Colombo Telegraph

A Fiasco By Committee

By Ranil Senanayake

Dr Ranil Senanayake

The recent statements from the Ministry of Megapolis sadly demonstrate utter disregard of the public and the law of the land, compounded by a pathetically low understanding of what science has taught us. the statement issued by the Ministry of Megapolis to the media announces that :

“It has been proposed to form a special committee comprising of 10 persons to gauge the harm that could confront the fishermen with the construction of the Colombo International Financial city or the Port City project. This has been said by the Minister of Megapolis and western province development.

However in a following paragraph in the same statement, the ministry sources; “confess that the sand required for filling the land and the sea for the project have been already selected from places chosen by them and if there is a shortage of fish harvest they would substitute with financial aid in comparison to their loses.” ( Lankaweb Oct 24, 2016)

Most people with a modicum of understanding of fisheries will know that there are certain zones and spawning areas for marine fishes that have been established through thousands of years of use. They are often linked to the movement of currents and to the substrate. The region in question being in the alluvial fan of the Kelani river can be expected to have a high productive capacity. The EIA for the port city has not addressed this fact. In fact the no EIA for the dredging of oceanic substrate has looked at the spawning zones of the commercial finfish.

The comical aspect of this statement, if it were not so tragic is the fact that a committee of 10 persons are being assembled to gauge the harm that might be done, while ‘ministry sources have confessed that the sand required for filling the land for the project have been already selected from places chosen by them’. So the committee is a pointless public relations exercise to fool us into thinking that this is and open’ ‘democratic’ process. The places for sand mining have already been chosen and the ministry says that ‘if there is a shortage of fish harvest they would substitute with financial aid in comparison to their loses.’ What an undertaking, for how long will they pay for a shortage of fish harvest? If the area being destroyed happened to be a spawining ground, then the losses will be felt for many thousands of years. Will the ministry agree to pay the fishermen and their ancestors until the fish socks return? Wonderful offer. The fishermen on the committee should now demand it!

If this is the approach that the ministry is taking toward public interest, it might be well for the public to look into their own interests. We know that up till now the only legal EIA submitted is only for the filling up of the land. Nothing has been presented on the impact of the building construction that , nothing on the impact on air quality, water quality and availability and well as compounding the garbage problem of Colombo City.

Has the Ministry informed anyone of the carbon footprint of the new proposed constructions? They know that a ton of concrete emits 900 kgs of Carbon Dioxide, they now that a ton of steel emits 1800Kgs of Carbon Dioxide. They know how many tons of these materials are used for each proposed construction. Will they report these figures to the climate secretariat to include this figure in Sri Lanka’s Carbon footprint? Another statistic to be considered in concrete buildings is air conditioning, Gases like HFC-134a, which is currently used has 1,430 times more warming potential than carbon dioxide (CO2). So what will be the Carbon Footprint ‘ of the city we chose to develop?

It will indeed be tragic if the same clodhopping tactics that are being used to ram or pay a way through the concerns of the fishermen, where they are lured to join a committee on a subject already decided upon by the organizers and payments prepared to soften the blow; are used to foist irresponsible constructions on the City of Colombo. Air quality is already a problem, what guarantees are there that these new ‘developments’ will not worsen it? Water quality is already a problem, what is the plan to supply the new city with water? Will it compete with the City of Colombo for water? An Environmental Impact Report is required to report on these facts. These are the real environmental variables that affect us and our children but those who prepared the EIA and those pushing for the Port City seems not to be aware of these fundamental concerns let alone care for their fellow citizens.

A quarter century of chasing ‘economic development’ and what do we have to show for it? Wandering aimlessly, with success measured only by an increase in industry, consumerism and pointless projects. The current vision of development certainly does not refer to public health, cultural or spiritual development.  The results so far have been a loss of personal health, well being and personal security. So exactly what type of development are we referring to in Sri Lanka when we have various public figures exhorting us towards ‘development’ and economic growth?
The industrial parks that are being proposed for the South, give us no guarantees that this nation will not be exposed to toxic, carcinogenic, teratagenic and radioactive substances never before experienced in our land. We do not know what levels of soil, air and water pollution we will have to put up with in these mysterious industrial zones, so that a profit can be made by polluting our environment. With all the shouting and hurrahs, There was not one word of caution in the defense of Lanka and the health of its citizens, only claims of jobs and money. It is a statement of how much the politicians care for our well being. How crass!

Of course the beauty of the South of Sri Lanka will fade, but as the economic hit men posing development wizards will tell you “That’s a small price to pay to become developed’. It is stated by award winning economists W Barkley and W. Seckler in their book: “the deterioration of the environment is not a by product of economic growth as so many believe, rather it is in a fundamental sense a direct product”.

So, in the name of economic growth, it seems that one ministry has agreed to pay the fishermen and their ancestors for a loss in catch until the fish stocks return. This is good, maybe the other ministries who are responsible for the promotion of negative ‘development’ activities, will pay for the health and well being we once enjoyed and which will be taken away in the name of economic development? Of course, we should expect the to pay us until our once clean environment is restored back to us.

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