|Wednesday, 10 March 2004|
CEA denies delay in approving salinity barrier for Kelani river
by Florence Wickramage
The Central Environmental Authority (CEA) firmly denied that it delayed granting approval to the construction of a permanent salinity barrier across the Kelani river. The reports in the electronic media that the CEA was blocking this construction said to be the cause of the present crisis is false, Chairman of the CEA Ajita de Costa said yesterday.
The Chairman clarifying the position of the CEA regarding the proposed salinity barrier said that as required by law the National Water Supply and Drainage Board prepared the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and submitted it to the CEA for approval in September 2003 and not in 2001 as reported.
The EIA report had been kept open for public scrutiny for the required 30 days.
This procedure is followed by experts of the Technical Evaluation Committee evaluating the EIA which is now in progress.
"Even if the CEA used all its resources at hand and sat day and night to evaluate the report, at the expense of all the other projects which also require CEA approval, the NWS&DB could not have avoided the present crisis, as the project document itself states that the awarding of tenders and commencement of construction activities are due to begin in April 2004 which is well past the date of the present crisis" de Costa said. The project is to be completed in June 2006 the earliest.
The Chairman reiterated that the CEA has a responsibility to evaluate projects such as these carefully, as building of a permanent structure across the Kelani river could have equally serious environmental impacts such as increased flooding in surrounding areas and accumulation of heavy metals at the intake which are very toxic to human health.
"Therefore it is in the interest of all stakeholders, most importantly the public that a proper evaluation of this project with proper expertise is done rather than blindly approving the project due to its urgency, de Costa said.
Produced by Lake House