By Ranil Senanayake –
It has been reported that the future of the controversial Colombo Port City project is to be decided on the findings of a fresh Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report due shortly, a senior official said. The EIA is being prepared by the Coast Conservation Department according to the news. We hope that this is not a ruse to try and subvert the EIA process. This move prompts a discussion as to what an Environmental Impact Report (EIA) is and what areas of public concerns should be addressed in it.
The International Association for Impact Assessment (IAIA) defines an environmental impact assessment as “the process of identifying, predicting, evaluating and mitigating the biophysical, social, and other relevant effects of development proposals prior to major decisions being taken and commitments made.”
The citizens of Colombo have on numerous occasions, requested a true EIA, one that addresses biophysical and social effects of the proposed ‘new city’ to the environs of Colombo. We to watch the Coast Conservation’s EIA and watch the committee of ten to see if they accept any EIA that does not address the biophysical and social effects.
It is also time for the Central Environment Authority (CEA) to pick up their game. They are appointed to protect the environment and citizens of Sri Lanka, have they not requested a true EIA from the proposed operators of the project? What is their role in all this?
And China? Supposed to be our friend. Knowing full well that a fraud was being perpetrated on the Sri Lankan people by the project not having a real EIA to protect the population of Colombo from harm. I remember well as a young boy watching R.G.Senanayake leave for China on a sick bed to ensure the successful conclusion of the rice rubber pact with China. When offered the commission that went with the business, he refused it personally and requested it be given to the nation. ‘We came as a friend for mutual benefit ‘ he said.
Today, will China bow down to the commission agents and cheats, to bully Sri Lanka in accepting a dubious project with no proper EIA and the possibility of making life harder for the Sri Lankans who live in Colombo? Will they ask their people to respect the laws of Sri Lanka? Will they be a friend in the same way R.G.Senanayake, demonstrated that we were to them?
And will our politicians respect the well being of their citizens and demand that the EIA submitted addresses the biophysical and social effects as required internationally? If they do not, it will do well to remember who they were, when we have to pay the price of their cowardice! Or for their arrogance in declaring what the outcome of the EIA is even before it has begun!