Written by Tharushan Fernando
11 Feb, 2017 | 8:13 pm
Work on the lower Yan Oya project is nearing completion. The project is being spearheaded by a Chinese corporation with all major decisions on the project being taken from Shanghai.
The Irrigation Department is of the view that the reservoir which is being constructed by blocking the Yan Oya, will not be able to provide water to a large amount of land, when taking into consideration the extent of land being used up for the reservoir.
The lands that will be submerged through the project include lands of archaeological importance as well as many wildlife habitats. The creation of this project could lead to an intensification of the wild elephant conflicts being faced by residents of the Anuradhapura and Trincomalee districts.
Excavations on for the Yan Oya project fell across an area which was said to be rich in ilmenite, an ore rich in Titanum. However, during the period in which excavations took place, the media was not allowed access to the area through the use of heavy fortifications.
One can safely assume that the ilmenite deposits were also extracted during the excavations.
Excavations also made way for another discovery, this time it was large deposit of sand. The Ministry of Environment took prompt steps to ensure that the government is not able to reap the full benefits of this new discovery.
The Ministry issued permits for certain individuals to mine the sand, based on political suggestions. For nearly one and half years, these individuals who obtained the licenses extracted sand disregarding environmental regulations.
On the 30th of last month, the farmers in the area who could no longer cope up with the burden that they have been suffering due to the mining and transporting of sand, took to the streets.
When the Ministry of Environment could no longer ignore the voices of the people, they took steps to cancel all licences with effect from January 30.
However, the cancellation was merely a farce, as sand mining and transportation continues to this day.
The police pay a supporting role by hoodwinking the people. The police ride in front of trucks that carry sand in the area, in-order to provide the impression that these lorries have been taken into their custody.
However,the police is yet to bring such a sand lorry into their custody or present such a lorry before court.
For nearly three years, people who have been displaced due to the project have been left destitute without alternative lands or reparation for the lands that they lost.
The same officials who are dragging their feet when making allocations to provide these people with reparations have created the necessary background for outsiders to earn a large amount of wealth through the mining of sand.
This is simply another ugly side which has come to be associated with the Yan oya project.
Shouldn’t steps be taken, at least now, to remove the sand deposits that are remaining in a manner which falls inline with environmental regulations and then use that money to provide reparations to the people that have been affected?
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