In the wake of the Central Environmental Authority (CEA) stating that they would temporarily refrain from accepting any report including any environmental impact assessment (EIA) report prepared by the team of experts behind the EIA report of the University of Sri Jayewardenepura pertaining to the Uma Oya Multipurpose Development Project, the said team of experts has written to the relevant authorities clarifying their position.
The CEA had, however, stated that while it will not accept any report submitted by the team members in the future, such was also a temporary decision which would prevail until the issue is clarified.
Senior Professor of Zoology and Chair at the Department of Zoology of the Faculty of Applied Sciences of the University, Prof. Swarna Piyasiri who led the 19-member team of experts comprised of engineers, tunnel engineers, geologists and hydrologists amongst others, said that the controversy was the result of a misunderstanding on the part of the CEA which arose out of the erroneous press reportage of an interview given to the media by the team.
The team of consultants had on July 25 sent the said letter to Chairman of the CEA, Prof. Lal Mervin Dharmasiri with a copy sent to Secretary of the Ministry of Mahaweli Development and Environment, Anura Dissanayake, explaining the misinterpretation.
If the content of our report was wrong, the CEA’s Technical Evaluation Committee, which is vested with the authority to reject such, could have done so, yet they in 2010 April approved the team’s report, she explained.
According to Prof. Piyasiri, the entire process concerning the EIA including the Project’s proposal and all documentation was done through the University. The client who commissioned the said report was the Ministry of Irrigation and Water Resources Management. She noted that the team had taken the correct path in compiling the massive report based on the data available at the time. “Mistakes had been made in some of the reportage of the said press conference, particularly those pertaining to technical aspects explained by the team. For example, one print media news report titled ‘2009 EIA of Uma Oya foresaw possible groundwater drawdown’ which appeared on July 21 stated that ‘Senior Professor Swarna Piyasiri said the EIA team had recommended to the Central Environment Authority (CEA) to continuously monitor groundwater level fluctuations in the area around tunnel trace, especially along major fracture zones connected to the tunnel, during construction and operational stages’. What the team in fact said was that we had made the recommendation to our client, the Ministry of Irrigation and Water Resources Management and not to the CEA. The situation that has arisen including due to Prof. Dharmasiri acting in haste based on news media reports without contacting us prior to arriving at a conclusion is regrettable. The team is upset,” she added.