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Landfilling at Muthurajawela Wetlands: CEA to launch Investigation

a year ago

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  • Ministry of Environment awaiting CEA report
  • Concerns over impact on ecosystems and livelihoods
By Yoshitha Perera The Central Environmental Authority (CEA) will initiate an investigation into an allegedly unauthorised land reclamation project in the Muthurajawela Wetlands, The Sunday Morning learnt. However, when contacted regarding the allegations of an illegal operation in the protected wetland habitat, the Ministry of Environment did not have details of the operation or its legality and was awaiting a report from the CEA in that regard. Environmentalists and fishing community leaders expressed concern that the move to alter the geography of natural canals and waterways within the wetland will have an adverse effect on the ecology and livelihoods of fishermen in nearby villages. When contacted, CEA Chairman Siripala Amarasinghe said that no one had submitted an application for an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) to be conducted by the CEA, before commencing work on the said project. “If nobody submitted an application for approval, then we don’t know what the project is about. We were not aware of anything, and we will launch an inquiry into the matter. Strict action will be taken against the relevant parties, and we will suspend the project,” he told The Sunday Morning. Over the years, environmental experts highlighted several attempts by state and private groups to encroach on the wetlands, which are considered biodiversity hotspots. Speaking to The Sunday Morning, environmentalist Nayanaka Ranwella claimed that to date, the private construction company had filled a considerable part of land within the Muthurajawela Wetlands. “According to the reports we received, the project was ongoing for nearly two years, and they are filling this land area to construct a hotel,” Ranwella said. Ranwella also claimed that the relevant company had carried out projects with almost every government, and in the current project, the company had almost completed the landfilling and the construction work of several bridges. Ranwella raised concerns over the threat to the fish and the fishing community in the area. He claimed that the construction company had created two new canals and expanded the existing canals. “When the natural location of these canals is changed, fish eggs cannot be retained. When expansion of canals happens, there is a threat of saltwater being deposited under the canal system, which will affect the life pattern of the fish. Subsequently, this will pose a threat to the fishing community in the area in future,” he said. Meanwhile, speaking to The Sunday Morning, National Fisheries Solidarity Movement (NAFSO) Co-ordinator Anthony Jesudasan said the project was illegal and that it was posing a threat to the fishing community in the area. “This was a suspended project, but the construction company had commenced the work recently at a slow pace illegally. Due to the change of the natural canal system, there will be a serious problem to the fishing community in the area,” he claimed. However, Ministry of Environment Secretary Dr. Anil Jasinghe said that the Ministry is due to receive a report regarding the construction work being carried out on a part of the Muthurajawela Wetlands.

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