Uma Oya project: Register your objections, urge environmentalists


(Published in SundayTimes on 17.02.2013) Environmentalists have voiced concern over public apathy regarding the supplementary Environmental Impact Assessment of the second phase of the Uma Oya multi-purpose project though it has been open to public comment since January.

The EIA document will be open for public comment at the Central Environment Authority (CEA) only until February 22, and environmentalists are urging the public to review it as the cost of the project is eventually borne by them.

The first phase of the Uma Oya hydropower project which includes the construction of the dam is already underway with financial assistance from Iran. �Uma Oya flows from the central hills to the Mahaweli River. Under the project its water will be diverted to the Kirindi Oya basin which will take water to Hambantota through a 19 km long underground tunnel across the mountains in Bandarawela. A dam will be built at Puhulpola (in Welimada) and a reservoir in Diaraba for this purpose.

Environmentalists charge that a flawed EIA for the first phase was passed in 2011 under government pressure. The Centre for Environmental Justice (CEJ) registering its objections over the first EIA in 2011 pointed out that the environmental cost had not been analysed properly. When the cost of resettlement too is included the project doesn’t yield any benefits. Hemantha Withanage of CEJ said the Uma oya project would only scatter the communities as “development refugees” for the sake of development.

Another point of contention was the release of water for cultivation. Environmentalists question the prudence of diverting water over such a long distance to support only about 1000 farmers. They fear the cost of the project will far outweigh the expected benefits. Since the project has already started, they charge that the current EIA was just a showpiece but call for the public to register their objections so that authorities will be forced to find alternatives.

Map of Uma oya (c) DailyNews

Map of Uma oya (c) DailyNews

Published in SundayTimes on 17.02.2013

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