Port City project:
New EIA report ignores ecological issues - Environmentalists
The governments of Sri Lanka and China are about to take a final
decision on the proposed Colombo Port City project. However,
environmental organisations have protested against the move pointing out
that several legal, environmental and socio-economic issues still remain
unresolved in this controversial project.
A spokesman of the Sri Lanka Nature Group and Co-convenor of the
Movement Against the Port City (MAPC) Thilak Kariyawasam said the
government cannot re-launch the project only by negotiating with the
Chinese government ignoring these serious issues.
A top level Chinese delegation is due here this month to take a final
decision on the project. The MAPC spokesman stressed that the government
should explain to the people about the grave issues of this project
before entering into an agreement with the Chinese government. This is a
massive corrupt deal by the previous regime which misled the public and
violated the law of the land. This agreement which is still a secret,
violates the law of the land and is, therefore, not in keeping with
There is no proper Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and
therefore, it is an illegal agreement. On the other hand the original
agreement has been signed by two Chinese nationals, Kariyawasam said.He
said the government too is not handling this case in a transparent
manner and is attempting to implement the project without resolving the
The government should publish all documents including the agreements
signed with the Chinese agencies, he said.
The MAPC spokesman said this project cannot be handed over to the
Urban Development Authority (UDA) directly, according to the laws of the
land. Since there is reclamation of the sea and the creation of new
land, it comes under the purview of the President.
It should go to the Land Ministry and only after the declaration of
the area as urban it should be handed over to the UDA. The SLPA has
sought a Supreme Court ruling on this matter.
Earlier the project was under the SLPA and that too was illegal. The
SLPA has no powers to reclaim the sea. The EIA prepared under this
government has also ignored serious environmental issues.
A committee headed by Prime Minister Wickremesinghe decided that the
first EIA of the project was incomplete. It was done by Uni Consultancy,
an association affiliated with the academic staff of the University of
Moratuwa. A new EIA has been prepared by the Central Engineering
Consultancy Bureau (CECB) and it too has overlooked the main
environmental concerns of the project. The new EIA divided the project
into two, the reclamation of the sea and construction work of the Port
This is a wrong approach and the environmental impact should be
assessed together because to implement the project the EIA should be
approved. The new EIA has not paid attention to the National
Environmental Act and it was carried out only under the provision of the
Coastal Conservation Act. The Archeological Impact Assessment has also
been skipped due to the cost and time factor.
The Environmental Impact Assessment, especially to marine
bio-diversity, and sea sand mining from three sand deposits in an area
of over 100 sq km is not satisfactory and underestimates its adverse
impact. The socio-economic impact on the fisheries community has also
been underestimated. According to the first EIA the proposed land area
of the Port City was 233 hectares and in the new EIA it is 269 hectares.
The first EIA estimated 12 million square metres of stone for the
project. However, in the new EIA only 3.5 million square metres of stone
are needed. This is a huge difference and the report has not explained
how this happened. The environmental, socio-economic impact of the
supply of these stones is not mentioned in the report. It needs huge
stone slabs around 700-5,000 kg in weight. The people involved in the
preparation of the EIA have conflicting interests and one consultant to
the government is also working as a consultant to the Chinese company.
It is also reported that top officials in the committee under the Prime
Minister do not allow government officials to express their frank
opinion and real issues of the project, Kariyawasam said.