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Proposed New Kelani Bridge – Athurugiriya elevated expressway CA rules out preliminary objections from state authorities

1 February 2022 12:07 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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 Thalangama Environmental Protection Area

 

  • Environment Minister Mahinda Amaraweera said that the Terms of Reference have been given to conduct the EIA 
  • Therefore the petitioners averse in their petition that the construction  of an elevated highway is not a permitted activity in view of the  provisions of theNational Environment Act and the said Gazette Notification No. 1487/10

 

The construction of a four lane elevated expressway from Rajagiriya to Athurugiriya was frowned upon by area residents and environmental activists; reason being that the proposed route overlapped the Thalangama Environment Protection Area (EPA). Initially gazetted in 2007 the Thalangama EPA is home to an abundance of greenery and biodiversity apart from the last remaining paddy lands in Colombo that have been passed down generations. Therefore, area residents objected to this move and filed a case in courts. At the recent hearing on January 19, the Court of Appeal ruled out preliminary objections produced by the respondents.  


CA ruling


The petitioners contended that the Road Development Authority (RDA) together with the Urban Development Authority (UDA) proposed elevated highway from Rajagiriya to Athurugiriya would traverse through the Thalangama/Awerihena wetlands, an area gazetted as an Environmental Protection Area. As per the gazette, permitted activities that could be done in this area include cultivation of paddy, fishing, nature trails, construction of observation towers for birds, security posts and an environment information centre and a sales outlet. Therefore the petitioners averse in their petition that the construction of an elevated highway is not a permitted activity in view of the provisions of the National Environment Act and the said Gazette Notification No. 1487/10.
Paragraph 26 of the petition states that a highway will also pave the way to noise pollution and emissions which shall have a detrimental effect on the environment, hydrology and the biodiversity of the wetland. Air quality and the health of thousands of inhabitants will also be impacted. Amendments made to Schedule III of the Gazette indicates that the construction, operation and maintenance of a four lane elevated highway construction project and related constructions of such a project is subject to a mandatory prerequisite and that is not to create an adverse impact on the EPA by such construction, operation and maintenance. 


The court ruled that the relevant Minister by the amendment to his original order has made room for the Court to investigate the environmental impact that would be caused due to the proposed construction. The ruling further said that the proposition of the respondents cannot be accepted and that there is no ground to dismiss the application of the petitioner merely on amendments made to the original Gazette Notification No. 1487/10 after filing the instant application in Court. 


Preliminary objections overruled


“We filed a case against the Road Development Authority and state authorities such as Central Environment Authority and the Environment Ministry and they objected the stance that they have altered the existing law,” said Attorney-at-law Ravindranath Dabare. “We opined that at the time of filing the case, the law doesn’t permit the construction of a highway at the Thalangama Environmental Protection Area. Thereafter the court rejected their preliminary objections and we can now proceed with the case. The next hearing will be on March 22.” said Dabare.


Permitted activity approved


However, RDA’s Project Director K. Selvanathan said that the amendment to the Gazette to include the construction of an elevated highway as a permitted activity had already been approved. When inquired about the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) he said that it’s now being proceeded and is in the process of being finalised. 


No final decision yet 


Environment Minister Mahinda Amaraweera said that the Terms of Reference have been given to conduct the EIA. “The EIA is yet to be done as well. The RDA has also suggested some alternative routes, but there’s no final decision yet.” the minister said. 

 


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