Church alleges Police vandalism in Muthurajawela

  • Posters removal halted by Wattala PS

BY Pamodi Waravita 

The Father of the St. Nicholas Church, Bopitiya, Jayantha Nimal yesterday (15) claimed that posters put up in the Muthurajawela area against the Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) power plant that is proposed to be constructed in the Muthurajawela Urban Buffer Zone had been removed by the law enforcement authorities. 

“Posters were being removed by the Police but when we inquired from the Wattala Pradeshiya Sabha (PS), they intervened and stopped the removal,” said Nimal. 

Nimal has been heading a number of protests in the area, organised by the Church and residents against the LNG power plant to be developed in Muthurajawela. 

The Archbishop’s House is currently in the process of seeking an injunction order to halt the potential development of a LNG power plant at Muthurajawela. 

However, speaking to the media on Wednesday (14), Environment Minister Mahinda Amaraweera said that the Government is dedicated to conserving Muthurajawela as a protected zone, and therefore, would be handing it over to the Wildlife Conservation Department (DWC) after the Urban Development Authority (UDA) takes the necessary steps to conserve it. 

“Some allege that the proposed establishment of a LNG power plant in the present Muthurajawela Wetland has caused great damage to it. This project is being constructed on a plot of land in Kerawalapitiya. I have decided to go to the same place with all the relevant factions within the next two weeks in order to discuss this in detail. Archbishop of Colombo Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith has also expressed his views in this regard. I also told him that this proposed LNG power plant will not be built in the Muthurajawela Wetland,” added Amaraweera. 

However, the 100 acres land which is to be filled to construct the power plant was reportedly released from the Muthurajawela Sanctuary area in 2018. 

The Centre for Environmental Justice (CEJ) also sought a stay order against the proposed development this week, although the case has been postponed to 26 July. CEJ Chairman Ravindranath Dabare told The Morning that the capacity to fill the wetland has been exceeded and that no further development should therefore occur there. 

Cardinal Ranjith, addressing a letter to the Central Environmental Authority (CEA) last week, had urged its Director General Hemantha Jayasinghe to refrain from granting approval to the proposal to construct the LNG plant at Muthurajawela. 

Speaking in the Parliament last week, the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) and National People’s Power (NPP) Leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake brought attention to the matter, claiming that the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) that had been done regarding the proposed project was inadequate. 

Controversies over land grabbing, illegal development, and landfilling have surrounded the Muthurajawela Wetland, bordering the Negombo Lagoon and the Western shoreline for years. Allegations have also been levelled against the UDA for dumping garbage in the Wetland. 

Muthurajawela is the largest of the wetlands found in the Western Province and is home to a diverse ecosystem of reportedly over 209 species of animals, 194 species of trees, 40 species of fish, 31 species of reptiles, 102 species of birds, 48 species of butterflies, and 18 of the 22 mangrove species found in Sri Lanka.