Colombo Port City Project : The adverse environmental impacts

Published : 9:15 am  March 3, 2015 | No comments so far |  | 

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The Colombo Port City Project which was a popular headline during the previous regime still remains to be a topic of discussion. Many environmentalists and civil society activists have stood up against the proceedings of this project due to the adverse impacts it will have on the environment and society. Despite the many luxuries it has promised to bring, during the course of its construction mass amounts of granite, sand and other resources will be exhausted. Bearing this in mind, the Sri Lanka Nature Group and Citizens for a Secure Sri Lanka organized a public seminar to highlight these concerns and take it out to
the public.

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The EIA was not an EIA : Dr. Ranil Senanayake

Speaking at the event, Dr. Ranil Senanayake, a well-known environmental expert shared his views on the environmental consequences which would be brought about through this project.  “When I was writing my reservations I was invited to be an observer. This thought was an encouraging sign. Projects of this nature deserve some transparency. Public procurements take place every day and most of these transactions are opaque. The Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) produced up to now has addressed only the landfill and the ocean area around it. This in other words is a very narrow statement. No other environmental aspects have been addressed and therefore it cannot be an EIA. Therefore this project cannot proceed until a proper EIA has been done.”

“When I was writing my reservations I was invited to be an observer. This thought was an encouraging sign. Projects of this nature deserve some transparency

 

“The city is expected to produce harmful oxides of nitrogen, carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide in enough quantities to asphyxiate the people around. Therefore breathing problems such as emphysema will be on the rise and people will suffer from lung diseases. The new city will also use huge quantities of water. Most of this water is coming from the Kelani River. Due to the climate change there is a rise in sea levels. This water is mostly taken in the form of fossil water.

We understand that people are giving away a lot of our water here and what will remain for the people in future? After all water is life. However there are suggestions such as reverse osmosis but there is a huge amount of energy needed for such complicated processes. The price of a coal powered power plant is extremely high. We have a power plant in Norochcholai emitting gases with Cadmium and Mercury and another in Sampur. As a result the people living in the North Western Province (NWP) will be poisoned. This will bring about acid rain and will destroy the ancient ruins of Galvihare and the Watadage. The new city that is being built will add to this burden.”
“There is another problem of garbage and pollution. Where will all the waste from this city be dumped in to? In future Sri Lanka will be used as a dumping ground because I haven’t seen any garbage dumping strategies being implemented in this project. The residents in this city are expected to generate about 2.5kg of solid waste per day which is similar to Dubai. Therefore there will be a garbage mountain exceeding 150,000 tons generated per annum and which would include electronic garbage which will have to be separated.

Also the Carbon (C) footprint which is generated due to cement should be calculated. All countries will have a budget for C emissions and therefore we will have to be responsible internationally. It has been found that landfills are the largest anthropologic emitters of carbon dioxide. Rocks and sand are two essential components in the construction of this city. In order to extract rocks, quarrying will take place and this will disturb the sand above. Quarries too should have an EIA but there has been no such actions taking place.”
“Investors will now invest in this new city and not in Ja-ela or Negombo. Therefore this project will hit us in terms of health and wealth. I do not see any strategic development taking place in this city. We need to have a sense of responsibility to negotiate on certain transactions. Time has now come for us to think deep and act hard against the proceedings of this project.”


 

The cabinet approved this project in one day :Thilak Kariyawasam

Speaking on the background of the project and the incorrect process of approval, Thilak Kariyawasam, representing the Sri Lanka Nature Group said, “The direct  proponent of this project is unknown. Towards the end of 2010 there was an election and the leader of the previous regime got hold of the Coast Conservation Department under his purview.

Towards the end of 2010 there was an election and the leader of the previous regime got hold of the Coast Conservation Department under his purview…..   

After some time a scoping committee was appointed to draft an EIA on this project. The Central Environmental Authority (CEA) or none other organization knew about this. The EIA was done by some professors at the University of Moratuwa and none of them were marine biologists. It is clearly stated on this document that it is a study report.

So this is an EIA that has never been done before because most of the information included on this report are extracted from the procedures included in the Colombo South Harbour Expansion Project. Some people working on this project appeared to be dumbstruck when we went to question them. Some others said that it is not their project and that it is run by the China Harbour.”
“When this project was introduced to the cabinet, it got approved in one day. Many issues were not addressed during its approval and one major concern is the usage of massive amounts of water. For a day the project will need around 1000 cubic metres of water and this water will be taken from either Ambathale or Kalatuwawa. This water is purified and in a few days’ time it will increase up to 4000 cubic metres. Sand and rocks are the components. When the sand has been extracted the wave patterns in the sea too will change. They say that the sand will naturally get deposited in the Kelani River but it is constantly been washed away from the hills in the Central province.

To construct the Twin Hotels in Dubai the engineers brought in about 300 million cubic metres of sand from Australia and this is how much they love their country. The basic information that needs to be included in an EIA has not been mentioned in this document and therefore it is very suspicious.”


The natural reefs will get damaged: Aruna Roshantha

Speaking about its impacts on the fisheries sector, President of the All Ceylon Fisheries Trade Union, Aruna Roshantha said, “The present Prime Minister stated in a media briefing last December that this project would immediately be stopped. But it has not been so. Due to constant extraction of sand the water has become muddy and the base is becoming deeper.

“The present Prime Minister stated in a media briefing last December that this project would immediately be stopped. But it has not been so….     

There are natural reefs which have been formed many years ago and the aquatic life thriving on these reefs will be in danger. We fishermen thrive on these organisms for a living. The landfill area has many sprats and prawns in abundance. When the land is being filled massive amounts of rocks will have to be unloaded and this will kill these organisms or will make them transfer to safer areas.
Deep under the sea, there are ships that were initially wrecked and those that are being forcefully wrecked due to defaults and other issues. These ships too contain harmful substances which kill these fish. When compared to the amount of sand which was needed for the highway, the amount they need for this project is massive. They are taking sand from the same place. If this project is continued we will not be able to find our bread and butter and will have to beg instead.”

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