The recent, Negombo protest held by the fishermen came to an end, only after a promise from the political authorities that sand mining will not be done within a distance of 4km from the shore as before. Then a much publicized assurance was given that sand mining activity (dredging) will only be done, beyond 10km from the shore.
However, much distressed fishermen and women are now reporting that the sand mining is done as usual within a distance of 4-6km, causing irreparable harm to the environment and destruction to their only livelihood namely coastal fishing.
The challenge that the fisher leaders and others who are concerned about this matter, face is to verify and confirm those reports. If found true it could be definitely concluded that the fisher community has been betrayed and duped by the politicians just to stop their much publicized protest.
If the government has given a promise to the protesting fishermen, to protect the Coastal Fishing Industry it has to be kept. If it fails, fishermen and all citizens must together confront the authorities, considering the urgency and national importance of this issue.
The experts who are familiar with the marine environment believe that sand mining done even outside a distance of 10km can do cause harm to the coast.
This centuries old, well established Coastal Fishing Industry provides essential protein, fresh fish, to the majority poor of our country. The poor cannot afford costly deep water fish now exported to the EU and it is most unfair to feed the poor of our country with cheap, frequently out-dated tin fish dumped in our markets from foreign lands, when our coastal waters are teaming with nutritious fresh fish.
Another Grave Cause Of Concern
Although there is much public discussion on sand mining and protests have been organized against it, the impact of rock excavation from 11 queries in Gampaha, Colombo and Kalutara districts has not been sufficiently publicized. This activity is equally destructive to the interior of this country.
Even the committee of the experts appointed by the government has not seriously addressed this particular environmental issue in their EIA and SEIA reports.
We believe, that with greater awareness, the general public living around the areas of the 11 quarries where this large volume of rock materials will be blasted using explosives will mobilize themselves to demonstrate their opposition to such destructive activities. As this will destroy the flora and fauna of our small island which has the highest biodiversity in Asia and will also adversely affect the water catchment areas, that feed our streams and rivers which are now drying up.
Health and Safety Hazard
Another factor which needs our urgent attention is the construction location of the Port City / Financial City. It is going to be a health and safety hazard, as warned by Chinese environmentalists when they constructed a similar city at Tianjin. The Port City of Tianjin exploded with massive loss of life and costly environmental damage on 12th August 2015. This disaster is publicized on the Internet.
Similarly this construction will put the lives of our own people at risk. The Hon.Minister of Megapolis and the government should consider this important health and safety hazard and knowingly not put our people’s lives at risk for monitory gain. We believe such an act by our government is a human rights violation.
It is a deception to imagine that large scale sand mining and granite quarrying is the whole issue. Indeed, the whole project by its very nature is destructive and undemocratic. Indeed our attention must be directed towards halting the whole project.
There are other projects of similar model such as the Uma Oya project. All these are consequences of accepting the neo liberal economic policies adopted by our governments. Therefore, it is a gigantic challenge that lies before us.