Floods and landslides which wreaked havoc in the country over the past few days did not only take away the lives and homes of the innocent, but underpinned a plethora of social complications including conflicts between the victims of these natural catastrophes and relevant government authorities.
Amidst this tension tabled the decision to destroy the old bridge at Baddegama with explosives. This created a conflict situation between the government authorities and the villagers.
“Representatives of relevant government authorities believe the bridge needs to be destroyed to allow the smooth flow of water from the Gin Ganga. However, the Halpatota villagers are of the opinion that destroying the bridge with explosives would have an adverse impact as a large number of houses along the river bank would be submerged,” said Manjula Gonsalkorala, a resident of the area.
He said destroying the ancient bridge would sever an alternate route out of Halpatota, Baddegama to Colombo. Besides, the bridge had been constructed during the colonial period in 1926, he added.
“We will keep vigil day and night to stop the authorities from destroying the bridge. However, some of the villagers say the bridge had to be destroyed as logs and debris floating along the river eventually accumulate under the bridge, thereby obstructing the free flow of water. Nevertheless, it is not worth destroying the bridge as the water flow has reduced,” Manjula said.
Meanwhile, Baddegama Irrigation Department Field Engineer M.H. Kamaljit confirmed that the water level of Gin Ganga has receded to 6.8m compared to 7.8 m on Sunday.
In another development, the villagers said people were cautioned of possible threats as water seeped through the Halpatota bund. People living along the banks of Gin Ganga in Baddegama panicked on Monday because of rumours that the bund will not withhold the pressure of the body of water.
The rumour spread like wildfire stating that the bund would give away any minute and people in the area were asked to evacuate. However, the real concern was the seeping of water through the bund. Despite the sand bags acting as a guard, water tends to seep through them.
“We were told by the fellow villagers that a radio announcement urged the people living along the Baddegama stretch to evacuate the area as the bund might burst at any moment,” said a resident who wished to remain anonymous.
Another elderly lady who identified herself as Liyana Achchi said she too heard the story that people were asked to evacuate. “My only worry is about when I will get to return home,” she lamented. She said those affected continued to receive dry rations and cooked food for the time being. According to Liyana Achchi, they are in need of special assistance to bring their households and livelihood back in order.
Samarasinghe, another villager, said many of the victims in his village were asked to resettle in the lands given to them previously. Unfortunately, they had not heeded this advice.
“They have constructed houses on these lands and rented them. They continue to live in vulnerable areas and were affected by the floods merely because of their greed,” he revealed. Samarasinghe added that these people were given relief but those who really deserve rations were deprived of any.