani Bridge (Photo courtesy of PMMD)
photoThe opening ceremony (Photo courtesy of PMMD)
photoThe opening ceremony (Photo courtesy of PMMD)

On November 24, an opening ceremony for the New Kelani Bridge was held in Colombo, the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka. The ceremony was attended by Sri Lankan H.E. Gotabaya Rajapaksa, President, Hon. Mahinda Rajapaksa, Prime Minister and Hon. Johnston Fernando, Minister of Highways and others from Sri Lanka, and by H.E. MIZUKOSHI Hideaki, Ambassador of Japan to Sri Lanka, YAMADA Tetsuya, chief representative of JICA Sri Lanka Office, and representatives of Japanese companies who were contracted to construct the project. At the ceremony, H.E. Gotabaya Rajapaksa, President expressed his expectations that the project would mitigate traffic congestion in Colombo and his gratitude for Japan’s cooperation.

Sri Lanka is dependent on road transport for passengers and cargo, including route buses, private cars, and trucks. Traffic congestion is particularly heavy in the city of Colombo, especially during morning and evening peak hours. The area surrounding the Kelani River, which runs through the north of the city, is a key transportation hub linking the city of Colombo with the Bandaranaike International Airport and the Port of Colombo, an important terminal port in South Asia. Traffic access is concentrated on the existing bridges and they have become bottlenecks of transportation in Colombo. In order to improve the chronic traffic congestion, it was decided to construct a new six-lane bridge and an elevated road leading from the bridge to the city, which JICA has supported through a Japanese ODA Loan.

The New Kelani Bridge utilizes high-quality Japanese technology. The bridge adopts the first extradosed design in Sri Lanka (a bridge in which the main girders are supported by the main towers and diagonal members). The steel box girder is used for the construction of the elevated road so as to build falsework over existing road in a short period of time. During construction, the project has faced many challenges, such as Easter Sunday Attacks in 2019 and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic after 2020. Nevertheless, the project director, one of the few women on site, led a team of more than 1,000 workers involved in the project and steadily moved forward with the construction. In addition, the residents of about 320 low-income households in the vicinity of the construction area, who suffered from inundation due to the rising water level of the Kelani River, were relocated to houses provided by the Sri Lankan government in adherence to JICA’s guidelines for environmental and social considerations.
Thanks to the steadfast efforts of both Japanese and Sri Lankan teams, the New Kelani Bridge is expected to play an important role in the stable growth of Sri Lanka as the new gateway to Colombo.

We at JICA will continue to promote cooperation with the aim of realizing quality growth in Sri Lanka.


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