21 October, 2017

The Uma Oya Project

By Mahinda Rajapaksa

Mahinda Rajapaksa

The Uma Oya project has come in for much criticism in recent times. A few days ago it was reported in the media that the Kirindi Oya tributary which flows past Bandarawela had suddenly gone dry as a result of this project. The leader of the JVP stated in Parliament some weeks ago that as a result of ground water seeping into a tunnel being constructed as part of the Uma Oya project, 2,333 wells, streams and springs in the Bandarawela area had run dry, and cracks had appeared in 4,625 houses, six temples, one mosque and three schools in the area due to the change in ground conditions, and further that thousands of acres of agricultural land have been affected. After things started going wrong, members of the JVP, ministers in the yahapalana government and various NGO activists have been making statements aimed at laying the blame for all this on me and my government.

One minister said that this situation had come about because I had wanted to divert water to Hambantota to irrigate land in my village. The President also stated that this project had been carried out due to ‘political requirements’. The Uma Oya project consists of constructing a dam and reservoir across the Uma Oya at Puhulpola from where water would be diverted via a 4 km tunnel to another dam and reservoir constructed across the Mahatotilla Oya in Dyraaba. Water from this second reservoir would be channeled through a 15.3 km tunnel to a hydroelectricity powerhouse. The outflow from the powerhouse is to be diverted via a 4 km tunnel into the Kirindi Oya, to provide water to parts of the Moneragala and Hambantota districts. The diversion of the Uma Oya has been under discussion for well over sixty years.

The idea was first mooted in 1959 in a study carried out by the United States Operations Mission and the Canadian Hunting Survey Corporation. It also featured in the United Nations Development Programme/Food and Agriculture Organisation Master Plan (1968-1969) for the Mahaweli project. Studies regarding the Uma Oya diversion project were also carried out by the Lahmeyer International Company of Germany in 1989, by the Central Engineering Consultancy Bureau (CECB) in 1991 and by SNC Lavalin Inc of Canada in collaboration with the CECB in 2000. During the UNP led government of 2001-2004, at inter-ministerial meetings held in December 2003 and February 2004, chaired by the then ministers of power and energy and irrigation Karu Jayasuriya and Jayawickrema Perera with the participation of all the ministers and MPs of the Uva province, it was decided to implement the proposed Uma Oya scheme as a high priority project.  On 26 January 2005, under the Chandrika Kumaratunga government, Cabinet approval was granted to proceed with the Uma Oya project, based on a cabinet paper submitted by the then Minister of Agriculture, Livestock, Land and Irrigation, Anura Kumara Dissanayake. The Deputy Minister of this ministry at that time, was Bimal Ratnayake. The JVP Minister’s Cabinet Paper bearing No: 05/0036/039/002 dated 4 January 2005 stated the following:

QUOTE:

“For the development of the South East Dry Zone in Sri Lanka, (particularly Hambantota and Moneragala districts) there is no other alternative unless water is diverted from Uma Oya to the South East Dry Zone.”

“Strategy for economic development of both Hambantota and Moneragala districts changed during the recent past and diversion of Uma Oya to Kirindi Oya is now seen in the perspective of recently conceived Ruhunupura development. The infrastructure of Ruhunupura development consists of the development of the Hambantota harbour into one of the modern harbours in the region, international airport in the Moneragala district, and an oil refinery. It is expected that the Hambantota harbour will attract a large number of ships sailing in the Indian ocean. Also a large number of industrial activities are expected to take place in and around Hambantota including tourism. For all these new developments, projected water requirement has been estimated as 100 MCM in the year 2030. In the absence of a reliable source of water in the area, water from Uma Oya is seen as the only alternative to supplement this requirement.”

“Therefore high priority should be given for this project.”  

END QUOTE.

It was only after all of the above had taken place under previous governments that the Uma Oya project appeared in my 2005 presidential election manifesto as a priority project. The JVP supported my candidacy at the 2005 presidential elections and Uma Oya was made a priority project of my government. From winning the war against terrorism to building highways, harbours and power plants, my government did many things that previous governments had only been able to dream about, but never implement. Uma Oya was one such project. On 27 November 2007, consequent to consultations held earlier that year by the then Minister for Enterprises Development Sarath Amunugama and the then Minister for Power and Energy John Seneviratne with the Export Development Board of Iran (EDBI) and Farab Company of Iran, an MOU was signed with the Iranian government under the terms of which the EDBI would finance the project and Farab Company, would prepare the detailed engineering design and carry out the physical construction.

The contractor Farab Company is owned by the Iranian government and a team of engineers from the Irrigation Ministry, CEB and CECB had checked the credentials of this company and its experience in handling similar projects. In 2008 a Cabinet Appointed Negotiating Committee got the contract price fixed at USD 514 million. Though the contract was signed in 2008, construction did not commence until 29 November 2011 until the Central Environmental Authority gave it clearance and a full feasibility report acceptable to the engineers of the Irrigation Ministry, Ceylon Electricity Board and the Central Engineering Consultancy Bureau had been received. Ground water seepage is inevitable when drilling tunnels and measures have to be taken to prevent it. According to information available to me, the water seepage has taken place because the German manufactured drilling machine did not have the additional components to fully seal the tunnel as it moved forward.

This was apparently due to the project consultants failing to provide the correct advice. The first seepage of water had taken place only in late December 2014 just days before the present  government came into power. The environmental harm it has caused could have been averted if remedial measures had been taken in time. However the new government took no action because they were too busy persecuting the opposition. The JVP was also too busy persecuting the Rajapaksas and helping the UNP to run the FCID to make representations to the government to rectify a problem that had arisen in the only major project ever initiated by a JVP Minister.  I now learn that the necessary equipment has been obtained from Germany.

Whenever a large scale infrastructure project is implemented, there will be communities that are adversely affected. When the accelerated Mahaweli project was implemented, the entire Maskeliya town had to be shifted to make way for the Maussakele reservoir and the Teldeniya town had to be shifted to make way for the Victoria reservoir. The extent of water seepage during the drilling of the Uma Oya tunnel, may not have been anticipated. But in projects of this magnitude, even unanticipated contingencies have to be provided for. Many large projects were implemented during the nine year tenure of my government, and some displacement of people did take place, but there was no public unrest because problems were identified early on, and compensation packages provided to the satisfaction of those affected.

Such alertness and efficiency is however lacking under the present government. Today, the situation is such that if a citizen loses his house in a landslide or flood or some man-made disaster, he will be living in a tent or a school until the next government comes into power. There is now agitation over issues that have emerged in the construction of the Central Highway which have not been resolved by the government. Those affected by the unforeseen problems that have emerged in the implementation of the Uma Oya project have had to endure the consequences of the inherent inefficiency of the present government.

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Latest comments

  • 10
    6

    The killing, abduction and corruption projection by Mahinda Rajapakshe after the war.

    Above would be an ideal caption.

    Welcome to the dark ages of MR.

    Just a suggestion, start with Tsunami Horakapu Project.

    • 9
      5

      Correction, it should corruption projects by Mahinda Rajapakshe, not projection.

      • 8
        2

        ansar – You mean projects by Medamulana Meeharaka, the Tsunami Hora!

    • 5
      2

      Yes yes, your MAGICAL projects .my foot !!!

      1) Mattala – Airport. was that at all compulsary ?
      2) To that time, relayering the katunaayak run way was neglected even if it was long due, but you guys to abuse funds for MIHIN balu air line…. how would you explain to the nation? or would you assume the people are so stupid and stay on that mode forever ?

      3)Hambantota Harbour – why not you invested in Colombo harbour ?

      4)And what about the big deals made for AIRBUSes that the country could never be able to afford ?
      5) And several remotly located stadiums and confernce halls ?
      6) Why can NT you sense it LET ALONE today ?

      7) Give us a break and leave from lanken brutal malcious politics
      8) If nothing can please you leave for EXILE and live a btter life with the collossal sums you grabed from all those gigantic projects.

  • 10
    11

    This ‘eda wela’ govt is nothing but a total failure. In every single field! Crucifying Rajapakshes is what they know and do. Within the span of two years, they have mastered how to speed up corruption, thrashing democracy, jeopardizing national security, worsening COL, humiliating military, furthering nepotism, misusing govt coffers, fattening the cabinet, buying politicos, bulldozing peaceful protests, dancing to the tune of Western and Indian powers, selling the local assets, getting foreign loans to feed themselves etc., etc. Nothing else. Worse, they’re planning to ruin the country till 2025!

    To end the jumble of ‘yahapalanaya’, lets gather to unseat this stupid lot!

    I take this opportunity to salute the govt. official who said a firm NO to Duminda Disa, the right hand of the Big Boss, when he insisted to pay a huge breakfast bill, illegally!

    • 7
      3

      This ‘eda wela’ govt is nothing but a total failure. In every single field! Crucifying Rajapakshes is what they know and do. Within the span of two years, they have mastered how to speed up corruption, thrashing democracy, jeopardizing national security, worsening COL, humiliating military, furthering nepotism, misusing govt coffers, fattening the cabinet, buying politicos, bulldozing peaceful protests, dancing to the tune of Western and Indian powers, selling the local assets, getting foreign loans to feed themselves etc., etc. Nothing else. Worse, they’re planning to ruin the country till 2025!

      Its no big deal max , let the Yahapalanaya folks make some money after all they were in the opposition for 20 years.

      Cheers! At least no white vans and 100percent freedom, for media, journos, Sportsman, civil society activists and the srilankan citizens.

      • 3
        2

        Maybe freedom for terrorist activtst is a fitting description. We also lived through Rajapaksha’s time and it was far better compared with the Chandrika’s or Premadasa’s or JRJ.

        • 3
          1

          Shenal

          “We also lived through Rajapaksha’s time and it was far better compared with the Chandrika’s or Premadasa’s or JRJ.”

          Those who were willing to provide political servitude various respective leaders believe they lived in a better times than others. Didn’t they do well and have good times by reciting “aye aye, sir”.

          Oh by being three monkeys.

          The three monkeys are Mizaru, covering his eyes, who sees no evil; Kikazaru, covering his ears, who hears no evil; and Iwazaru, covering his mouth, who speaks no evil.

    • 1
      1

      Max, people like you are the plenty of among the masses in this country, who have easily been hoodwinked by Rajapakshes.
      So it will take another few decades, if your like mind sets would remain unchanged in the years to come too in this country.
      No matter Sangayas would do anyhting they thought is right, leaving the real buddhism aside but way of helping thuggish politicians of your Guru, most abusive Rajanos.
      But then how can we ever achieve the goals set for the future ?
      I simply believe, Srilanka will not be able to raise the head until all abusive high men are jailed.
      With the time, people will have to learn to respect LAW and Order than anything.
      Even today, Premier and other minister are in a struggle in mapping how much Rajapakshe have made us DEBTORS.
      They the current men need experts to find that out alone.
      All these they do making every efforts in taking actions to various issues left unturn by Rajapakshes because of their ZERO knowledge money management.
      Bond Issue will reveal lot more about the past too is our hope while if the current men did, they should also be punished by the same law.
      But we perfectly know in the high days of MARA, there had not been INDEPENDENT LEGAL entity to take decisions for the central bANK. That alone is accepted as criminal acts … All these re not louded by MEDIA in the country, since they have been BRAINwashed by Rajano s cutlure held inthe country for the last 10 years.

      Best would you to see why former thai PREMIER was convicted today – Can you please study it ?

    • 0
      0

      Max would consume tonnes of kakka loaded by Rajapakshe for his own pvt reasons.

      What drops from his ends should not be taken serious.

      The kind of men are every corners of the country.

      That is the saddest reality in entire developing countries.

      See the situation in Thailand. They the rural folks even today trust covicted murderous former Premier while the educated reject HER:

  • 9
    3

    “According to information available to me, the water seepage has taken place because the German manufactured drilling machine did not have the additional components to fully seal the tunnel as it moved forward.”
    So, you can actually read!
    Who made the commission on this unsuitable machine?

    • 4
      4

      Old codger, it is unfortunate that people on this forum cannot bring forth any valid arguments, instead they jump up and down like cats on a hot tin roof. It is said in the above article that the machinery was incorrectly used by the consultants (I believe YOU can read!). In a more enlightened society the repair of the leaks would have been initiated immediately afterwards, that is in early 2015 and the consultants would have been investigated for liability issues. However, in this country every hiccup is used as a political tool to rabel rouse and find a fault with one group or another. Further, there are many wells and streams drying out in many parts of Sri Lanka due to drought, and NOT due to the Uma Oya project, Uva Province have been also under severe drought for the last couple of years. Lastly, people in Hambanthota deserve water as much as any other area in the island, so calling the Uma Oya project which has been in the planning books for 60 years is a political ploy is nothing but a political ploy in itself. How disappointing!

      • 1
        1

        wannihami

        “instead they jump up and down like cats on a hot tin roof.”

        Or crab in hot water.

        ” In a more enlightened society the repair of the leaks would have been initiated immediately afterwards, that is in early 2015 and the consultants would have been investigated for liability issues.”

        Please tell me what happened to Lakvijaya Power Station (Norochcholai coal power plant). Why was the delay, what exactly happened, why it was operating on stop go basis, how much did it cost to repair the new plant, cost of lost production, what did the government and Achchige Patali Champika Ranawaka Minister in charge do to recover compensation from the Chines contractors?

        “However, in this country every hiccup is used as a political tool to rabel rouse and find a fault with one group or another. “

        In the context of Lakvijaya Power Station (Norochcholai coal power plant) and the Magampura Mahinda Rajapaksa Port project please explain to us as to why people should not question the competence and honesty of whoever was in Charge.

        Why are you trying to defend corrupt, incompetent, technically illiterate, ……. people who were given large projects and expect them to deliver whatever is aimed for?

        • 1
          0

          Native, Norochcholai coal power plant failure was due to technical issues, It is the responsibility of the CEB to ensure that the power plant design is properly done as some of the failures have been due to the failure of the distribution network and the power plant not having proper cooling facility to restart!

  • 7
    1

    OK Mahinda, you made your point but who should be held accountable? Is it the German company which made the drilling equipment? Isn’t the contractor responsible for selecting the correct equipment, in which case, isn’t the contractor accountable? The question then arises whether you appointed the contractor & wasn’t there a clause in the contract for penalties arising from botched operations?

    Sorry mate, it happened in your watch. Maybe in your hurry to pocket some kickback, you failed to do a proper feasibility but no point blaming others even if they led you up the garden path. Of course, you can’t be seen as keeping silent when all these accusations are thrown at you but we get the picture.

  • 3
    1

    Ok, we agreed with you and 99.99% people will believe that you are innocent. Now we realize that you are not responsible for this project. It may be Yahapalana goons did something to tarnish your Good Image. “Mama Baba, Mama Harima hondai, Hari Ahinsakai…… Lasantha, Prageeth, Thajudeen, Rathupaswella, Katunayaka, Prison Pinkama, Halawatha Fuel Pinkama…….Aththatama mama kisi deyak dannema naha.

  • 3
    1

    After reading this article my Grandfather could not control his laugh. finally he got his jawbones dislodged and he is under treatment. So, please stop issuing this kind of statements as same might happen to “Sumane’ and “Jimmy’s Grand farthers.

  • 2
    1

    Flogging Rajapakshes day in and day out is like flogging a dead leather……….
    This is not going to solve any ills of the present Government who came forward as saviours to govern the country through Yahapalanaya.
    Alas ! Masses have been taken for a ride again.
    Worst is who ever thought Ranil was a thief???????? This is the saddest realisation.

    Now its from the frying pan into the fire and get roasted.
    Sad but true…… Moreover the poor masses, the voter have been duped lock stock and barrel.

    • 0
      1

      Thonda.

      Why dont.you contest the 2025 p elections. You are sure.to defeat namal

  • 0
    1

    “…. it has not worked at Mattala, where elephants have been known to wander into the airport grounds and where its very emptiness has made it a tourist attraction in its own right – increasingly, the only reason anyone goes there……”

    read it here “https://www.euromoney.com/article/b14t1j811vdn45/making-sense-of-belt-and-road-the-white-elephant-mattala-rajapaksa-international-airport-sri-lanka”

  • 0
    1

    Why did you force the EIA? Enough of your prattle. Retire and enjoy the fact your regime defeat Tamil Tiger terrorism. But you made so many mistakes. In the last 3 years, you became arrogant. You thought you had some goddamned divine right to stay in power and pass the baton onto your son/s. No Sir, we live in Democracy. You are not a Deity or a Prince. You had your turns and you lost. Go home and let us still preserve the love and respect we had for you. But stop defending wasteful projects like Mattala Airport, Hambantota Port and Uma Oya.

  • 0
    1

    Having been a permanent resident of Bandarawela for 68 years I can tell you this much:

    1. The damage caused in certain areas is horrendous. There has been no direct result on my property, and it is true that there are people making false claims. However, I have seen the terrible damage inflicted on houses in Heel Oya, Kinigama and Bindunuwewa.

    2. When some Iranian engineers took me in to the area in Karandagolla about five years ago, work was well under way. The engineers were competent, but may not have been committed. They seemed to realise that no Sr Lankans were really monitoring what was going on.

    3. I was told by Mr Arjun Deraniyagala, one time CEB Chairman, that utilising the Uma Oya for the generation of electricity had indeed been discussed for many years, but their plan had been to use the water and then send it back to the Mahaweli system, not tunnel and take it to the South. However, there had indeed been one eccentric guy (I can’t remember the name that was mentioned) who, even then had been obsessed with tunnelling.

    Even about nine months ago, I was told by local engineers about how the warnings of some German engineers about specific bits of work being carelessly handled were peremptorily dismissed by their own GERMAN bosses (they had been sub-contracted by the Iranians). These engineers had resigned rather than be part of the unsafe work that was being done.

    So, even the present government is to blame, but there can be no doubt that work on the scheme was begun in earnest by the previous government, and that their obsession was “taking water to Hambantota.” The other obsession at the time was looking for buried treasure (gold artifacts).

  • 0
    1

    The Uma Oya Project is a failure. The opinions of local engineers and scientist were ignored by MR. Any overtly adverse opinions were dealt with by the GR Method.
    Iran was (and still is) starved for hard currency. How did they meet the (infamous) “percentage” commitments?

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