Illegal Construction On The Banks Of Kelani River

by Hafsa Sabry (Sunday Leader ,2016.02.28)
Despite many promises to prevent illegal activities or constructions in the reservation areas of the island by the Central Environmental Authority (CEA), it seems that the authority is yet to take effective action in implementing the laws as a warehouse in Welivita, Kaduwela is currently under construction close to the Kelani river bank and in the reservation area of the Kelani River bank. The work began in September.
It is considered a place of mixed residencies and not as a commercial area. The area is permitted to have small shops and houses for the residenial purposes. According to the National Environmental Act (NEA) commercialised industries and warehouses along the river bank and the reservation area of the Kelani River are not allowed , if there is any such construction they are considered to be illegal and will be subjected to legal action by the responsible authorities.
The area where the warehouse is currently under construction has a 12 feet length of concrete road which is not suitable for containers travelling with heavy loads. It should at least 30 feet wide for containers. Number of heavily loaded containers travelling and transporting on unsuitable roads will cause damages to the roads which are used by the residents.
“We only got to know that there is a building construction after the building came up as for the last four months they have completely covered the place where it was being constructed,” a member of Elipichchawatta Welfare Society N. Wickremasinghe told The Sunday Leader.
The residents attempted to lodge a complaint against the construction with the Angoda Police but they refused and said that the entry should be lodged by relevant authorities.
The residents and the welfare society of Elipichchawatta have brought the issue to the notice of the Irrigation Department, UDA, Kaduwela Municipal Council but, action is yet to be taken against the construction to stop it said the members of the society.
The sand around the area has been loosened already by cutting the embankment whilst, putting residents lives at risk. When there is heavy rains the river swells there could be heavy damage to the embankment and it could cause a catastrophe.
However, the management of the warehouse construction claim that the project has all the necessity approvals from the relevant authorities of the country. It is important to note that a heavy Excavator loader few days ago was used to cut the Embankment of the Kelani River they added.
Environmental Issues
Many tiny little water creatures live in the embankment of the river where they have their food resources and breed, they will be endangered by the damages done to the bank of the river. The natural habitat of fauna-flora in the embankment will also be destroyed.
The habitat changes affects the ecosystem (the quality and quantity of) are a continuous dynamic feature of the floodplains, where land and water meet. The two environments merge to provide a unique and rich habitat for a wide variety of plants, insects, reptiles, amphibians, birds and mammals.
Undisturbed floodplains often contain wetlands and marshy areas. Scientists describe wetlands as ‘nature’s food pantry’. Natural floodplains provide feeding and breeding grounds for many types of fish and wildlife, including migrating birds and waterfowl. Most of the animals depend on wetlands for survival in the Kelani river embankment will be endangered or threatened by the illegal industrialisation activities.
Floodplains are not a good place for industries or businesses. Natural, open floodplains can reduce flood damage to surrounding property and restore floodplains to protect the environment. It is visible that the government had built several artificial embankments in Sedawatta and Ambatala to protect the area from flooding and soil erosion. The authorities while surely are aware of the damages and the effects of cutting the precious embankment of the country should not allow any such illegal activities to take place in one of reservation areas of the nation, alleged the environmentalists.
This also refers to its restructuring, in terms of extinction or decreasing in number of species and their replacement with species adapted to the new habitats while the country will lose its precious nature and its creatures.
In the embankment of the Kelani river, species diversity is considered relatively high (aquatic species, forest species, agricultural species, wetland typical species, etc.). The complexity of pool-and-riffle sequences offer the wide variety of habitat types needed to support a diverse community. One of the major effects humans have had on riverine ecosystems is the homogenisation of streambeds.
“Destruction of Pools and riffles around the Buddha Null and Kelani river will badly effect the species of benthic organisms, but more complex the habitat is, the greater the number of species that could live in there,” said the Director of Center for Environment and Nature Studies CENS and Environmentalist Ravindra Kariyawasam.
Nevertheless, the loss of pool-and-riffle habitats can greatly decrease the overall diversity of a stream or river. Those help pumping water whenever the river water level goes downand works as a refresher to the river. Meanwhile, different fish species require different types of prey, a diverse community of benthic invertebrates provide food for a wide variety of fish species which also will be destroyed by such illegal activities.
It takes nearly 1000 years for a natural embankment to form with hard rock and hard soil and if they cut it and damage, soil erosion and flood occurrence will be increased. According to NEA any building construction should be approved by the CEA and the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) should be issued for the project and failing to get such approvals, the construction cannot be allowed in the reservation area claimed the environmentalists.
In addition, people cut down the vegetationand the river bank for sand mining which is another cause that will result in the increment of flood and soil erosion. These occur in the Kelani River, Mahaweli River, Daduru Oya and Maha Oya in the country alleged the environmentalists.
Thechairman of the Central Environmental Authority Professor Lal Dharmasiri speaking to The Sunday Leader said that the officials of the CEAhad visited the place after the complaints received from the residents for an inspection and found it to be illegal.
He also said that the CEA will forward the inspection reports to the Irrigation Department which has the authority to take legal action against the constructors.
The Director General for the Western Province Mrs. Devika Vithanage said that the construction was approved by the Kaduwela Municipal council for a warehouse and the approval has not given to carry out construction in the reservation of the Kelani River hence, the Irrigation Department will have to look into the matter and will arrive at a sustainable solution for the issue.
The CEA has no authority to act upon the construction of warehouses in the country hence the relevant authorities will take action against the illegal activity she added. “We have inspected the place and will forward the reports to the relevant departments to proceed further,” she said.

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