The ‘Inconsistency’ Of Yan OyaBy Nirmala Kannangara
It has come to the public eye how the Government plans to allegedly ‘spend’ a staggering sum of Rs. 41.538 million on irrigating one hectare of paddy land under the proposed controversial Yan Oya reservoir project. In order to irrigate 650 hectares of new paddy lands, the Government is reportedly planning to spend Rs. 27 billion on the Yan Oya project.
The Ministry of Irrigation and Water Resources is boasting that under the proposed project 650 hectares of new paddy lands could be cultivated. However they do not reveal the fact that these 650 hectares of new paddy lands could be cultivated only after inundating 1,727 hectares of existing paddy lands, 2,235 hectares of agricultural lands, and 1,438 hectares of forest lands – nearly 5,400 hectares and 238 water bodies in total.
According to environmental organisations, this is yet another ‘project’ that costs billions of rupees of public money. However, it is yet to see if the people will be the beneficiaries or the higher officials of the Irrigation and Water Resources Ministry.
For the Yan Oya diversion weir at Pamburugaswewa and to construct the reservoir to irrigate 650 hectares of new paddy lands and to solve the water issues faced in the North Central Province including Kebethigollewa, Padaviya, Welioya and Medawachchiya, the cost has been calculated as Rs. 27 billion. The proposed 2350m long main dam will be located 30km upstream of Yan Oya sea outfall at Pulmoddai. It is said that the reservoir of 169 million cubic metre capacity will be constructed by China CAMC Engineering Corporation. This contract has been signed in November 2011 without carrying out a feasibility study,” Convener, Heritage of Wetland Mathugama Seneviruwan said.
According to Seneviruwan, 21 villages may go under water and more than 200 families in Horowpothana and Gomarankadawala who were once at the receiving ends of the LTTE attacks, might lose their properties under this controversial project.
“These people once suffered in the hands of LTTE terrorists and now they suffer because of this project. Although each family now own five to 10 acres of agriculture lands, the Irrigation Ministry has promised to give them only half an acre each when they are relocated in the Eastern Province. A vast area of archaeological areas dating back to Anuradhapua era will also go under water,” Seneviruwan added.
Seneviruwan further said how an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) has been carried out only after the contract was signed. He added that the EIA report gives contradictory data with number of fundamental and fatal flaws including non-assessment of many important areas. “The EIA has failed to address a number of critical environmental impacts. The only consistency of this report is the inconsistency. The data that has being presented in the report shows severe discrepancies and is unreliable and contradictory. The project proponent – the Irrigation Ministry has deliberately failed to assess many important areas and to address a number of critical environmental impacts. Therefore this EIA has to be rejected and a fresh EIA has to be carried out,” Seneviruwan said.
Meanwhile reliable sources from Archaeological Department who wished to remain anonymous said that it is questionable how the Central Environmental Authority (CEA) has approved the EIA, when the report clearly states that comprehensive archaeological and historical value assessments have not been conducted in the project area.
This is extremely dangerous. If destruction is done even in a small portion of archaeological heritage site in the guise of development, the loss is immeasurable. Hence we urge the project proponent to carry out a proper Archaeological Impact Assessment (AIA) to find out what the negative impact would be. The importance of the archaeological value in the proposed Yan Oya reservoir project is inestimable.
“The Ritigala Mountain peak from where the Yan Oya originates, is of archaeological value. There are caves belonging to 2 BC and 3BC era and lots of pre-historic archaeological sites. the sources added.
There are proto historic burial sites in Danduwakkadu, Gurugalhinna, Dickwewa, etc and several ruins of Buddhist temples belong to indeterminate periods found in this area. Even the monuments belong to Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa period and many small tanks built by our great kings are in this area.
The existing Wahalkada tank was built by King Mahasen and later it was renovated by King Agbo. We fear that the small tanks that are of archaeological value would be inundated due to Yan Oya project,
When asked whether an AIA has been carried out by the project proponent, the sources confirmed it has not been carried out by professional Archaeologists.
“For the benefit of the project proponent this AIA has been carried out but it is not a proper evaluation,” he said.
Meanwhile it is learnt that when the EIA report was open to public comments, the Environmental Foundation Limited (EFL) has sent their comments to the CEA requesting to reject the EIA report and to get a new EIA done and if any other alternative is considered, a public hearing be conducted with the project proponent presenting the project and EIA.
“The proposed project would lead to significant environmental disturbances in the area. It will also cause irreversible and damaging changes to the natural dynamics of the area. Therefore, we requested the CEA to evaluate each component of the project in detail in relations to its environmental impacts and stop any and all activities that can lead to serious environmental consequences in the future. We also requested the CEA to introduce guidelines on obtaining resources for the project mainly with relation to quarries and sand,” sources from the EFL said.
According to the EIA report, the aim of the proposed project is mainly to increase the cropping intensity of paddy and to maximise the agricultural production of a number of failed irrigation projects – Padaviya and Wahalkada which is operating only 0.86 cropping intensity and to solve water problems in the NCP.
“When the existing 8752 hectares of paddy lands could be irrigated by the ancient Padaviya and Wahalkada Tanks one season per year, why cannot the Irrigation Ministry increase the capacity of these two tanks and facilitate the existing paddy lands to grow paddy during both Yala and Maha seasons instead of wasting public money? In such an event only 5% of the estimated cost of Rs. 27 billion will have to be spent. If the two tanks are renovated and increase the capacity, it can easily irrigate the proposed 650 hectares of new paddy lands as well,” said the sources.
According to the page 157 of the project summary report, 1696.76 hectares of existing paddy land will be inundated and a further 30.4 hectares will be lost to the left bank canal making a total loss of 1,727.16 hectares of paddy land in order to develop 650 hectares of new paddy lands.
The sources further said how the EIA gives contradictory data with number of fundamental and fatal flaws including non-assessment of many important areas and has failed to address a number of critical environmental impacts.
The sources further stated that the amount of land that will be irrigated under this project is confusing as the discrepancy in the figures given in the summary report is unacceptable.
On page 7 of the summary report, two contradicted figures are given on the developing areas under the left bank project. Although in one place it says the total area that will be developed under the left bank is 7590 hectares, on the same page it states that the existing and proposed new paddy lands to the amount of 4190 hectares (existing 3815ha and 375ha new) would be developed under the left bank. In the same page it further reports that both left and right banks will feed a total command area of 6002 hectares.
“However page 15 states that the total benefitted area under both left and right banks would be 9402 hectares. This is much confusing. How can we expect such a large project to be carried out perfectly when the project proponent has failed to provide accurate facts and figures in the report? They should have taken maximum precautions that a realistic assessment of the project is done and the data used to make predictions are absolutely correct and does not contradict each other,” the sources claimed.
Meanwhile the sources further said that the mineral sand deposition on the Pulmoddai coast and the sea erosion due to lack of sand that may happen once the dam is built has not been assessed in the flawed EIA.
“The mineral sand deposition on the Pulmoddai coast has not been assessed but an insignificant opinion has been included. Although the EIA states that the major source of mineral sand in Pulmoddai originates from the Mahaweli river basin, Mahaweli river sand does not reach the coast but deposits in a marine trench in Koddiyar Bay. Hence once the Yan Oya dam is constructed, it will block the flowing minerals from Vijayan Rocks along Yan Oya and will have an adverse impact on the mineral sand resources in Pulmoddai.
“Therefore a proper study and an adverse impact assessment on this valuable natural resource of the country need to be carried out and any cost to it should be included in the cost benefit analysis of the project.
The EIA has not done such a study merely to show the economic feasibility of the project when in reality the cost of the loss of mineral sand deposits if the proposed project is implemented could be many times more than the benefits publicised in the project,” he alleged.
According to environmentalists, Yan Oya dam will also increase sea erosion of the coastal area due to lack of sand to replenish the beach. Meanwhile the environmentalists have urged the Irrigation and Water Resources Management Ministry to increase the distance of the demarcated reservoir reservation area from 100m to 5km. “The EIA report proposes to demarcate a 100m reservation area for the reservoir and canals which is inadequate. We want to get this distance increased to 5km to avoid siltation, illegal cultivation and water pollution from agro chemicals. The report further states that all trees above 30cm would be removed in the inundation area which is a thick dry zone evergreen forest.
“These 30cm trees’ are not matured but only saplings. Destruction of these 1,438 hectares of thick forest cannot be a benefit in any terms although under the cost benefit analysis, the value of the timber has been added as a benefit to the project. If the timber value is taken as a benefit then the cost of the lost ecological services by these trees is detriment,” the sources alleged. Meanwhile reliable sources from the Irrigation and Water Resources Ministry on condition of anonymity said that it is surprising how the Ministry officials remain silent when environmental organisations have urged to conduct a fresh cost- benefit analysis with adequate justification and an unbiased assessment of the economy viability of this project.
“They wanted the Irrigation Ministry to conduct a fresh cost- benefit analysis before approval is given to proceed with this project,” he added.