Iran’s Raisi arrives in Sri Lanka to foster ties, open hydropower project

By Thomson Reuters Apr 24, 2024 | 12:59 AM

By Uditha Jayasinghe

COLOMBO (Reuters) – Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi arrived in Sri Lanka on Wednesday for a brief state visit aimed at strengthening ties, during which he will also open a $514-million hydropower project.

The first visit by an Iranian president to Sri Lanka since an April 2008 trip by its then president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will see the two countries sign five pacts, or Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs).

Iran agreed to build the hydro power project in 2010 but funds dried up after the release of $50 million, as U.S. sanctions imposed later that year on the Middle East nation made it hard to transfer money, forcing Sri Lanka to fund the rest.

It was also hit by delays because of the COVID-19 pandemic, environmental concerns and protests from villagers.

The project will add 290 GWh to the national grid, while supplying water to 6,000 hectares (15,000 acres) of farmland and drinking water to thousands of families in three districts, the office of Sri Lanka’s president said in a statement.

“The ceremony, chaired by the presidents of Iran and Sri Lanka, will symbolise the co-operation between the two nations in this significant infrastructure endeavour,” the statement said.

(Reporting by Uditha Jayasinghe; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)