Bolgoda Lake marred by illegal activities
- Bolgoda Lake spans across two districts, Colombo and Kalutara, and is the largest natural water resource in the two districts
- Mangroves beside the lake had been replaced with constructions and no riverbank can be spotted
- Teams deployed to arrest illegal land fillers
- A Demarcation programme has already been commenced in collaboration with the Surveys Department to mark areas of the Weras Ganga
Illegal landfilling and sand mining continue beside the Bolgoda Lake causing massive environmental damage but the authorities were keeping mum over the issue, residents of Koralawella and Borupana in Moratuwa lamented.
They said some hotel owners had constructed establishments within the river reserve zone and that a park, which is being built in the reserve, consists of permanent constructions.
“The fate of the Bolgoda Lake is tragic,” they said.
Bolgoda Lake spans across two districts, Colombo and Kalutara, and is the largest natural water resource in the two districts.
After taking into consideration the environmental, natural, social, economic and historical value, the Central Environmental Authority (CEA) issued an extraordinary gazette in December 2009 declaring the Bolgoda Lake as the Bolgoda Environmental Protection Zone.
Not only that, some dump poultry discards including feathers in kilos to the river. Crocodiles come as a result of this to feed on these carcasses. We have informed the Wildlife Department as well on several occasions to no avail. I’m both sea and freshwater fisherman. The river is becoming a death trap to its fishermen day by day
Though it has been protected by the law, we witnessed that the lake has no protection at all.
D. Lalsiri Aponso, a resident said those who purchase five perches from the river bank usually fill up another five more perches from the river.
“They won’t stop there and will continue to even fill 15 perches. On the other hand, illegal sand mining continues. When sand is mined, low tide and high tide intensify. We can’t even place a net in the river. We become enemies when we voice against illegal landfilling and sand mining.
“First, they create a stone boundary in the river adjacent to the land and then fill it up to the boundary with wood, concrete parts. It should be the authorities who should look into these issues, not us. Officials come to visit these site but it doesn’t seem they are taking any action,” he said.
Koralawella Rural Community Fisheries Society’s Secretary Lakmal Rukshitha Marthinu said mangroves beside the lake had been replaced with constructions and no riverbank can be spotted today.
“Not only that, some dump poultry discards including feathers in kilos to the river. Crocodiles come as a result of this to feed on these carcasses. We have informed the Wildlife Department as well on several occasions to no avail. I’m both sea and freshwater fisherman. The river is becoming a death trap to its fishermen day by day. No matter where you go on the river, be it Piliyandala, Moratuwa or Panadura, you can always find plenty of constructions along the river banks,” he said.
We contacted CEA Director-General P.B. Hemantha Jayasinghe over the complaints and he said, “Bolgoda has been Gazetted as an Environmental Protection Zone. We have taken legal action against those who violated these laws and regulations by erecting illegal constructions. The Bolgoda Environmental Protection Zone consists of 2,385 hectares. The Land Development Corporation has also commenced a demarcation programme of the zone.”
Mr Jayasinghe said unscrupulous personnel could continue with illegal land filing secretly. “We have paid our attention to the issue and since three months ago, we have launched investigations with the assistance of the Navy and the Police to nab offenders. The 2,385 hectares of the zone has been divided into five precincts to assist in investigations,” he said.
He said there have been taking legal action against wrongdoers since 2009 against those who break the law.
He said there were some of the ongoing constructions which had received the approval of the Moratuwa Municipal Council. “I will send a team to look into all these constructions,” he said.
Meanwhile, CEA Chairman Isura Devapriya said he expected to seek the possibility of creating a programme to prevent illegal constructions along the river bank.
“We have already deployed teams to arrest illegal land fillers. I have instructed the officials to take legal action against those who release garbage and wastewater as well. Preserving the river is not something the officials can do only by themselves, the contribution of the people is also required in this regard,” he said.
We contacted Sri Lanka Land development Corporation’s General Manager K. Rajapakshe over the demarcation programme of the Bolgoda Lake.
He said a demarcation programme has already been commenced in collaboration with the Surveys Department to mark areas of the Weras Ganga.
“An area of six to 10 metres from the Weras Ganga left bank has been already marked. We are looking into the original deeds of the people in this initiative. We have completed demarcation of 700 acres out of 1000 from an area expanding from Golu Madama towards Kos Palena Bridge. Just like the Weras Ganga, we hope to commence a demarcation programme for Bolgoda South River Bank next year,” he said.
They won’t stop there and will continue to even 15 perches. On the other hand, illegal sand mining continues. When sand is mined, low tide and high tide intensify. We can’t even place a net in the river. We become enemies when we voice against illegal landfilling and sand mining
He said legal action would be taken if it was revealed, during the demarcation programme, that lands have been filled illegally.
“Not only that, but the money spent on the illegal constructions would also be lost,” Mr Rajapakshe said.
Meanwhile, Moratuwa Mayor Samanlal Fernando was asked whether the MC has allowed for illegal landfilling beside the Bolgoda Lake. Mayor Fernando said taking action over the landfilling of the river was a responsibility of the CEA and not the MC.
“We have only permitted proper constructions. We can’t take the responsibility to other illegal constructions. During a recent incident of destructing mangroves, the CEA took the side of those who filled the land. Therefore, it should be the duty and the responsibility of the CEA to take action over this. It is not our duty,” he said.