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Divisional Secretariats tasked with ‘relocation’ of river bank dwellers 

  • DS level committees to decide on pollution 

  • Factories near river banks already strictly regulated: CEA claims 

By Pamodi Waravita 

 

The Ministry of Environment’s “Surakimu Ganga (Protect the Rivers)” programme which aims to relocate those who are currently occupying lands along the river banks of the country would be implemented through the Divisional Secretariats (DSs), The Morning learnt. 

Speaking to The Morning, Central Environmental Authority (CEA) Chairman Siripala Amarasinghe said that according to the Cabinet paper submitted regarding the “Surakimu Ganga” programme, the DSs that have river banks in their areas would form committees to determine whether the inhabitants on their respective river banks need to be relocated. 

“These committees would have the authority to decide as to whether the people living along the river banks that they monitor are causing any pollution to the rivers. They would then make a decision on whether to relocate them or not,” said Amarasinghe. 

When questioned on whether factories that have been set up close to rivers would be affected by the implementation of this policy, Amarasinghe said that the factories already have to adhere to strict environmental regulations, including the one which states that a waste treatment plant must be established. 

In a statement issued to the press on 3 May, the Ministry of Environment quoted Minister Mahinda Amaraweera as saying that necessary measures would be taken to remove illegal occupants along rivers and to ensure that land, at least 150 metres from the river, would not be used for any construction or cultivation purposes. 

Amaraweera had added that people inhabiting the river banks would be relocated to alternative places. 

In addition to the 103 rivers in the country, 1,544 water sources have been identified in the Nuwara Eliya District, 204 in the Kandy District, 19 in the Kurunegala District, 210 in the Monaragala District, and two in the Matale District. 

Reports of rampant industrial pollution along the river banks of Sri Lanka have been reported in recent years. Most prominently, the Auditor General’s Department revealed last year that the Kelani River is becoming increasingly polluted due to human activities originating from over 10,000 factories surrounding the Kelani River Basin.