By Ranil Senanayake –
The media of the 13th Friday had two very different statements on the fate of the ‘Port City “ project. The Daily Mirror reports The Government of Sri Lanka through its acting cabinet spokesman; Minister Lakshman Kiriella stated, “The Port City Project has been automatically stopped as there were so many shortcomings in the EIA report. We must go through it and rectify those shortcomings before re-start the project,”
But an interview to the Hindustan Times 13th Friday, given by a Chinese official by name of Mr. Zhang seems to differ. He states, “There were some criticisms and doubts (about the project). This project is aligned development goals of Sri Lanka. We have very good relations with President Maithripala Sirisena,” On concerns about damaging the environment, he said: “We focus a lot on environmental protection. For marine projects, we have very strict standards about purity of water body. We have 24 sentinel stations. If there is any influence on water quality, we will change implementation plans”.
Two questions arise; the first is who decides on the fate of the project? The Government of Sri Lanka or the Chinese officials? Can China over rule Sri Lanka in matters of Sri Lanka’s sovereignty?
This then raises other questions as to weather Minister Kiriella was misinformed ? The Chinese official seems to suggest that there were no serious shortcomings in the EIA. But Minister Kiriella tells us that there was. Given this state of confusion it might be best if the EIA in question was held up for public scrutiny.
The need to examine the EIA is also made urgent in the light of the comments made by the Chinese official. He talks about environmental protection only in regard to the water quality around the project area. Should not the EIA also address potential impacts to the mainland? If it appears that the EIA was a sloppy, quick and easy job to satisfy a bureaucratic need to overcome national safeguards, it should e seen as treason against the nation.
Have the citizens of Colombo been warned that their air quality will plummet downwards as the pollution from the new city is blown in by the sea? Has the export of all hazardous waste from the new city been part of the conditions or is Sri Lanka seen as their dumping ground? Has the source of water to this new city been identified? Will be loose our water right to our watersheds? Where will the energy to power this city come from? Is Sri Lanka going to be burdened with dirty power plants to supply their needs? Has the local impact of the removal of rocks and sand to fill up this new land been evaluated?
We are supposed to be a free, independent country. Just because some greedy individuals signed a flawed document as a ‘contract’ are we not in a position to defend ourselves? Will our leaders stand in our defense and protect our rights or will they acknowledge a new set of rulers, compromise our rights and bow before them?