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An open letter to Mahinda Rajapaksh  from umaoya.org   

The  Former president, MP Mahinda Rajapaksha has made a press release regarding Uma Oya disaster. The press release  statement itself,  is deserved to scrutiny because, the calamities inficted in the area and to the country are immense.   Uma Oya CIC- UK, reluctant to entering into  the political domain, on this issues, unless we are compel to do so.  Now!  We are impel  to ask some  questions on behalf of the people who are suffering from this disaster, international civil societies, including international  environmental groups and our supporters.  They are dying to seek  from, the former President, MP. Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksha’s   answers to this questions which have been  raised from  his statement and the real situation on the ground.

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(1)” The contractor Farab Company is owned by the Iranian government and a team of engineers from the Irrigation Ministry, CEB and CECB had checked the credentials of this company and its experience in handling similar projects”.

(1)  what were the similar projects that they (Farab company) have completed?
(2) where? , which county?

(3) what kind of similarities that your government  have looked for to give this project to Iranian Farab company?  

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(2) “ In 2008 a Cabinet Appointed Negotiating Committee got the contract price fixed at USD 514 million. Though the contract was signed in 2008, construction did not commence until 29 November 2011 until the Central Environmental Authority gave it clearance and a full feasibility report acceptable to the engineers of the Irrigation Ministry, Ceylon Electricity Board and the Central Engineering Consultancy Bureau had been received”

(1)What were the reasons Asian development Bank rejected to fund this project?   

(2)  In 2008 initial estimated  for the project was $250 million,  then what were the reasons increased  up to $514millions .

(3) Why the contract was signed in 2008, without an environmental evaluation study  report ?.

(4) why project was initiated to construct in  2008,  without an environmental evaluation report ?   

(5) what was the consultation period provided to general public to their concerns on this EER?

(6) how many objections,  proposals, amendments have  had received for this EER?

(7)   how many of them have  had been responded?   

(8) how many of them  had the chance to be heard.

(9) how many of them were adopted?

(10) why there are so many untrue, non scientific details contain in 2011 Environment evaluation report produced by Jayawardenepura  university?  

(11)  why subsequently, (2017) the Central Environment Authority – Sri Lanka prohibited Sri Jayawardhanapura university to make any environmental evaluation reports?  

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(3)Groundwater seepage is inevitable when drilling tunnels and measures have to be taken to prevent it. According to information available to me, the water seepage has taken place because the German manufactured drilling machine did not have the additional components to fully seal the tunnel as it moved forward.”

(1) is it only seeping  Ground water from Uma Oya tunnel? 

(2)  on what ground you state as such? 

(3) which  government agency inspected and certified the “German Drilling Machine” is fits for the purpose?  

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(4)  The JVP was also too busy persecuting the Rajapaksas and helping the UNP to run the FCID to make representations to the government to rectify a problem that had arisen in the only major project ever initiated by a JVP Minister.

  1. Which JVP minister initiated the Uma Oya Project? 
  2. When ?    what date? which year?
  3. In what way that the JVP minister initiate this project?
  4. which JVP minister signed the contract for  this project ?
  5. Were there any JVP ministers in your cabinet?  

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(5) Whenever a large scale infrastructure project is implemented, there will be communities that are adversely affected. ……..The extent of water seepage during the drilling of the Uma Oya tunnel, may not have been anticipated. But in projects of this magnitude, even unanticipated contingencies have to be provided for..

  1. What were the contingency plan contemplated in the case of   high magnitude Uma Oya  project as learnt from the previous projects like Mahaweli project? 
  2. Where are the initial contingency plan which should be implemented situation like this?
  3. Did  any underground geological (hypogeum)  research conduct, before initiate  tunnel boring?  If not why?
  4. If did where are these reports?   

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Full Media Release

The Uma Oya project has come in for much criticism in recent times. A few days ago it was reported in the media that the Kirindi Oya tributary which flows past Bandarawela had suddenly gone dry as a result of this project. The leader of the JVP stated in Parliament some weeks ago that as a result of ground water seeping into a tunnel being constructed as part of the Uma Oya project, 2,333 wells, streams and springs in the Bandarawela area had run dry, and cracks had appeared in 4,625 houses, six temples, one mosque and three schools in the area due to the change in ground conditions, and further that thousands of acres of agricultural land have been affected. After things started going wrong, members of the JVP, ministers in the yahapalana government and various NGO activists have been making statements aimed at laying the blame for all this on me and my government.

One minister said that this situation had come about because I had wanted to divert water to Hambantota to irrigate land in my village. The President also stated that this project had been carried out due to ‘political requirements’. The Uma Oya project consists of constructing a dam and reservoir across the Uma Oya at Puhulpola from where water would be diverted via a 4 km tunnel to another dam and reservoir constructed across the Mahatotilla Oya in Dyraaba. Water from this second reservoir would be channeled through a 15.3 km tunnel to a hydroelectricity powerhouse. The outflow from the powerhouse is to be diverted via a 4 km tunnel into the Kirindi Oya, to provide water to parts of the Moneragala and Hambantota districts. The diversion of the Uma Oya has been under discussion for well over sixty years.

The idea was first mooted in 1959 in a study carried out by the United States Operations Mission and the Canadian Hunting Survey Corporation. It also featured in the United Nations Development Programme/Food and Agriculture Organisation Master Plan (1968-1969) for the Mahaweli project. Studies regarding the Uma Oya diversion project were also carried out by the Lahmeyer International Company of Germany in 1989, by the Central Engineering Consultancy Bureau (CECB) in 1991 and by SNC Lavalin Inc of Canada in collaboration with the CECB in 2000. During the UNP led government of 2001-2004, at inter-ministerial meetings held in December 2003 and February 2004, chaired by the then ministers of power and energy and irrigation Karu Jayasuriya and Jayawickrema Perera with the participation of all the ministers and MPs of the Uva province, it was decided to implement the proposed Uma Oya scheme as a high priority project.  On 26 January 2005, under the Chandrika Kumaratunga government, Cabinet approval was granted to proceed with the Uma Oya project, based on a cabinet paper submitted by the then Minister of Agriculture, Livestock, Land and Irrigation, Anura Kumara Dissanayake. The Deputy Minister of this ministry at that time, was Bimal Ratnayake. The JVP Minister’s Cabinet Paper bearing No: 05/0036/039/002 dated 4 January 2005 stated the following:

QUOTE:

“For the development of the South East Dry Zone in Sri Lanka, (particularly Hambantota and Moneragala districts) there is no other alternative unless water is diverted from Uma Oya to the South East Dry Zone.”

“Strategy for economic development of both Hambantota and Moneragala districts changed during the recent past and diversion of Uma Oya to Kirindi Oya is now seen in the perspective of recently conceived Ruhunupura development. The infrastructure of Ruhunupura development consists of the development of the Hambantota harbour into one of the modern harbours in the region, international airport in the Moneragala district, and an oil refinery. It is expected that the Hambantota harbour will attract a large number of ships sailing in the Indian ocean. Also a large number of industrial activities are expected to take place in and around Hambantota including tourism. For all these new developments, projected water requirement has been estimated as 100 MCM in the year 2030. In the absence of a reliable source of water in the area, water from Uma Oya is seen as the only alternative to supplement this requirement.”

“Therefore high priority should be given for this project.”  

END QUOTE.

It was only after all of the above had taken place under previous governments that the Uma Oya project appeared in my 2005 presidential election manifesto as a priority project. The JVP supported my candidacy at the 2005 presidential elections and Uma Oya was made a priority project of my government. From winning the war against terrorism to building highways, harbours and power plants, my government did many things that previous governments had only been able to dream about, but never implement. Uma Oya was one such project. On 27 November 2007, consequent to consultations held earlier that year by the then Minister for Enterprises Development Sarath Amunugama and the then Minister for Power and Energy John Seneviratne with the Export Development Board of Iran (EDBI) and Farab Company of Iran, an MOU was signed with the Iranian government under the terms of which the EDBI would finance the project and Farab Company, would prepare the detailed engineering design and carry out the physical construction.

(1) The contractor Farab Company is owned by the Iranian government and a team of engineers from the Irrigation Ministry, CEB and CECB had checked the credentials of this company and its experience in handling similar projects.

In 2008 a Cabinet Appointed Negotiating Committee got the contract price fixed at USD 514 million. Though the contract was signed in 2008, construction did not commence until 29 November 2011 until the Central Environmental Authority gave it clearance and a full feasibility report acceptable to the engineers of the Irrigation Ministry, Ceylon Electricity Board and the Central Engineering Consultancy Bureau had been received.    

Ground water seepage is inevitable when drilling tunnels and measures have to be taken to prevent it. According to information available to me, the water seepage has taken place because the German manufactured drilling machine did not have the additional components to fully seal the tunnel as it moved forward. (1) on what ground that you state “Ground water seepage is inevitable” is only ground watre seepage in this case.

This was apparently due to the project consultants failing to provide the correct advice. The first seepage of water had taken place only in late December 2014 just days before the present  government came into power. The environmental harm it has caused could have been averted if remedial measures had been taken in time. However the new government took no action because they were too busy persecuting the opposition. The JVP was also too busy persecuting the Rajapaksas and helping the UNP to run the FCID to make representations to the government to rectify a problem that had arisen in the only major project ever initiated by a JVP Minister.  I now learn that the necessary equipment has been obtained from Germany.

Whenever a large scale infrastructure project is implemented, there will be communities that are adversely affected. When the accelerated Mahaweli project was implemented, the entire Maskeliya town had to be shifted to make way for the Maussakele reservoir and the Teldeniya town had to be shifted to make way for the Victoria reservoir. The extent of water seepage during the drilling of the Uma Oya tunnel, may not have been anticipated. But in projects of this magnitude, even unanticipated contingencies have to be provided for. Many large projects were implemented during the nine year tenure of my government, and some displacement of people did take place, but there was no public unrest because problems were identified early on, and compensation packages provided to the satisfaction of those affected.

Such alertness and efficiency is however lacking under the present government. Today, the situation is such that if a citizen loses his house in a landslide or flood or some man-made disaster, he will be living in a tent or a school until the next government comes into power. There is now agitation over issues that have emerged in the construction of the Central Highway which have not been resolved by the government. Those affected by the unforeseen problems that have emerged in the implementation of the Uma Oya project have had to endure the consequences of the inherent inefficiency of the present government.

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