Ecological Disaster at Sinharaja World Heritage Rainforest due to Koskulana Mini-Hydro Project

Rainforest Protectors of Sri Lanka (RPSL) – February 4, 2016

Massive damage has been done to Sinharaja World Heritage Rainforest due to construction of an illegal mini-hydro project blocking Koskulana River which forms the northern boundary of Sinharaja. This construction is being carried out in the Northern Sinharaja Rainforest buffer zone at Koskulana, approximately 4km East from Kudawa main entrance. A weir is been built blocking Koskulana river and several acres of rainforest cleared by heavy machinery and concrete laid out along the pristine and protected river bank. Large trucks and machinery utilized for this construction has cleared through what was once a small footpath in Sinharaja buffer zone, between Kudawa and Koskulana. Along this small path to the South is core protected Sinharaja Rainforest and to the North a hilly primary rainforest named Rajuwankanda that is a proposed reserve to be annexed into Sinharaja. Due to the footpath being expanded by the heavy trucks, the rainforest has been fragmented resulting in permanent damage. Hundreds of pristine water streams that originate from the hilly Rajuwankanda rainforest and flow towards Koskulana river through the buffer zone declared by UNESCO has been destroyed due to heavy truck movement.

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With such destruction happening just 4 km from the main entrance of Sinharaja World Heritage Rainforest, Forest Conservation Department failure to take appropriate action is questionable. Central Environmental Authority has not done a proper Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) available for public comment nor information about such a project communicated to respective organizations in charge of protecting Sinharaja World Heritage Rainforest. Questions have been raised about the involvement of these authorities to hide this destructive project from the public.

This is the second instance where Central Environmental Authority has allowed destructive mini-hydro projects within a World Heritage Rainforest, after allowing to continue “Eli Hatha” mini-hydro project in Sripada (Central Hills World Heritage Rainforest) in total violation of the Flora and Fauna Protection Ordinance and National Environment Act. Koskulana mini-hydro project will generate just 0.6 MW, a minuscule amount of power compared to 1 MW rooftop solar panels installed recently by a private firm on their factory. However, the ecological damage to Sinharaja World Heritage Rainforest and Koskulana river is massive, due to more than half a kilometer of Koskulana river that will go dry due to the weir and intake of water.

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This project violates the environmental laws set forth to protect buffer zones of forest reserves, buffer zones of rivers and UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Therefore, the responsible authorities at Central Environmental Authority, Ministry of Environment and Forest Conservation Department should immediately take action to stop this illegal project and restore the affected area. Investigation should be made into how approval for such a project was granted bordering a World Heritage Site without following proper procedures. Failure to take timely action will result in further destruction and total mockery of the environmental laws in Sri Lanka and ruin the Sinharaja UNESCO World Heritage Rainforest.

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Rainforest Protectors of Sri Lanka

http://www.RainforestProtectors.org

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