Uma Oya Project: More Moves To Grab Public Money

by Ifham Nizam (Sunday Leader (16.07.2017)

The Uma Oya contractor, FARAB Energy and Water Project Company, an Iranian company, is responsible for carrying out the project. It is an insured company and should take steps to use its insurance money rather than trying to grab public money, environmentalists and scientists claim.
Environmentalist Dr. Ravindra Kariyawasam says that a company like FARAB is insured especially knowing the consequences. However, he says they were keen to drag technical issues and other related problems to fatten their purses.
Dr. Kariyawasam warns that the next five kilometers of tunneling is going to be extremely dangerous and the government should take serious note of it.
He said that President Maithripala Sirisena agrees there is a problem with the project going by FARAB records.
“What we urge is that the President does not use public money for those affected,” he added.
He also said that even the gum/paste used at the site for covering is mixed with water and some 40 working in the site, wastewater and faeces is too connected with water connecting with groundwater
“They are using the cheapest gum…however, they are not worried about water wastage irrespective of the quantity,” he added.
He said they urged the Government to take matter at the International Court against the Iranian Company for not taking the appropriate safety precautions on the Uma Oya Project.
The company did not consult the relevant geologists or environmentalists and instead commenced digging without proper consultation, there was a great wastage of water and it also damaged several houses.
The controversial project, once completed, would irrigate 5,000 hectares of agricultural land. The project is estimated to cost USD 529 million. The government will meet 15 per cent of the cost while the Export Development Bank of Iran will grant USD 450 as a loan.
However, environmentalists stressed that the amount would further increase if immediate action is not taken.
During a visit of the former Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in 2008, an agreement was signed to provide financial and technical assistance to the Uma Oya project.
“The contractors have done alot of damage by not adhering to the environment plan,” a government official said. He, however, stressed that the project is feasible.
“There is nothing wrong with the project. Similar issues cropped up when other hydro projects like the Victoria Dam was under construction,” he said.
Interestingly, Irrigation and Water Resource Management Minister Wijith Wijayamuni Zoysa told a press briefing that the previous regime very generously put the Meethotamulla garbage dump on the heads of the current government. “Yet, another dump that they put on us is the Uma Oya Project.”
He added: “We will overcome this challenge as well. President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe are working together to find a correct solution.”
Although this issue seems to be very serious right now, it will become worse for the Bandarawela area if the project is completely terminated, he said.
“The previous government did not consult the proper geologists, nor did they use the proper equipment when they first began this project,” the minister said, adding that “Instead, they made deals with countries the international community ignores, and tried to go ahead, which is the main reason why we are facing this debacle today.”
The minister also added that despite what former President Mahinda Rajapaksa says of the crisis, the fact that the Uma Oya project began supplying water to the Wellassa area, from what he understood when he himself was a minister in the former government was that the water was “meant for Hambantota and Iran.”
The government has taken steps to assist the residents of the Bandarawela area who were affected by the water leakage from the Uma Oya Project.
Meanwhile, the Civil Defence Force is assisting in providing safe drinking water to those who have been seriously affected by the project.
The Auditor General’s Department has taken steps to conduct an investigation into issues regarding the Uma Oya project.
Auditor General, Gamini Wijesinghe said that a number of issues pertaining to the commencement of the project will be inspected, adding that a team has been assigned for this matter.
Meanwhile, teams from the Universities of Peradeniya and Moratuwa are carrying out investigations to assess the damage caused to locals as a result of the Uma Oya Multi-Purpose project.
Member of the Committee comprising Cabinet Ministers to look in to the matter, Minister Mahinda Amaraweera, said that their reports would be presented to the government soon.
Meanwhile, a team of Norwegian experts will be arriving in the country on July 31, to carry out a full investigation into the project.
The Minister said that construction work on the project has been temporarily suspended based on the findings of a team of experts from Switzerland.
According to Rajith Keerthi Tennakoon, Executive Director /The Center for Human Rights and CaFFE ‘Wasantha Town’ which is known to Bandarawela is badly affected. The refugees’ earth is a “mess”, not a spring, which bursts the ground and breaks off.
The Uma Oya dispute has now come to the head in 16 Grama Niladhari divisions in Bandarawela. There are three more Grama Niladhari Divisions. It is the center of the viharaya. It consists of the following areas: Veheragatenna, Makululla, Egodagama, Udaporuwa, Batagama, Thanthiriya, Wataregamuwa, Batapunuwewa, Bandarawela East, Bindunuwewa, Maha Mulpatha, North Kebellawela, Godiyadeniya, Kirimburu and Konhehela.
There are 9,495 families living in these 16 divisions. The population of 8,547 inhabitants is 30,320. Non-residential buildings are 883. In these 16 Grama Niladari divisions only 2,979 houses have been damaged. 4,002 out of 8,547 families in Bandarawela, who have been surveyed, have been affected by each of the two houses. There are 14,982 people living there.
Iranian funding for damaged houses amounted to Rs. 160 million (Rs. 160,432,257.00) has been paid as compensation. These are Veheragatenna houses 440, Makululla 455, Egodagama 398, Udapperuwa 7 and 1,300 houses. 29 families from Udapura, 10 families in Makululla and 4 families in Weheragala have been evacuated. For 26 families a rent of Rs. 15,000 per annum. People also reside in 3 government houses. Another 300 million rupees has been paid as relief payments (within the past two years). But this relief is a tiny measure of destruction.
These statistics are only for households that were obtained by Grama Niladari and only 16 domains which were secured by civil society organisations. There are only several Grama Niladhari Divisions in Bandarawela. There are 31 wells in the Western Province of Bandarawela. 52 houses have been damaged. They are not yet added to this list. In addition, there are no damages caused to Welimada, Uva Paranagama, Ella, Haliela and Wellawaya.

As a dry mound
Except for the damaged trough, other areas were like a sponge poured in water two or three years ago. The majority of villages in Bandarawela are made up of water, canals, streams, rivers, canals, and paddy fields.
Only 2051 wells in the above 16 Grama Niladhari divisions have been lost. 3822 families of lived in the area. In the above geographical region, 54 water sources have been lost. If you have gone to Bandarawela one way or the other, the Mahanama Maha Ellearawa, Ulheeraarachchiya, Hulloya, Makulduwa, Dowa, Ice Peel, Ellaarawa and Ullerawa could not be known.
There is no water at the bottom of the tent. “In the town named Bandara, the city’s watery grass has ripped apart. Among the hills, there is no doubt that Bandarawela, flowing through the trees, has been drinking cold water. Nothing else is there. The families that used them were 2001. Surveys are not known about animal breeds.
To meet the minimum water requirement for 2533 families that do not have water or running water, it takes 280,000 liters of water a day. But, the maximum amount of water that can be delivered by bass is 190,000 liters. The worst drought season in Bandarawela is July to the third week of the northeast monsoon. The water crisis has begun, and not yet ended. The spring water is stored in a tank of 2894 liters of Iran’s Farab. 1000 liters of tanks and 7 tanks in 2000! Meanwhile, in the central hills, 22 million liters of water goes out of the tunnel a day. Data shows that the water level drops from day by day in the ‘Weheragatenna’ water meter.
The Uma Oya is gradually affecting the public in Bandarawela.
He said that to date the relief efforts of the people have not changed to this day. Apart from the receipts from Farab, the number of ministers and ministers has not received a single rupee, or the new one. Now the Bandarawela Dengue season has started.
Water, housing, and income are the basic needs of man. It is the government’s responsibility to protect them

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