Hydropower projects in Deraniyagala reserve put ‘delicate’ ecosystem at risk

Hydropower projects in Deraniyagala reserve put ‘delicate’ ecosystem at risk

By Tharushan Fernando

16 Jan, 2016 | 10:06 pm

Human intervention has affected Eli Hatha located in Udamalibada, Deraniyagala and the damage further continues spreading to surrounding areas. Private hydropower projects are affecting the intricate ecosystems of the region.

Residents charge that the natural habitats in the area have been damaged and that the destruction has been spreading. Around 15 years ago this area, was home to the Puwak Mal Ella waterfall, but the construction of yet another private hydropower project means that this once-picturesque waterfall is now in a state of ruin

Residents informed News 1st that a total of eight mini hydropower projects have been built in the area destroying the natural beauty of Puwak Mal Ella as well as Minuwana Ella and Ella-Piti Ella. Noting that this has adversely affected their everyday routine, the residents also said that the owners of these mini power projects made several promises which are yet to be fulfilled.

Environmentalists charge that such construction in the Samanala Adaviya Nature Reserve could have irreversible repercussions. Environmentalist Sajeewa Chamikara stated that this area has been identified as a UNESCO world heritage site. There are two natural world heritage sites in Sri Lanka: one is the Singharaja Reserve while the other is the central hills belonging to the Samanala Adaviya Nature Reserve. This reserve is home to several species that is endemic to this ecosystem, Chamikara said.

He added that construction of this nature taking place in the reserve has opened it up to invasive plants that could completely destroy the delicate balance of this ecosystem. The area has been identified as a highly sensitive area under the Soil Conservation Act and the construction of these power plants could have a very direct impact on the water sources of this nature reserve, the environmentalist warned.

According to the Central Environmental Authority, over 200 permits have been issued to construct private hydropower plants. However, its chairman noted that no permits have been issued in the recent past.