Public protest against asbestos factory to be constructed



Pix and Text By Kamal Priyankara, Madampe Corr

Residents, members of the clergy and civil organisations took to the streets blocking Colombo-Puttalam main road on Saturday protesting against constructing of a roofing sheet factory near the Anawilundawa bird sanctuary.

The protest march commenced from the Sri Ratnasiri Vihara in Nalladarankattuwa was supported by people of Arachchkattuwa, Helamba, Watawana, Nalladarankattuwa, Puthupanthiya and shop owners had shut down their business places to express their solidarity. The protest march proceeded to Manelwatte in Anawilundawa bringing the vehicular movement on Puttalam-Colombo (A-3) main road to a standstill.

The protestors complained that the previous government had attempted to construct an asbestos sheet factory in the Puttalam District but had to shift venues owing to protests by people. Thereafter, it had commenced the construction of the factory at Manelwatte in Anawilundawa. On finding the possible ill-effects and environmental pollution the factory would cause, people of Manelwatte staged a protest on Nov 20. The protesters abandoned their campaign after the owners of the factory promised to stop their construction work. However, people now have found that construction of the factory had been carried out on the sly.

Protesters pointed out that the Anawilundawa bird sanctuary was one of the protected wetlands in the country. Around 170 species of migratory birds visit this forested wetland annually.

Its mangrove swamps and freshwater swamps serve as habitats for many local water bird species.

The sanctuary encompasses about 1,397 hectares has six major tanks and three peripheral tanks. The large tanks are Pinkattiya, Maradansola, Anawilundawa, Mayyawa, Surawila and Vellawali.

The entire eco-system and the irrigation network were threatened by the asbestos factory, they complained.

 Police anti-riot squad was finally deployed to clear the Puttalam-Colombo road. They diverted traffic via an alternative routes.  

Police intervened facilitating a meeting between protestors and the factory owners. Later, the demonstrators called off the protest when factory owners pledged to halt the construction work.

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