Central Environment Authority has filed for legal action against the company which had commenced the Dendro Power Plant by violating the basic condition laid out regarding environment
Pix by Pradeep Pathirana and Nayanajeewa Bandara
- An environmental assessment study had also not been conducted
- The Minister also revealed that the Central Environment Authority has filed legal action against the company
As we members of Daily Mirror news team reached Moneragala early morning for a coverage, we noticed Hela bojun Hala (A trade store which sells traditional Sri Lankan food ) closed. We noticed a signboard which said that the place would remain closed till the water problem in the area is resolved. When we reached the hotel where we were going to stay at we asked the staff members about the water problem. They said that there was an issue, but assured us that their hotel wasn’t experiencing a water shortage. Later a man, who saw our vehicle parked at a restaurant where we were having launch, approached us. He had seen the ‘press’ (media) sign on our vehicle and had come looking for us. This man who identified himself as Wijeratne started briefing us about the story behind the shortage of water. He said that the water shortage had been caused as a result of the Dendro Power Project which had been established in the area. This information prompted us to unearth the full story behind the problem associated with water.
`Wijeratne told us that the Dendro Power Project was started in 2013. “We the villagers staged a protest against the launching of the project. They told us that villagers would be provided with employment at the power plant. Only a handful of people received employment while a greater percentage of the employees were outsiders,” Wijeratne said.
We the villagers staged a protest against the launching of the project. They told us that villagers would be provided with employment at the power plant
Wijeratne claimed that the oil and the residuals of the Gliricidia plants used to generate power are made to flow in to Kumbukkan Oya; a resource from which water is supplied to the villages. “An investigation done by the Water Resources and Drainage Board had revealed that there was 9,75 cubic mm of oil in every 4 cubic metres of water in Kumbukkan Oya. We were able view the layer of oil on the water when we went near Kumbukan Oya, the next day.
According to Wijeratne, water is supplied to Okkampitiya, Maligawilla, Moneragala and several other areas from Kumbukkan Oya. Therefore he said that the people in those areas are experiencing a situation where there is no water.
Some of the women who talked to us revealed that cakes of soap get dissolved instantly when put in to this water. “Rice can be kept only for two hours after cooking because it rots. We have managed to confirm that contaminated water, which we get from Kumbukkan Oya, is causing these problems. Our children have got sick and complain of various aliments after consuming water from the river. They suffer from nausea and develop stomach aches. It’s the same contaminated water which is used in the hospital at Moneragala,” said a women who spoke on terms of anonymity.
The villagers stage a protest against the launching of the project
“Earlier, the water was supplied to us from Mount Maragala, but later the authorities decided to supply it from the Kumbukkan Oya. This was the cause for the damage,” another woman complained. She too didn’t wish to reveal her identity.
Weeran, a 76-year-old elderly man, showed us the rash on his skin. He said he had developed it after bathing in Kumbukkan Oya. “ I cannot afford to pay for my medicine being a senior citizen,” Weeran said while showing us his identity card, issued to senior citizens .
L.S Lechime, a woman from the village, said that they had to spend their own money to restore an old well in order to obtain clean water. “ We have bought a motor with our own money to pump the water,” she said.
The Chief Incumbent of Sri Gangarama Vihara-the village temple- Ven. Deliwe Panyashekara Thera said that the manner in which state institutions were handling the issue was unsatisfactory. Villagers complain that the authorities are not backing the people on this issue. “Even the Department of Irrigation hadn’t done enough to rectify the situation,” the
However the villagers mentioned that the company which maintains the Dendro Power plant purchases Gliricidia from the villagers at Rs 4 a per kg. He said some villagers supply few tons daily to the plant. Piles of branches were seen stacked at the plant premises.
Public Administration and Disaster Management Minister Ranjith Madduma Bandara, who is also the UNP MP for Moneragala District, when contacted by the Daily Mirror said that arrangements have been made to clean up the river. “The Disaster Management Centre will clean up the river soon,” he said. The Minister also revealed that the Central Environment Authority has filed legal action against the company which had started the Dendro Power Plant. Minister Madduma Bandara also said that the plant was temporarily closed at present.
Central Environment Authority Moneragala Assistant Director Thusitha Dissanayake said that the company hadn’t obtained an environment permit to commence the project. He said that the company did present the project to the environment authority, but had violated the basic condition on environment and had constructed ten tube wells. An environmental assessment study had also not been conducted, according Dissanayake.
Some contaminated water did flow into the river by an accident. We have had discussions with the Central Environment Authority and had started mitigation work complying with the requests made by them
- Green Watts Director Samitha Senaviratne
Green Watts Director Samitha Senaviratne when contacted by the Dailymirror said that there had been an outflow of polluted water towards the river which resulted in it getting polluted. He said that the outflow was caused by an accident. Seneviratne said efforts were being made to mitigate the pollution. “Some contaminated water did flow into the river by an accident. We have had discussions with the Central Environment Authority and had started mitigation work complying with the requests made by them. We did obtain approval for the project in February this year. However we have currently stopped operating the plant following the water issue. We are engaging in purchasing Gliricidia from the farmers in the area. We pay them despite the closure of the plant. The other factor which one should note is that there is a drought in Moneragala during the months of July-August every year. Therefore there is a scarcity of water in the area any way,” Seneviratne said. He said the company doesn’t intend to produce 10mw instantly, but would go for scaling under which it would begin by producing 2 to 3mw at a time.
However water is going to be scarce in Sri Lanka and in the world in a few decades regardless of whether power plants are established or not. This was revealed by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe recently. The Prime Minister during his recent visit to Moneragala said that Sri Lanka, like the rest of the world, would face a scarcity of water within the next few decades. He said that this condition would arise because the country did not focus on preserving the environment. At the same time much has been said by energy experts about an impending power crisis. On that score one could conclude that development has to take place while giving attention to preserving the environment. This is the reality which Sri Lanka is facing at present.