The picture shows how earth has been removed giving scant respect to environmental guidelines
Earth removed from the much talked about four perches land
Pix by Samntha Perera
- Areas prone to Landslides which receive rains for nine months are heavily impacted by such projects
- Based on an Urban Development Authority project plans have been made to flatten the mountain to facilitate building a shopping complex
- Ambagamuwa PS Secretary made several requests to the NBRO to speed up the construction of the Sathi Pola
- The NBRO identified the area as a high sensitive zone as it was prone to landslides
Folks in Ginigathhena are concerned because a junior politician of the Ambagamuwa Pradesha Sabha is causing harm to the environment through one of his questionable activities. It is reported that lumps of earth have been removed from a construction site ignoring recommendations by environment authorities; thus causing concerns about possible landslides in the area. A development project should be implemented with proper planning with the approval of institutes such as Geological Survey Bureau, Building Research Organization and Road Development Authority. Specially areas in the hill country and areas highly vulnerable to landslides should be thoroughly investigated by the said institutes prior to conducting a development project.
There are yet people who would implement such projects haphazardly putting the lives of other people at risk. Areas prone to Landslides which receive rains for nine months are heavily impacted by such projects. Ginigathhena is one fine example for a town that has been affected due to haphazard constructions. The police station, shops and the bus stand are all located close to a small mountain in the middle of Ginigathhena. Based on an Urban Development Authority project plans have been made to flatten the mountain to facilitate building a shopping complex. This project, which was initiated as a Central Government project, was carefully planned due to the frequent occurrences of landslides and sinkholes in the area.
Meanwhile the UDA was planning to design the Ginigathhena town. The Ambagamuwa Pradesha Sabha (PS) has made plans to construct a Sathi Pola (weekend market) near the new bus stand. The PS without hesitation has proceeded to flatten the mountain at the back of the bus stand for this purpose.
The proposed Sathi Pola construction project in Ginigathhena was designed under plan number NU/ABM/2015/203 following on a request by Ambagamuwa PS Secretary H. G. S. D. Rupasinha. Issues arose with regard to the landslides in the area mentioned under Section 1 of number 211 of the plan. NBRO Geologist of the Nuwara Eliya District Office conducted a field visit in the area and recommended that the project be carries out following all instructions.
The National Building Research Organisation (NBRO) spelled out recommendations in the letter bearing number NBRO/NE/ABDLP20/9791 after visiting the affected area on September 17, 2020. The land located southeast of the main bus stand in Ginigathhena coming under the purview of 315/A Grama Niladhari Division under Gingathhena PS was identified as the suitable area for the Sathi Pola. Plans were afoot to construct the market place on Lot number 211 of the NU/AMB/2015/203 plan.
Aberathna Bandara, a social worker in Ginigathhena, said that the reason behind the removal of the earth lump by the Chairman was the four perch empty land near the said land
Ambagamuwa PS Secretary made several requests to the NBRO to speed up the construction of the Sathi Pola. Hence the NBRO visited the area on 17 September and handed over a primary geo survey report and recommendations for the construction of Sathi Pola.
The NBRO identified the area as a high sensitive zone as it was prone to landslides. The organisation handed over a report as well. The report identified an area of 15 ft in width and 287 ft in length which is located southeast of the bus stand as the land for the construction of the Sathi Pola. The proposed land was identified to be oriented at 75-80 degrees inclination towards northwest. According to the construction plan the land which is 6 metres horizontally southeast of the bus stand was to be reconstructed for the Sathi Pola. Before the removal of the lump of earth the vertical height between the proposed land boundary and the bus stand ranged between 10 and 14 metres. A visual observation done during the field visit helped officials identify that the land contained a surface soil layer with a three-metre density and a mother soil layer with a ten-metre density . A five-metre area from the base of the said lump of earth was to be flattened for the Sathi Pola with the rest of the lump being prepared being at an incline of 70 degrees horizontally.
After the field visit the NBRO pointed out that according to its landslide hazard zonation maps the said land had less geological instabilities. The maps reveal that the land was only prone to modest levels of landslide hazards during excavation activities and that geological instabilities may occur.
The organisation also issued recommendations to minimise the hazards.
The NBRO has recommended the removal of soil in the proposed land during dry weather and when there is no rain because it would ensure the safety of labourers. All the excavations were to be conducted under the supervision of professionals from top to bottom using temporary aids so as not to cause instabilities in the area. The organisation also has recommended the conducting of excavations while maintaining a horizontal length of six metres from the bus stand. The soil excavation plan presented to the NBRO and signed by the Executive Engineer A. M. M. Faleel specifies that the cutting face should be done at an incline of 70 degrees horizontally. It also says that after excavation the lump of earth should not exceed the 70 - degree incline and it should be confirmed by the Executive Engineer before activities of the Sathi Pola begin. A system of laminose drains with a sufficient dimension sloped southwest should be constructed with a two-metre horizontal length southwest of the head of the cutting face which would be parallel to the cutting face to drain rainwater during heavy showers. If there is rainfall during excavation there must be a method for rainwater to flow without accumulating. It also specifies that a suitable variety of grass should be grown to prevent soil erosion and a drainage system be in place to prevent water moving to another earth lump.
Anyone visiting Ginigathhena town can clearly observe the destruction Ambagamuwa PS Chairman Jayasanka Perera has allegedly caused by ignoring recommendations. The lump of earth near the bus stand has been removed without maintaining an inclination
The report has also indicated that retaining that lump of earth for a long time is risky. This is because when much soil is removed that soil should be disposed of properly; without causing harm to a slope or any natural echo zone. The NBRO has informed in writing to the Ambagamuwa PS Secretary of these recommendations and the manner in which excavations were to be conducted. The NBRO report also clearly indicates that the recommendations issued regarding the construction of the project was only valid for one year as the UDA had planned to develop the area following a complete plan.
Nevertheless, anyone visiting Ginigathhena town can clearly observe the destruction Ambagamuwa PS Chairman Jayasanka Perera has caused because he ignored recommendations. The lump of earth near the bus stand has been removed without maintaining an inclination. After the relevant institutes informed the Ambagamuwa Divisional Secretariat Sithara Gamage that the lump of earth has been removed disregarding the orders, she has ordered the suspension of payments to the Ambagamuwa PS to remove the soil. NBRO has revealed that the lump has been removed exceeding the amount specified in the instructions.
The NBRO has previously informed that the Sathi Pola could not be constructed near the bus stand as the area poses a risk to the people to remain there and use the place for trade. As the soil has been removed disregarding the given instructions there is a threat of landslides in the area. The NBRO has also instructed not to dispose of soil by causing harm to any slope or other natural zone and not to use the land below for human activities during rains. Ambagamuwa PS member Helapriya Nandaraja said that when considering the statements made by the PS Chairman and the Divisional Secretariat when making comments in the face of the severe impact to the town due to the removal of soil suggested that they have completely violated the NBRO recommendations.
“The town including the police station, shops and a large number of human lives would be severely affected if a lump of earth loosens and a landslide occurs during the rainy season. The NBRO has clearly pointed out that there would be a threat of landslide in the area”, Nadaraja added. The Divisional Secretariat suspended payments on soil removal after the institutes informed her about these activities.
Ambagamuwa PS member Helapriya Nandaraja said that when considering the statements made by the PS Chairman and the Divisional Secretariat when making comments in the face of the severe impact to the town due to the removal of soil suggested that they have completely violated the NBRO recommendation
Even though the DS suspended the payments the PS Chairman has not borne any loss as he has already sold the soil that was removed. Yet the NBRO has issued instructions not to use the soil without its permission.
However, the PS Chairman has turned a blind eye to those instructions. Nandaraja said that there were more than 735 cubes of soil which have been sold using tipper trucks. The selling price of one truckload of soil ranged between 1500, 1000 and 500 Rupees in areas such as Ambagamuwa, Badatuduwa, Badhupola, and Racepitiya, he added. When inquired by the NBRO about the whereabout of the soil, the PS had said that the soil was missing.
After an inquiry was made by Anura Gamage, a Sales Agent in the area operating Anura Hardware, Ginigathhena, regarding the corrupt activities of the Chairman and about the soil removal the Chairman has responded by saying that there were plans to widen the Ginigathhena – Avissawella Road and as a result his shop would be removed. On the chairman’s orders an area spanning 25 feet, which included the hardware, was to be removed. Anura Gamage, after informing the authorities of the relevant institutes of this misdeed, has been able to temporarily suspend the removal of his shop. Aberathna Bandara, a social worker in Ginigathhena, said that the reason behind the removal of the earth lump by the Chairman was the four perch empty land near the said land. “I can also prove that he obtains Rs 500 from the public lavatory a day and generates a daily income of 2000 Rupees from selected shops.” he added.
PS Chairman did not responed
We tried to contact the Chairman on 0760992177 several times, but he did not respond.
When we made inquiries from the Ambagamuwa PS Secretary Shamali Rupasinghe she was hesitant to provide information.The following is the dialogue that transpired between this writer and Ms. Rupasinghe.
Ambagamuwa PS Environment Officer Vipulasiri said that he was aware of these matters, adding that he could not disclose facts to the media without the permission of the PS Secretariat or the Chairman as he was a public officer.
NBRO Nuwara Eliya District Officer Senior Geologist Nishantha Peiris said that the lump of earth near the Ginigathhena bus stand has been removed exceeding the NBRO recommendations. “We recommended the removing of the soil maintaining the inclination. However, that recommendation has been ignored. Constructing of the Sathi Pola is temporary as the UDA has already made plans to remove the lump of earth when designing the town. We provided recommendations as the Divisional Secretariat kept asking but they have ignored them. We also gave recommendations regarding the disposal of soil. Now they say that there is no soil. When a request is made from our office the NBRO gives recommendations. These lands belong to the PS Secretary. When implementing a development project on a land approval should be sought first. If the approval has not been sought and the removed soil seems to cause a hazard, one might take legal actions against the PS Secretary. We only gave out recommendations and we cannot take legal action therefore,” he added.
Ambagamuwa Divisional Secretariat Sithara Gamage said that after she was informed about the risk of a landslide in the area with the removal of earth lump, because NBRO recommendations were disregarded, she halted the removal process. ‘I also instructed to suspend payments to the Pradesha Sabha. I also halted the Sathi Pola construction project and the UDA development plan, no other plan would be implemented in Ginigathhena. I would make sure to take necessary actions in the future to follow the recommendations given by relevant institutes,” she added.
DM:- There are allegations against the Ambagamuwa PS for ignoring the NBRO recommendations to remove soil for the Sathi Pola construction. You have sought permission for the removal of soil. Is it you or the Chairman who is guilty?
PS Secretary:- If you want information, meet me here.
DM:- Don’t you agree with the NBRO? They say that the instructions given have been ignored.
PS Secretary: - Who did you ask for the information? If you want information, come and obtain it from here. If they say so, do not ask me for details. We followed their instructions and observed recommendations. How do you say that we did not?
DM:- This is not something we say. Not only the NBRO even the Divisional Secretariat said that she had suspended payments. Why is that you have a different opinion?
PS Secretary: - Does the DS say so? I do not know about the technical side of that. Come and see.
*She hung up the line. (voice records are available)