Programme to reduce, monitor river pollution: River conservation zones to be designated
Covers all 103 islandwide rivers
DS level comm. to decide on pollution levels
Polluting households along river banks to face eviction, relocation
Industrial effluvia releasing factories face permit cancellation
By Yumiko Perera
The Central Environmental Authority (CEA) is set to designate river conservation zones under the “Surakimu Ganga (Protect the Rivers)” programme in order to minimise the level of domestic and industrial waste being released into the waters of all 103 rivers across Sri Lanka.
Speaking with The Sunday Morning, Environment Minister Mahinda Amaraweera said: “The country’s riverways and water sources are facing a severe threat. If we don’t take necessary measures, the damage would be irreversible, and there would be nothing left for the future generations of the country.”
CEA Chairman Siripala Amarasinghe, speaking with The Sunday Morning, said: “Minister Amaraweera has asked the CEA to come up with a programme which would help minimise the pollution caused by illegal settlements along the banks of rivers all across the island.”
According to Amarasinghe, if domestic settlements or industrial scale factories are in any way releasing waste and pollutant materials into the waters, the CEA would take necessary measures to ensure it does not continue.
“We will decide if we are going to evict them and subsequently relocate them, or we will come up with alternative solutions so that the rivers would not be polluted further. If you take an area like Thotalanga, there aren’t just one or two houses along the banks of the river, there are multiple settlements; therefore, in cases like that, we would have to opt for solutions that would have to relocate the settlers elsewhere so as to minimise the damage done to the water sources. On the other hand, if you look at places like Kotmale, the number of such settlements is much less. These are the matters that are being discussed right now,” Amarasinghe explained.
Highlighting that these settlements, more often than not, fall under the illegal settlements category, Amarasinghe added that illegal activities along river banks would be monitored at a divisional level through the divisional secretariats (DSs) and the grama niladhari divisions.
According to Amarasinghe, 103 rivers flow through land coming under the purview of 5,637 DSs across Sri Lanka, and with regard to the Kelani River, it flows through 482 such DSs. Under the proposed initiative, all of these DSs would have a committee each that would look into water pollution under the programme.
“The committee which belongs to each DS division would determine how issues such as this would be handled. If there are industrial factories that release waste and pollutants into the water, then the committees would take action and would decide if the permits of these businesses would be cancelled.”