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

Norochcholai: Displaced families complain of shocking deception

Allegations of badly built houses and false promises of land

By Hiran Priyankara Jayasinghe

Families who gave up their lands for the Norochcholai coal power plant project, protested in front of the main gate of the construction plant office, saying the Government deceived them by providing them with badly built alternative houses. The Government took over 300 acres at Narakkaliya and Paniadiya areas on March 3, 2007 and the 68 families who lived there were given houses in Daluwa Manpuriya Nirmalapura housing scheme on March 29, last year.

Each of the houses given to the families were said to have cost around Rs.1.2 million, according to Ceylon Electricity Board sources and consisted of two bedrooms, a kitchen, a toilet and a well in a 20 perch block. Every house was provided electricity.

Protestors being held back by Police

Nonetheless the houses that were given were said to be badly constructed with poor quality material, resulting in walls cracking and termites eating into the woodwork. The families were also given two acres of lands each in the Nirmalapura area, but when they went during the last weekend to clear those lands they were reportedly chased away by a group of people who had come in vehicles, threatening them not to come again and saying they owned those lands.

The families were then driven to protest in front of the construction plant office demanding justice for what happened to them. Due to the protest the road leading to the office was blocked for nearly three hours with no vehicle being able to enter or leave the plant premises.

The Nirmalapura community development secretary Lionel Warnakulasuriya said the people concerned had given up all their property to enable the construction of the coal power plant thinking that they would get all facilities from the Government.

“But we were wrong. Though it is said each house cost 12 lakhs of rupees, we don’t think even four lakhs were spent on each house. Even though we informed the authorities of the shortcomings in the houses we didn’t get any positive response,” he said.

One disappointed person identified as S. Vishwanathan said that he did not wish to talk about the house and the land he received as it made him angry. The police finally intervened with Kalpitiya OIC Lakshman Ranwala Arachchi promising to see that justice was done to them and the families agreeing to put an end to the protest.

The Sunday Times contacted some officials to get their views on the matter. Referring to the incident where the families were chased away fron Nirmalapura, Kalpitiya Divisional Secretary M.H.M. Riyaldeen said that compensating the Mundel landowners whose lands were acquired had not been completed yet so those landowners must have threatened the families when they went to clear the lands.

That matter would be resolved soon, he said. The CEB project engineer in charge of the housing scheme accepted that there had been many deficiencies in the construction of the houses but said he had no permission to comment any further on it and asked The Sunday Times to make inquiries from higher officials.

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