ECT wants Uma Oya project halted

By Pabodha Hettige

The proposed Uma Oya multipurpose project should be immediately halted to prevent the inconveniences caused to the residents living around the Uma Oya, the Environment Conservation Trust (ECT) says.

"If the project is carried out as planned, when the Puhulpola and Diaraba reservoirs are developed, 128 and 69 families respectively will be displaced and their lands lost," ECT President Sajeewa Chamikara said.

According to the plans in progress the displaced will be settled in Moragolla and Ketakella in Uva Paranagama. The proposed areas are geographically not fit for any type of agricultural cultivation due to the high scarcity of water, he said.

The project will result in a loss of 153 tons of vegetable and potato harvest worth six million rupees along with the income generated by secondary cultivations.

The Uma Oya multipurpose project was first proposed in 1991 by the Central Engineering Consultancy Bureau. However, the feasibility report, presented to the Asian Development Bank, was rejected after the assessments due to the severe technical shortcomings. "The project was later approved by the Iran Export Development Bank without feasibility assessments and the project was revived in 2008 to fulfill certain political agendas," the ECT alleged.

Despite the technical shortcomings, the Sri Jayawardenapura University has prepared the environment impact assessment report and the Central Environment Authority is to assess the report shortly, Chamikara said.

"The ECT and other environmental conservation organizations have aired their views regarding the project to the CEA for consideration," he said.

One of the main objectives of the project is to provide water for the second international airport, harbour, industrial zone and the oil refinery at Hambantota. The other objectives of the project are to generate power and provide irrigation water.

"The estimated cost of the five-year project is Rs.76,316 million out of which 85 per cent is funded by the Iran Export Development Bank. The government of Sri Lanka will have to find Rs.15,475 million in order to acquire lands, resettle the affected people, conserve the environment, for project management and to upgrade the existing irrigation system," Chamikara said.

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