If rocks are mined during the next two years at the rate mentioned in the Supplementary Environmental Impact Assessment Report on the Colombo Port City project, supplies for local and national requirement will be severely affected, academics highlighted.
Emeritus Professor at the Department of Geography of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences of the University of Sri Jayewardenepure, Jinadasa Katupotha said that the report had not mentioned the quantities of explosive materials which would be used at sites in the Districts of Colombo, Gampaha and Kalutara, from where rocks and rock material for the Colombo Port City project’s activities including for reclamation, estimated to be around 3.45 million m3, would be sourced and obtained from.
The selected sites are rocky mounds, ridges and outcrops, appearing as inselburgs with 30 to 460 metre elevations, which have during the past 30 years, been exploited by the Government, politicians and their followers, private business folk, and planners, he noted.
The times of the explosions, the vibrations and their impact on immediate neighbouring communities, public and private properties, have not been mentioned, including also from where local and national requirements would be met, he added, explaining that such impacts would cause severe erosion, siltation in paddy fields, degradation of wetlands and increased floods.
In the event of a short supply of rock material, rock miners will go in to the interior rock outcrop areas to get their supplies, which would not only cause earthslips and landslides at an accelerated rate but also sharply reduce ground water levels and obtainable water supplies, and have a destructive impact on the fauna and flora, he remarked.
The report has not studied the historical heritage including the cultural value of these natural rock sites which including Paleolithic sites and rock shelter monasteries, Prof. Katupotha mentioned.
“The report’s socio-economic survey done using a structured questionnaire is practically incomplete. The report mentions that the transportation of rocks will be done using existing roads including carpet ones. These roads are not meant for 10 wheelers (4.5 cube tippers) and six wheelers (three cube tippers). According to the report, the proposed sand dredging and extraction site is from Hendala to Basiyawatta. The bathymetry in the sand mining areas as well as the Colombo Port City area is not detailed and the maps presented do not depict the reality of the bottom micro-morphology of the sites. A detailed bathymetry survey from an independent and reliable outside institution like the United Kingdom Hydrographic Office should be undertaken sans influence being exerted by the National Aquatic Resources Research and Development Agency, the Ports Authority and the Lanka Hydraulic Institute Limited. Between 1999 and 2013, licences have been granted by the Geological Survey and Mines Bureau for sand mining for various purposes and the Sri Lanka Land Reclamation and Development Corporation too have extracted sand (in 2008 and in 2011 – 2.8 million m3 and 3 million m3 respectively) from the Western and Southern parts of the study area. Due to the extraction of high volumes of sand, wave patterns, current patterns and tidal flow patterns change. More sea erosion will take place from Crow Island to the Negombo lagoon and further North. Such flow patterns will adversely affect up to the Mannar Bay as well as in the mass of the Arabian Sea around Sri Lanka. The result will be the connection of the Sea and lagoon, the destruction of the roads, residential areas, fishing grounds and other properties particularly by monsoons as well as storm surges. Based on the proposed extracting equipment, it is impossible to believe leaving a 0.5m level due to the lack of a proper monitoring system and as a result the sand extractable area will experience a hardpan. International trends and examples pertaining to the creation of new lands by the sea mentioned in the report including in Rotterdam in Netherlands, Lagos in Nigeria, Chek Lap Kok in Hong Kong, Maldives, Dubai, Bahrain and China, are not comparable with the Colombo Port City site as the Colombo Port City site faces an open sea and lacks natural protection whereas the former examples are in certain cases comprised small islands or are covered by large land masses. With more buildings carrying the heavy weight of cement, concrete, rocks, iron and steel to come up in the new Colombo Port City, this heavy weight will unload on the highly weathered metamorphic Precambrian rocks and as such there is no guarantee that a severe natural disaster (an earthquake like the one in 1615) would not happen again.