Environmentalists raise concerns over sand mining project at Somawathiya reserve

Environmentalists raise concerns over sand mining project at Somawathiya reserve

Environmentalists raise concerns over sand mining project at Somawathiya reserve

Written by Staff Writer

07 Jun, 2020 | 10:35 pm

COLOMBO (News1st): Environmentalists have raised concerns over the sand mining project at the Somawathiya reserve, while authorities claim the proceeds of selling the sand will be used to construct a protective dam between the Mahaweli river and the Sooriyapura village.

“So far 25,000 acres in Seruvila and 22500 acres in the Trincomalee district are affected,” Indika Paranavithana, the convener of the Environment Collective of the Trincomalee District said.

“The environment has been damaged, elephant passes have been obstructed”.

However, environment minister S.M. Chandrasena said he has been informed that sand mining is taking place with the consent of state authorities.

“Sand filling has been taking place with the approval of the Mahaweli Authority, the Wildlife Department, the Irrigation Department, and the Geological Survey and Mines Bureau,” the minister said.

Chandrasena added that he would inquire into this situation, and would prevent the Somawathiya reserve from being destroyed.

At least 400 trucks loaded with sand travel about 4 to 5 kilometers daily across the Somawathi reserve, which has a sensitive environment, to transport sand.

The Mahaweli Authority said that all activities using machinery in the Mahaweli river has, however, been suspended.

“The attorney general’s department has approved the Mahaweli authority or another institute to carry this out,” Engineer Sunil Perera, the Director General of the Mahaweli Authority noted.

Meanwhile, the Geological and Mines Bureau has defended the sand mining activities stating that it had been carried out following a request made by farmers groups.

“Erosion is taking place on the opposite side of the bank in which sand mining is taking place. If soil erosion continues to take place, then paddy fields and villages will become inundated by water,” Priyantha Rathnayake, the Chief Mining Engineer at the Geological and Mines Bureau said.

Earlier, sand merchants had staged a protest in Kantale charging that sand mining racket is being carried out in the guise of building a protective dam on the Mahaweli river in the Thunmodra area in Kantale.

The protest was staged following the proposal of the provincial Mahaweli office use the money obtained from the sale of this sand to renovating the dam.

when farmer organisations expressed their consent to the programme of the Mahaweli Authority, a tense situation arose.

While sand mining activities continue, the animals living in the reserve now have to fight the machinery entering the reserve.

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