Does the end justifies the means on many major projects in Sri Lanka!

In reality no project can have zero impact; and there has to be some sense and reason driven into these people to protest and the underlying message was basically objections to developments on environmental issues and therefore it is all about minimizing or taking measures to alleviate the impact and finding a balance between environmental issues and development.

On many major projects handled by the state in the recent past, it did not matter to the contractors who executed these projects if the means used were correct or incorrect; bad or immoral; as long as they accomplished what was wanted from them. Only the involved politicians clearly believed that the end justified the means, for it is the common believe among the people that these politicians benefited from these projects, that they had allowed the contractors to use all kinds of nefarious means to complete the projects. In all cases the people had to suffer by the impacts and they could not even protest about it not long ago.

The Lunugamwehera reservoir which is in the Southern part of the country was a failure due to the bad siting caused by clearing more lands than the capacity of the reservoir and because the Kirindi Oya does not provide enough water to it. As a remedy the Uma Oya Diversion and Manik Ganga Diversion to meet the water demand was launched in 2008 and the environmental issues were not taken care of by the project’s contractors an Iranian company, which was awarded the contract to design and carry out the project. It is now clear that the under the previous government many politicians involved had turned a blind eye allowing the contractor to use all kinds of nefarious means; perhaps because they with others received benefits from the projects or just clearly believed that the end justified the means. On such large projects if experts were not available in house, should have employed competent consultants to supervise the total project from design stage to construction; if it was done then these consultants have failed in their duties or perhaps an oversight of the part of the involved ministries and it is the ordinary people as always the final underdogs who suffer.

Under the present government at least people are able to make a protest as demonstrated by the dawn to dusk hartal campaign the other day at Bandarawela to repair leak in the tunnel under construction for the Uwa Oya Multi-purpose Development Project. The present government appointed three member sub-committee made up of three cabinet ministers to carry out an investigation on the controversial Uma Oya Multipurpose Project, delayed due to agitation by the people and campaigns by environmental groups.

The Uma Oya Multipurpose Development Project commenced with the assistance of the Export Development Bank of Iran in 2008 is currently in its final phase, with the Sri Lankan government compelled to bear approximately 80% of its cost. Earlier it was proposed that the government of Iran will bear 85% of the total estimated cost of US$ 514 million of the development project. However, with sanctions imposed on Iran, FARAB Energy and Water Project Company, the main contractor in this regard, failed to bear the cost of the Uma Oya project resulting in Iran limiting its fund disbursement to US$ 50 million. While 95% of the development project has so far been completed and the government of Sri Lanka was compelled to bear a cost of US$ 464 million for the Uma Oya project, another US$ 71 million is required for the completion of the remaining 5%. Besides the conclusion of construction activities of the project has been delayed by 1 year, due to the water leak in the main tunnel noted while excavations were taking place. Upon the request made to the Norwegian government by the President, the Norwegian specialists extended their support to Sri Lanka and they modified equipment and continued excavation according to their advice. Thus the Uma Oya Multipurpose Development Project is currently in its final phase to provide several benefits to the public, includes the addition of 120 megawatts of power to the national grid through the underground hydropower plant. In addition, it has been proposed to divert excess water released during the hydropower generation process, to the Alikota Ara and Hadapanagala reservoirs that will supply to approximately 1000 acres of paddy fields. The main objective of the Uma Oya project was to provide water to locals of Kumbukkana and solve the water crisis in their area and only excess water will be diverted to the Kirindi-oya.

Northern Province too has had its share of project failures and many were covered in earlier postings of Northern Breeze. These includes the limestone extracted locally for use at the KKS Cement Factory that left large craters with depths below sea-level at KKS in the peninsula that could end up polluting the groundwater by letting seawater to seep. The pollution caused by dumping industrial waste and the resulting Fuel Oil and Grease, “FOG” that halted supply of drinking water to people in Chunnakam town and its neighbourhood, all confirming cases of the means not justifying the end. The North the people affected by the underground water polluted by the Power Station at Chunnakam, however referred the matter to courts and the company generating power were ordered to pay compensation to the affected families; but no action has been taken by the state authorities to remove the oil pollutant and the problem is still left unresolved.