Wherever you travel in Colombo, an imposing structure taller than the Eifel tower meets your eyes from whatever direction you look at it. In particular, at night, when this structure is lit, it gives a majestic streak of bright colours. Do you know what I am referring to here? Of course, I am referring to the Lotus Tower in Sri Lanka, which was the centre of many a controversy. In Sri Lanka, what is not a controversy?

Lotus Tower lit at night

Is Lotus Tower the tallest structure in South Asia?

Lotus Tower, or Nelun Kuluna, also referred to as Colombo Lotus Tower, is a 350 metre (1,150 foot) high tower located in Colombo. Since its inauguration in 2019, it has become a mesmerizing landmark in modern Sri Lanka. In particular, when the Lotus Tower was opened by the then president, Maithripala Sirisena, it was acknowledged as the tallest self-supported structure in South Asia.

Notably, it is interesting to note that the second-highest self-supported structure is located in neighbouring India. Accordingly, it is known as the INS Kattabomman and it is a VLF-transmission facility of the Indian Navy. This structure is situated near Tirunelveli in Tamil Nadu. In essence, the centre mast of this structure has a height of 301 metres. In effect, this is approximately 50 metres shorter than the Lotus tower in Sri Lanka. Ultimately, we can proudly claim that, as of 2021, the Lotus Tower is still the tallest self-supported structure in South Asia. Here, it is interesting to note that Sri Lanka is in South Asia. Coming back to our topic, the tallest building in Asia is the Burj Khalifa, located in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Overall, this is an 828- metre tall structure that was opened in 2010.

What was the intended purpose of the Lotus Tower?

The picturesque Lotus Tower built on the banks of the Beira Lake was intended to be used as a communication facility with a revolving observation deck. uniquely, its purpose was also to be a tourist attraction with in-built leisure activities to lure locals looking for recreation. However, as of October 20, 2021, we can safely say that the Lotus Tower is not functioning for its original purpose.

The design

The design of this building is inspired by the Lotus flower, a very popular native flower in rural Sri Lanka. In fact, the Lotus flower grows in the deep mud, far away from the sun. However, when the Lotus reaches the light, it becomes a beautiful flower to cherish. Meanwhile, the locals regard this flower as a symbol of purity.

The Lotus Tower on the banks of the Beira lake

By all accounts, the design of this structure is individualistic and projects its own unique persona. Hence, the tower’s colour is planned to alternate between pink and light yellow with streaks of green in a smooth transition. Instantly, this is an effect achieved by coating the glass with light. Apart from the intended purposes of this structure, we can assume that the completed Lotus Tower gives a sense of purpose to the aspiring, modern Sri Lankans. Thus, this amazing tower is special not only because of its height but also because of the technology and the facilities incorporated into it. By all accounts, the Lotus tower appeals to the youth of the country. Meanwhile, this charming sight in the middle of a busy area is just perfect to make everything peaceful.

What are the features of Colombo’s Lotus Tower?

The structure consists of nine levels which are mainly for radio/television transmission facilities. Apart from that, allocations are made for dining rooms, event halls, and a lounge for around 250 guests. Uniquely, there’s also a reception hall for around 280 guests and a revolving restaurant where up to 200 guests can be accommodated. Additionally, an outdoor observation deck was also incorporated in the original plan. Likewise, the revolving restaurant takes around 90 minutes to complete one circle. Interestingly, due to this feature, guests will not have the same view throughout their stay.

Furthermore, the outdoor observation deck is also fascinating because it reveals the magnificent sight of Colombo City at a height of around 245 meters. In like manner, the main spotlight of this structure is the Antenna Mast, which has a length of around 90 meters. Notably, this heavy steel structure can accommodate 20 television broadcasting companies, 50 FM broadcasters and telecom operators.

Little known facts of the Lotus Tower

  • When it was unveiled it was South Asia’s tallest tower, costing over $100 million. As for funding, 80% of which has been funded by China under the controversial Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
  • Sri Lanka and China signed the Lotus Tower agreement in 2012 under the Chinese government’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) to build the highest TV tower in South Asia, with China National Electronics Import and Export Corporation (CEIEC) being the general contractor.
  • Though the tower was partially constructed minus the intended infrastructure, President Maithripala Sirisena decided to open the structure to the public on September 16th, 2019.
  • The project, which began in 2012 under the then-president Mahinda Rajapakse, faced numerous delays amid funding issues.
  • The Lotus Tower is foreseen to be one of the significant landmarks and an epitome of the country’s economy, culture and development.
  • The tower, which is expected to function as Sri Lanka’s ‘digital TV tower’, is built with fibre optic cables and is fully equipped with necessary telecommunication equipment.


During the opening ceremony of the Lotus Tower, the then President Maithripala Sirisena, in his ceremonial speech, mentioned and claimed an allegation of a scam. This alleged scam garnered immense publicity in print and electronic media at that time. Maithripala Sirisena alleges an advance of 2 billion rupees was given to an approved company, ALIT, in 2012 by the then Rajapakse government. However, this was later proven to be false, as ALIT was in fact the Chinese state-owned Aerospace Long-March International Trade Co. ALIT denied receiving the payment, claiming that the entire amount was paid to the China National Electronics Import & Export Corporation (CEIEC).

The Lotus Tower was declared open by former president Sirisena

It also noted that the TRC paid $15.6 million (2 billion rupees) into CEIEC’s account in Exim Bank in October 2012, the same amount which Sirisena claims to have been “misappropriated” by ALIT. As a result of these statements by the former president, China was not pleased and there was a political mistrust between the two countries. Meanwhile, Sri Lankan Ambassador to China Dr Karunasena Kodituwakku was forced to do some damage control as the President’s unverified claims threatened to hurt Sri Lanka’s strong relations with China.