Sugar factory to come up in elephant path?
The Government has approved a proposal to clear 20,000-25,000 hectares in the Maduruoya forest in Uva-Wellassa area for a new sugar factory, without an Environmental Impact Assessment, Padma Udayashantha, Moneragala District MP charged.
He said the proposal had been approved by the Cabinet on January 10.“The Central Environment Authority is making the assessment now and it is reported the place is not suitable for a sugar factory,” he said.
“According to the assessment, there is an elephant path between the Maduruoya forest and the Nilgala Ganga. So there would be disastrous consequences if it was blocked as it will affect the route of the wild elephants,” he said.
Mr. Udayashantha said the JVP would continue to protest against this proposed project if the Government fails come up with solutions for the environmental problems that might arise due to the project being implemented.
“The wild elephants are giving enough trouble even without the clearing of more forests in the area,” he said “We are not against the development project but concerned about the consequences. The authorities should have acceptable answers for the problems that may arise. Otherwise the people in the area will suffer. Though the Government says that this would be the largest sugar factory in Sri Lanka, it will be of no use if people have to suffer as a result,” Mr. Udayashantha said.
“The Government can focus on reopening the Kantale and Hingurana sugar factories instead of starting a new one. The experience we have with Kantale and Hingurana sugar factories suggest that the Government won’t be benefited by this project either,” he said.
He said a Parliamentary debate is due next week on this matter.
Meanwhile, Environment and Natural Resources Minister Champika Ranawaka said he was against the project as it would damage the ecological balance.
He said 200 hectares of land had been requested from the Environment and Natural Resources Ministry to build the factory before he took over the ministry, but he was not willing to give permission considering the environmental damage it may cause.
“It would be better to restart the Kantale and Hingurana sugar factories rather than open a new one in the Uva Province. There will then be less expenditure and it will be good for the environment as well”, he said.
A foreign company and a local company had agreed to fund the project.