National Water Supply and Drainage Board (NWSDB) categorically denies reports by an environment research organization that there exists a level of 4mgs of arsenic per liter of water in several areas of the Kelani River.

This figure supported in a report put out by the Center for Environment and Nature Studies (CENS).

Speaking to The Nation, NWSDB Chairman Alahudeen Ansar said that the Water Board periodically tests both the raw water and treated water for such elements, but have found none to-date. “We conduct regular tests, and if there has been something as arsenic, we are bound to have seen it,” He said.

The Chairman rubbished the reports as baseless and lacking in evidence. He added that if any trace of heavy metals, arsenic or other compounds were found, the water board was equipped with the necessary facilities and chemical treatments to purify the water.
Meanwhile, head of the CENS Ravindra Kariyawasam cited that their studies which were confirmed by the results of tests affirm that there exist unacceptable levels of arsenic, amounting to 4.0mg of arsenic per liter of water.

“Kelani River is one of the most polluted rivers and our tests confirm that there is a presence of arsenic in the water,” he said. “The probable cause of the contamination is due to the release of chemicals from industries bordering the river and in the Biyagama Industrial zone.”

Kariyawasam added that 36 samples of raw water were collected at several sampling locations, all of which were first tested at an accredited laboratory in Sri Lanka. He added that the reports are part of a broader ongoing research by the CENS on the industrial pollution of the Kelani River.

Referring to the CKDu, Kariyawasam added that far-ranging effects of drinking such water will not be known now, but would certainly manifest much later. He added that the CENS research was part of the studies that were being carried out by CENS since 2013 in Kelani River, Po River in Italy and Satlug River in India.

When asked if the findings have been forwarded to the respective authorities, Kariyawasam added that the project would be completed by next year, after which a comprehensive report with recommendations would be handed over to the President.
Based on the ongoing research by the Central Environment Authority, water quality of the Kelani River has been deteriorating over the years, making it one of the most polluted and contaminated rivers.  Principal component of those analysis revealed that the river water was negatively impacted by pollutants from anthropogenic sources as well as natural sources.