Coast Conservation Department and Coastal Resource Management,
4th Floor, New Secretariat Building,
Maligawatte, Colombo 01,
LACK OF ENVIRONMENTAL AND SOCIAL CONSIDERATION IN MT. LAVINIA BEACH DEVELOPMENT PROJECT
We have learned that amidst environmental concerns, the nourishment of the Mount Lavinia beach is currently underway under tight police security. We also learned that the beach nourishment has already been done in Angulana, and Kalutara Calido Beach. We are reliably informed that sand for the project is being extracted from the sea in Ratmalana, with the aid of a dredger.
We further learned that at least eight hundred thousand cubic meters of sand is being mined from the ocean for this project and dredging activities were carried out between the second and third reef i.e Palagala and Degalmeda reefs. We are of concern that the whole of the reef lagoon up to the 1st reef that runs parallel to the shore from Mt. Lavinia to Galle-face will be filled with sand in this process. According to experienced divers, the outer drop-off of the reef is approximately 15-20 feet deep and this would result in the destruction of the natural coastal protection by overrunning and destroying the reef. If the dredging activities take place too close to the shore, the seafloor inclination will increase further resulting in sand sliding which will, in turn, lead to excavation under the reef and eventually the collapse of the reef. We are also of the view that this will destroy the fishing habitats, similar to what happened due to sand pumping for the Colombo Port City project.
We are aware of the urgency of rebuilding the Kalutara Calido beach which was destroyed due to the irresponsible action of the officers of the Kalutara District Secretariat. However, we don’t consider Angulana and Mt Lavinia beach nourishment to be of the same urgency.
As you are aware the project is a highly environmentally sensitive project. The coral reefs in this area are of utmost importance to the country. It provides a habitat for the endangered fish species. Therefore we are of the view that it is not advisable to mine sand in this area without conducting a study on the sand budget. In the said circumstance, sand mining in this area requires approval under the Geological Survey and Mines Bureau Act No 33 of 1992 and the Fauna and Flora Protection Ordinance.
Ideally, this project should have been carried out after completing the EIA process. According to the legal status and reclamation of the coastal zone, any development work in the coastal zone except planting and cultivation must first obtain the prior written permission from the Director-General of Coast Conservation in terms of Section 14 of the Coast Conservation and Coastal Resources Management Act. Therefore this approval is essential for all types of reclamation. In terms of section 16 of the Act, the Director-General may request an Environmental Impact Assessment report whenever a project or projects request approval. It is also within the discretionary power of the Director-General to determine what type of report to be called for granting such approval. Also, we further explicate that this discretionary power must be exercised with a proper assessment of the facts and not on the whims and fancies of the office of Director-General. This view was upheld by the Court in the case bearing No. 555/87 filed against the Coast Conservation Department for the Karagan Lavaya in 1987. We are of the view that there are conflicts of interest if you are you determine whether an EIA must be conducted or not for the said project as this is a project implement by the Coastal Conservation Department.
Prior to the Coast Conservation Amendment Act, No. 49 of 2011 was enacted, both the Initial Environmental Examination and Environmental Impact Assessment was required to be open for public opinion for a period of thirty days. However, after the said amendment, public comments were restricted to Environmental Impact Assessment reports. Therefore, we are of the opinion that if any approval was granted for this project under Section 14 of the Act, it should only be done by way of an EIA as this is a large-scale project which may result in many negative environmental impacts and sustainability is highly questionable. Therefore, we are of the view that a proper Environmental Impact Assessment must be conducted before continuing this project. Please let us know
Whether the CCD has conducted an EIA for this project and if not, the reason(s) for not conducting an EIA;
Whether comments were obtained from the public, especially from the fishing communities of the area;
Whether a sand budget study for this area was conducted;
Whether approval was obtained from the GSMB and the Department of Wildlife Conservation; and
Whether the Central Environmental Authority was involved in the decision-making process.
Furthermore, we convey our deep displeasure of your undemocratic, non-transparent action while the country is under lockdown due to COVID 19.
We expect that you will pay your highest attention to this matter and respond at your earliest.
Centre for Environmental Justice
Organization as National Fisheries Solidarity Movement.
Increased Demand and Engagement for Accountability (IDEA)
National Union of Fishworkers
Sri Lanka Nature Group
FIAN Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka Climate and Forest Action Network
Asia Lanka Social Development Co-operation
Consortium of Non- Governmental Organisations, Batticaloe