CEA recommends alternative route for proposed highwayView(s):
The Central Environmental Authority (CEA) recommended that an alternative route be found for the section of the proposed elevated highway from the New Kelani Bridge (NKB) to Athurugiriya that crosses the Thalangama wetland, a draft Cabinet paper shows.
The proposed Highways Ministry memorandum regarding the highway states that the CEA’s Environmental Council has suggested that it was “appropriate to select an alternative area” rather than traverse the Thalangama Environmental Protection Area (EPA). This has been conveyed through a letter signed by the CEA Director-General.
The CEA’s new position is a clear departure from its earlier stance. In 2021, on the Authority’s advice, former Environment Minister Mahinda Amaraweera even amended the 2007 gazette that declared Thalangama to be an EPA to include “construction, operation and maintenance” of the four-lane highway and “related constructions” as permitted activities.
When an area is declared an EPA, the only sanctioned activities are paddy cultivation, fishing, nature trails, construction of security posts and towers for bird observation.
More than 3km of the highway was to have crossed the Averihana Tank and surrounding paddy fields which are part of the Thalangama wetland. There are five ongoing court cases against this section.
The draft Cabinet paper also seeks approval to suspend land acquisition for the proposed highway, a project for which China Harbour Engineering Company Ltd (CHEC) had been identified. It states that a letter of intent has not yet been issued to the company, but CHEC has maintained otherwise in earlier documentation seen by the Sunday Times.
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