By Ranil Senanayake –
The Port City project is a glaring example of how national resources are abused by politicians and the bureaucrats at the controls by treating it as their chattel. In doing international deals, the public (even those who might be directly affected) is never consulted, only ‘informed’ by the great leaders that, a deal has been done. The Port City project, which is now in the public eye, gives us an opportunity to comment. The EIA is open for public comment at many points; I examined the copy at the library of the Central Environment Authority (CEA), where there is also a book for comments. It will be in the public domain until the second week of January.
The document itself is very poor and lacks any mention of the impact on the Environment of Colombo. It deals with the dredging and filling operations without once mentioning that there is whole city that its operations will impact.
Not acknowledging that the city of Colombo will have to put up with breathing construction dust for twenty or so years, a gift to a generation of citizens with increased lung problems, nor the danger of flooding in Colombo due to the blockage of the Beira lake outfall has been addressed in this so called EIA.
But a real surprise was the fact that the developer has been awarded reclamation material at ‘zero cost’ where, the cost of the sand and even the Royalty that this nation would receive has been waived. No wonder the developer was so keen on expanding and expanding, we were giving him our land for free. To keep the story right we have to realize that it is a Chinese company we are dealing with here, not the Chinese Government. It is interesting to find out the current financial positions of those who dreamt up and approved the gifting of our revenue in such a cavalier manner.
Is our land and its resources the chattel of some power mad or money mad individual to give away at their whim? To make matters worse, they have also signed an agreement that would prevent any other Sri Lankan development from reclaiming within a 20 k.m radius of more than 20 ha within next 15 years. What will this do the Megapolis plans? What country can accept such opaque, illegal transactions as a legal contract?
There needs to be a proper analysis of this project and its impacts on the following should be submitted, if we are to move away from the crooked and corrupt past.
- Impact due to construction debris on the air quality of Colombo City.
- Impact due to sewerage disposal (according to the Concession Agreement, it is the responsibility of GoSL to provide the disposal arrangements
- Impacts due to the Water demand and Supply (according to the Concession Agreement, it is the responsibility of GoSL to provide the required water supply arrangements)
- Impact due to discharge of Solid Waste ((according to the Concession Agreement, it is the responsibility of GoSL to provide the disposal arrangements
- Traffic Impact Assessment due to the Port City operations, and capacity improvements to the existing road network (again, this responsibility has been assigned to the GoSL)
- Impact and carbon footprint of the energy required for the operation of this city.
In examining the list above it is obvious that we Sri Lankans are going to subsidize and support this new city. We are supposed to find solutions for their problems, when we cant even find solutions for our own.
There should be no activity on the Port City until these questions have been clarified and a comprehensive EIA has been filed. It should be only after this that a decision on the fate of the project could be made in an open, transparent manner.