Sifting through sand, silt and illegal activity – Looking deeper into Thabbowa Wewa

Sifting through sand, silt and illegal activity – Looking deeper into Thabbowa Wewa

Written by Keshala Dias

26 Jan, 2018 | 10:34 pm

The irrigation system of Sri Lanka is considered to be the heartbeat of the agriculture industry of the country.

The maintainance and renovation of the wewas are the responsibility of the Ministry of Irrigation.
It is a difficult task due to the complexity of the system and the lack of government funds.

For decades the renovation of small and medium scale wewas are done by the local agrarian organisation, and the silt removed from the bed of the wewas is sold off by the organisation to cover the costs incurred.

The silt removal of the Thabbowa Wewa is one such example.

One agrarian organisation, together with the assistance of five others which depend on the Thabbowa Wewa, has taken the lead to clear the silt on one section of the wewa.

A document has been issued to these agrarian organisations to divide the area in three, and remove silt.

The lead agrarian organisation has chosen three separate contractors to remove the silt from the three sections , without consulting any authority.

However sand is being extracted from the bed of the wewa under the guise of removing silt.

What is cause for concern is an extraordinary condition in the permit given to this agrarian organisation by the Irrigation Department. The condition is, silt should be removed 300 metres away from the banks of the wewa.

However, the silt is located 350 metres away from the bank of wewa and the area in between is sand and not silt.Therefore, the agrarian organisation is in fact paying a mere Rs. 150 to the Irrigation Department of the removal of sand and not silt.

Another condition violated by the contrators with the agrarian organisation is the depth of extraction.

The contractors are only permitted to remove silt at a depth of one metre and they have gone beyond to the depth of three metres.

In order to conceal their crime, these contractors remove silt from different parts of the wewa and use it to fill up the holes created by the extraction of sand.

A cube of sand extracted from the area is sold at between Rs. 8,000 and Rs. 12,000.

What is actually happening is a commercial racket, under the guise of removing silt.

In order to extract sand, it is mandatory to obtain permission from the Central Environmental Authority and it must be in writing.

Vijith Wijayamuni Zoysa, is the Minister of Irrigation and Water Resources Management and Palitha Range Bandara is the State Minister of Irrigation.

This illegal act has gone unnoticed despite having a minister and a state minister overseeing the operation.

We bring this to the attention of the President. This is a violation of environmental laws and it is taking place in broad daylight.

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