By Ranil Senanayake –
I am sure that I speak for many of us who took the promise of the Prime Minister that the ‘Port City’ project was to be scrapped. Now, it seems that it is been broken. This is a shock, I could understand the greedy and ignorant, willing to compromise our nationhood, but to witness our leaders submit cringingly to continue ‘good relations’ so soon after they had come to power was a blow, to my sense of national pride, are we a nation that has accountable and independent government. A nation that lives by enacting it’s laws fairly and ensuring transparency in international transactions. Or will be bullied to accept some secretive contract, because it is in the interests of some other nation ? If there was a ‘contract’, the nature of that contract must be made public. There must be a clear statement weather its action infringes on our national rights, its veracity must be also be established. Has the legality of putting our rocks and soil into our offshore sea and calling it ‘exported’ been proven to be valid? All islands that suddenly appear, tectonic or volcanic belongs to the country within whose maritime boundaries that land has appeared. The Sandwip Island in Bangladesh, made relatively recently by the deposition of silt at the mouth of the Padma river is another example. The government must seek legal opinion as to the legal status of an island constructed entirely of national assets with our national boundaries. Until this is done, the credibility and the authority of the Prime Ministers office is at stake if the project is allowed to proceed.
Beyond the national boundary issue, there is the veracity of the EIA. This document has had very limited circulation. Should it not be given for public scrutiny, especially when the issue might hinge on national security. There are many issues to consider, but take three examples, water, power and effluent. The EIA should demonstrate the capacity in evaluating the risk factors for Sri Lanka. Take water, already we are living within a restricting watershed. The Rathupaswela incident should remind us that access to clean water is a life or death struggle. How much from our national aquifers will be diverted into this port city? This will create water scarcity at times of low flow and if there is prioritizing water between a rich urban client and a poor ‘native’ client. Diverting rivers to feed some misbegotten project or dream is to steal the water right to those who live within that watershed. If the purported solution is reverse osmosis, from desalinization plant, the question of energy comes in.
Desalination plants much like whole building air conditioners demand a large supply of uninterrupted energy. Where will that come from? If poisonous coal fired power plants are seen as the source of energy to this city, where will they be built? Given the current levels of knowledge on the horrendous health effects of these plants, will the poor Sri Lanka be forced to breathe toxins and watch their children sicken, while, gleaming elevators zoom up and down in the city? I would like to see the EIA on which this project was accepted. I would like to see some public statements on its contents and not just treat the public, with the same dismissive attitude, that was done before.
Finally, it will be interesting to see how the EIA has dealt with the question of waste, especially toxic, electronic and industrial waste. Will Sri Lanka have to function as their garbage dump or will they send it to their point of origin? These are among some critical questions that have to be discussed at the national scale.
If this government is truly interested in the well being of a Sri Lankan nation, they must put such a critical decision as a referendum. Regaining national sovereignty is what my ancestors were about. We almost lost it and now hangs on some potty contract. Is the party about to give up what their founders gained, without consulting with the nation? I hope they will be responsible and act. But, if they continue to cowtow to the new economic masters, I suggest that they remove the images of my family from the party, as their struggle would have been betrayed!