A large number of people have died due to the current disaster situation. Many lost their homes. A mass destruction resurfaced. This is not the end but the beginning. A few years ago Meeriyabedda faced a massive landslide and many lives were lost. It was proven without any doubt it is a result of the Uma Oya project and nothing to do with climate change or god’s will.
Yet, the authorities blamed the climate change. Climate change is like the god. When authorities fail to take the responsibility and when it is difficult to understand reasons behind the catastrophe, they blame the god. Climate change is a cover up for the world’s thuggery. It is like the hypothetical god who is not there to physically take the responsibility. The so called leaders have cleared their names by blaming the climate change for floods, landslides and every possible natural disaster. But, in actual sense, this is the result of the so called development taking place in our country. Even the public does not remember the environment until a disaster happens. They allow the rulers to destroy the nature according to their desire.
The 103 valleys along the rivers of Sri Lanka has already started to face the adverse consequences. To every river there are natural ponds and water absorbing buffer zones. Along most rivers this land has been used for development or houses are constructed. When these low lands are blocked with these constructions the result is flooding – inundating the whole area. This is nothing but collective effort of stupidity.
The marshy lands long the Kelani River, almost all being filled and developed. Muthurajawela, the lowland that allows the water to flow to the sea is being blocked by the highway construction. According to the directives of the World Bank, being greedy to the monetary commissions, highways are built in Sri Lanka unlike in any other country. Even in India, highways, when constructed near sensitive environment areas are built on pillars to minimize damage. Yet, in Sri Lanka highways were constructed across Muthurajawela and several other different areas building a barrier filled with 240,000 cubic meters of sand and soil per kilometer. When the natural drainages are blocked like this it is not a surprise that the center of the country getting flooded.
This barrier obstructs natural water drainage up to Matara as the highway runs towards Matara. And as highways are built around the country, it will block the water drainage further all over the country. As a result these highways will act like barriers blocking the water that gets collected during the rains from naturally draining to the sea. By observing the flood situation in areas like Kaduwela and Ja Ela this can be understood very well.
These landsides are nothing natural but adverse results of unplanned mega development. The Central Hills and the peripheral mountains act as water storage. Retaining the needed amount, the balance water gets naturally released to other water ways. When these water ways are blocked, the excess water gets adsorbed creating a lining between the soil particles and as a result the soil is loosened. Thus creating a landslide. This has less connection to climate change but more to human activities that block the waterways that carry the excess water.
Constructing mega and mini hydro power plants in the Central hills, deforestation and digging tunnels detach the surface rocks from the mother rock. These landslides will not end with those that happened in Meeriyabedda, Aranayake and Nikolaya. It is scientifically proven that this can happen anywhere, where this kind of human activity happen.
Aggravating the destruction highways are built up. These are not just within the country but would extend even to Dhanushkody in India, linking the Sri Lankan highways with the Asian highways. The process does not end here. There will be expressways linking cities creating a network of highways within the country. And all these highways will be built mounting sand and soil in the shape of a dam. The proposed railway network will add to the misery.
In addition the plan to develop Sri Lanka as a multi-faceted tourism area, where one section for hotels, another for eco tourism along the beach, the sea and different eco systems, will be another destruction. Under this there will be zones developed from Chilaw towards the North and the South, Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, forest areas such as Bibile and Nilgala and in many more.
The plan to make Sri Lanka an aviation hub in 2030, a keen desire by China, India and America, will also result in expanding the Katunayake airport. In addition to Mattala plans are underway to develop another International Airport in Hingurakgoda.
Airports in Palali, Trincomalee. Puttalam, Batticaloa, Kalutara, Vavuniya, Anuradhapura, Galle, Ratmalana will be developed further and since 2013 plans are underway to develop two airports in Nuwara Eliya and Dambulla. Eventually there will be 19 airports in Sri Lanka.
According to the National Physical plan selected areas in Anuradhapura, the North and in Moneragala will be developed as agriculture areas at industrial level growing fruits, vegetables, peanuts, palm oil and valued timber. The Government is interested in inviting more investors to build factories in many other places.
Megapolis areas are planned centering main cities and in addition several other areas will be developed as main city centers, special cities and District capitals creating industrial cities, investment zones and IT hubs. These areas will include the stretch of cities from Gampaha to Kalutara, from Matara to Thanamalwila (megapolis), from Ampara to Batticaloa covering the East (main cities). The North Central mega city will be around Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Dambulla and Trincomalee. Jaffna mega city will be around Mannar, Killinochchi to Point Pedro.
Following are the number of people the Government plan to settle in these developed cities –
Western Megapolis – 3.5 Million
Southern Megapolis – 01 million
Galle main city – 01 million
Eastern Megapolis – 01 million
North Central Megapolis – 04 million
Jaffna mega city – 01 million
According to the plan people living in hazard prone areas will be settled.
The coast line will be heavily industrialised with nuclear power plants and hydro power plants and with the development of the fisheries industry the number of boats will be increased to 40,000. Facilitating the fisheries sector , from Batticaloa to Hambantota a fiber communication network will be created through Lahugala, Yala and Udawalawa forest reserves and wildlife parks.
In such a back drop how would it be possible to save people from floods or droughts? As the floods recede the importance of strategic development and environment protection will drain. People will act dumb allowing the rulers to destroy the nature. As long as people do not get actively involved this problem will never find a sustainable solution. It is they who will pay the price with their lives.
Centre for Environment and Nature Studies