By Sarah Hannan
- RDA proceeds to obtain EIA report
- Residents yet to hear from RDA
During the lockdown period earlier this year, residents of School Avenue in Nawala observed a motorcade of 40 vehicles driving down their neighbourhood, disturbing their otherwise tranquil environment.
The residents acted immediately and had promptly questioned the officials to what the commotion was, which is when they were told by officials of the Urban Development Authority (UDA) and the Road Development Authority (RDA) about a proposal made for a bridge-building project that would connect Nawala Road and Kotte Road to ease the traffic on Sri Jayewardenepura Mawatha from the Ethul Kotte junction to the Rajagiriya junction.
The proposed bridge would run from the Angampitiya area over the wetland that separates the two areas and fall onto School Lane and School Avenue in Nawala.
After learning about the proposed development work that would roll out in the backyards of their homes, the residents had established the “Save School Lane and School Avenue Initiative”.
On 10 May, the group had written to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa requesting to look into this activity, after which they had received a response granting them a meeting with the President’s Private Secretary, who then made arrangements for them to meet with RDA officials.
It’s been close to three months since the meeting, and The Sunday Morning
connected with more residents who live in School Lane and School Avenue recently.
“Before such a project is to materialise, the relevant authority needs to do an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), and since the end objective of this bridge is to ease the traffic flow, they should also have a Traffic Congestion Management Report. In May, when we met with the RDA and questioned them about these documents, they did not have any in hand,” M. Cader, a resident of School Avenue, stated.
Further elaborating that since there are two schools down the road and given that it is a residential neighbourhood, Cader said the vehicles diverted from Kotte Road from Angampitiya to School Lane in Nawala through the proposed bridge will only, yet again, feed the already congested arteries of traffic down Nawala to the Rajagiriya Junction.
“As it is, we have a traffic issue at the time schools commence for the day and when the schools close. The diverted traffic over the proposed bridge will only make matters worse. We do not oppose the development of infrastructure in the suburbs, but we request that the authorities do the necessary studies and assessments before proposing such projects.”
Update sent to RDA
The Sunday Morning
contacted RDA Deputy Director of Bridge Designing Planning Dhammika Jayakody to inquire whether the project proposal is still being pursued from their end. “Following our institute’s site visit and the meeting which we had with the residents from the area in May, we have now initiated an EIA and submitted the proposal to the Central Environmental Authority. We are awaiting the receipt of the EIA report, after which the next steps would be followed, which would determine whether the bridge can be built over the proposed area or whether it needs to be moved to another area.”
Meanwhile, UDA Director General N.P.K. Ranaweera said that while improving the overall look of the city is partly the UDA’s responsibility, they are yet to get a word on who would be constructing the bridge, should the proposal go through.
“We will have to wait for the proposed plan to complete the rest of the documentation process, such as completing the EIA and then collating the public comments on the pros and cons of the bridge being constructed over the proposed area,” Ranaweera noted.
Dr. Himantha Atukorale, a resident of School Lane, has spent hours studying and documenting the flora and fauna of the wetland area which stands as a backdrop to his residence. “In the recent years, the wetlands were becoming a dumpster for the city’s garbage and we should commend the efforts of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa who has issued directives to clear up the water bodies of Colombo in an attempt to conserve the little bit of greenery that is left in the district.
“Particularly during the lockdown, we observed that the wetland got a boost to regenerate its ecosystem to a certain extent. But should unplanned development work be carried out in an area that is rich in biodiversity, we will once again lose sight of the flora and fauna that we see today.”
Dr. Atukorale added that the wetland is home to at least 20 types of endangered animals such as the fishing cat (Prionailurus viverrinus) and otter (Lutra Lutra) as well as over 250 species of plants.
He also pointed out that should the bridge construction go ahead and the pillars installed, the drilling would disturb the water table as well as cause severe damage to the ecosystem. Moreover, with the wetland being gradually destroyed, the speed of natural air purification would be gravely impacted.
“As it is, the ambient air quality in the cities is not at a good level. The moment this bridge gets constructed, it will become worse. Wetlands are known to buffer air toxins, dust, and particulate matter that cause damage to the lungs. Additionally, the toxins released by the vehicles that commute through the bridge will disrupt the growth of the plants due to its toxic gas emissions, and the noise emission will prevent pollination.”
In conclusion, Dr. Atukorale said that it will set off a chain reaction to the wetland’s food hierarchy and eventually cause extinction of certain animals and plants.