News

Neluwa-Lankagama-Deniyaya Road: Reconstruction based on EIA

By Sarah Hannan

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has emphasised that his aim is to fulfil the needs of the people without harming the environment.

On Saturday (29), the President inspected the alleged damage to Sinharaja Forest Reserve during the reconstruction of the Neluwa-Lankagama Road.

Officials from the Ministries of Road Development, Wildlife and Forest Conservation, and Environment as well as all the relevant authorities are involved in monitoring the road being rehabilitated.

“Recent media reports indicated that the Sinharaja Forest Reserve will sustain damages during the Neluwa-Lankagama Road reconstruction. The President pointed out that the construction of the road should be carried out while protecting the ecosystem of the rural areas where the road is being rehabilitated,” Minister of Wildlife and Forest Conservation C.B. Rathnayake told The Morning.

Rathnayake said that while the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is pending, once the Ministry receives the report, the road construction work would commence, taking into consideration the precautions that needs to be adapted in order to ensure the forest’s ecosystem is not tampered with.

The Lankagama village has a history dating back to the days of King Walagamba and tea cultivation is the main livelihood of the area. For more than a century, villagers have been taking tea leaves to Deniyaya and Neluwa on the fallen road near Sinharaja Forest Reserve.

Transportation of patients to hospitals in Neluwa, Udugama, and Karapitiya has been severely hampered by the road conditions, which has also impacted school attendance of children during the rainy season.

The reconstruction of the Neluwa-Lankagama-Pitadeniya Road was commenced to resolve this problem.

While the Sri Lanka Army is in charge of road repairs under the supervision of the Road Development Authority (RDA), the 18 km stretch is set to be completed within three months as per President Rajapaksa’s directives.

After the completion of the road repairs, the journey time from Lankagama to Deniyaya will be reduced from four hours to 45 minutes.

The President has strongly emphasised that the renovation should not damage the reserve or the ecosystem. A daily bus service is also to commence from Neluwa to Deniyaya after the renovations.

Simultaneously, a 120-foot-long and six-foot-wide bridge will be constructed to replace the vine bridge in the Lankagama village. This will remove the existing barrier for children in the Wathugala, Lankagama, Nilwella, Kolonthotuwa, and Pitadeniya villages to attend school.

The President has further instructed to cultivate 2,100 saplings to improve the forest cover in the buffer zone of Sinharaja Forest Reserve.