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CEA won’t accept EIA reports

‘Expert panel’on Uma Oya Project:

Questions regarding panel’s “honesty and professional integrity”:

Certain inaccurate information at media briefing:

The Central Environment Authority (CEA) yesterday informed the ‘expert panel’ which prepared the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) on the Uma Oya Multipurpose Project that it would not accept any EIA reports or any other reports directed to the Authority until a full investigation is carried into their statements on the Uma Oya Project. In a letter sent to the panel, the Authority noted that their statements have given rise to questions regarding the panel’s “honesty and professional integrity”.

“They have mentioned certain inaccurate information in a media briefing they held on Thursday (20). The CEA is conducting an inquiry into that and until such time, the CEA will not accept any EIA report prepared by that team,”said CEA Chairman Prof. Lal Mervin Dharmasiri speaking to Daily News.

The Expert Panel headed by Senior Professor of Zoology of the University of Sri Jayawardenapura, Swarna Piyasiri, and senior Professor of Engineering of University of Peradeniya, K.D.W. Nandalal had stated to the media that their EIA on the project in 2009 “had clearly indicated the possibility of a drawdown of groundwater through weaker zones into the tunnel affecting domestic and irrigation activities in the surroundings”.

“The CEA in their letter pointed out that that the report submitted to them simply indicated that there might be a “slight possibility of a drawdown of groundwater through weaker zones but that it would not have a significant impact on the groundwater level of the area”.

Furthermore,the panel had stated that they recommended that the “the CEA continuously monitor groundwater level fluctuations in the area around the tunnel trace, especially along major fracture zones connected to the tunnel during construction and operational stages”.

But, the CEA point out that the panel seem to not know the mandate of the Authority, “The CEA is only responsible for the recommendation of approvals or proposals and not for the implementation of projects. Furthermore, the CEA having studied the EIA identified a possible groundwater drawback and included the continuous monitoring of groundwater as one of the conditions for approval,”the letter stated. The expert panel consisted of 19 consultants; a hydro geologist, a tunnel engineer, soil scientist,water quality expert, archaeologist, irrigation engineer, fauna and flora geologist agronomist, infrastructure engineer, resettlement expert and an electrical engineer.

Centre for Human Rights Rajith Executive Director Keerthi Tennakoon had earlier written to the CEA as well as the Vice Chancellor of the University of Sri Jayawardenapura asking that these academics be blacklisted for their false EIA report. In June of this year, residents of Bandarawela staged a protest as the Uma Oya project had drained all their water sources. Furthermore, the project had to be suspended due to a leak of close to 80 million litres of water per day through its tunnels and was causing the houses and surrounding ground areas to cave in.