ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday April 13, 2008
Vol. 42 - No 46

Saviour is the polluter

Reclamation Board dumps dredged sludge and silt from canals in bio diversity site

By Rohan Abeywardena, Pic. By Saman Kariyawasam

Residents of Evergreen Park/Heen Ela Road off Kirimandala Mawatha, Narahenpita where a marsh separated from their housing scheme by a canal and declared as a bio diversity site and a water retention area, complain the area is being systematically piled up with filthy sludge and silt dredged from canals in Colombo.

This is being done, ironically, right under a big board that announced the declaring of that place as a protected site by Urban Development Minister Dinesh Gunawardena on May 21, 2004 to mark World Bio Diversity Day and this almost sacrilegious act is being committed by none other than the Sri Lanka Land Reclamation and Development Board coming under his Ministry. In fact one of the prime duties of SLLRDC is to prevent such acts of filling marsh lands in Colombo.

The Heen Ela with the silt dredged from the canals dumped on its banks.

Irate residents of the area have already confronted the SLLRDC Chairman Chairman Karunasena Hettiarachchi to halt this growing environmental menace. He in turn had given them a verbal assurance that it is a temporary measure.

When The Sunday Times contacted Mr. Hettiarachchi he said he had already instructed his officials not to expand the dumping area into yet untouched parts of this marsh, but there was no assurance of their not being a mountain of sludge in time to come in the areas already filled. Already the silt that is piled up there looks like little hills.

The portion of the marsh bordering Kirimandala Mawatha appears to be filled with material from demolished buildings and there were characters there chasing away motorists who came to park their vehicles stating that it is reserved for contractors’ lorries that come to load sea sand from the SLLRDC sand sale site there.

Interestingly just opposite this on the Kirimandala Mawatha is a massive housing investment by Eco Homes, which is now under construction. Mr. Hettiarachchi said some of those who are vociferously opposing the dumping of silt are a pampered lot, who are actually resident abroad during the greater part of the year and come to Colombo only on holiday. For that matter he says even the Evergreen Park was built on a reclaimed marsh, so they should not complain so much.

The Chairman says he has been dredging all the canals in Colombo since assuming duties here last year to prevent any major flood in Colombo and the silt that is dredged has to be dumped somewhere. Since the SLLRDC does not get any funding from the Treasury, it cannot afford to truck the dredged material to far distant locations at great cost.

Though the Chairman says the dumping of the sludge is a temporary measure and he would restore the site to its former serenity it sounds a bit like wishful thinking. Already the indigenous fauna and flora have virtually been wiped out where the sludge had been piled.

Of course, the SLLRDC head has a solution. He is offering all the dredged material to anyone wanting to fill a private land and he is even offering to load it to the recipient’s trucks free of charge. His other alternative is for someone to give him an alternate site to drop the sludge.

The residents complain that the Heen Ela which once carried clear water is now murky and badly polluted because of such acts, but Mr. Hettiarachchi insists that the canal is polluted as the Colombo Municipal Council empties its overburdened sewers into the canal. Even near the SLLRDC office another sewer maintained by the National Water Supply and Drainage Board is being emptied into the canal despite protests, he said.

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