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UN expert concerned over port city

A UN expert raised concerns over the Port City and its environmental impact.
The UN expert raised concerns in a report submitted to the UN Human Rights Council which will meet for its 40th session in Geneva later this month.

The UN Independent Expert on the effects of foreign debt and other related international financial obligations of States on the full enjoyment of all human rights, particularly economic, social and cultural rights, Juan Pablo Bohoslavsky, conducted an official visit to Sri Lanka from 3 to 11 September, 2018, at the invitation of the Government.

In a report on his visit to Sri Lanka, the UN expert noted that the legislative and policy framework in Sri Lanka already provided certain criteria relevant to project assessment, notably with regard to land acquisition and involuntary resettlement.

The National Involuntary Resettlement Policy includes certain provisions for consultation and compensation for affected communities.

In that context, measures have also been taken to assess the environmental implications of projects through the National Environment Act (as amended in 1988).

However, he says there are shortcomings in the length of public consultations, while documentation is often lacking due to location and language.

Concerns about the social and environmental impact assessments conducted for projects such as the Uma Oya and Port City also raise questions with regard to the effectiveness of these processes, he said.
Furthermore, he said the National Involuntary Resettlement Policy, which is not legally binding, is reportedly not used systematically in large-scale infrastructure development projects, such as Port City.
The expert said while there were certain procedures in place, the Sri Lankan legislative framework did not provide for detailed obligations to conduct a comprehensive and ex ante human rights impact assessment of infrastructure projects.

The Independent Expert therefore advised the Government to close this gap by adopting robust and consolidated, relevant legislation on the basis of existing international human rights norms and standards.

He said improving transparency, consultation, and participation of potentially affected people is essential, and the procedural aspects of the process should also be established and duly regulated by law.