The CE in Sri Lanka will connect Hambantota Port, Katunayake International Airport and Kandy. After four years of negotiation, China, in 2019, agreed to provide USD 989 million concessional loan to Sri Lanka to build central expressway section-1. This is the largest loan the Exim Bank of China has provided to Sri Lanka, covering 85% of the project total estimated cost (USD 1.16 billion) of section-1. Metallurgical Corporation of China (MCC) was awarded the contract of central expressway. Media reports revealed the commencement of work on section-1 extending from Kadawatha to Mirigama ((37.09 km) was delayed for four years (2015-2019) due to the disbursement of funds. The delay had caused a financial loss of Rs.8 billion and total cost of section-1 has been escalated from USD 158 million to USD 194 million. The construction work officially began in September 2020. Around 25% of the work is about to complete while the whole project is planned to be completed in 2024. The Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of section one, two and four of the CE mentioned that the physical, biological and social environment has been adversely affected at certain locations of the trace. Issues like land acquisition, displacement, and resettlement has aggravated the situation. However, the EIA concluded the benefits of project are far greater than the negative impact underlining negative impacts would be alleviated via proposed mitigation measures including RDA compensation to locals.

On the whole, however, the project has been considered as the most ‘messed up’ project due to delayed payment, change in regime and routes etc. People, even those who received compensation, protested against the construction of the expressway.