Rainforest Protectors of Sri Lanka – February 10, 2016
Anda Dola, a tributary of Gin Ganga in Neluwa Divisional Secretariat in the district of Galle is the latest victim of rapidly spreading mini-hydro projects throughout the wet zone destroying the natural habitat. The weir and 2.5 km section of penstock (concrete channel) has been constructed within Dellawa Rainforest which is ecologically part of the Sinharaja Rainforest Complex. Due to construction happening within the protected forest reserve and negligence in part by the developer, the project is causing massive environmental destruction affecting the stream, rainforest, soil and endemic fish in the region. The mini-hydro project will destroy a total 6.5 km stretch of Anda Dola, as water is being diverted off from the weir to the powerhouse several kilometers away. This will result in local extinction of many endemic and endangered fish species recorded in Anda Dola, such as the Barred Danio (Devario pathirana) and Ornate Paradisefish (Malpulutta kretseri).
Many mature endemic and endangered trees such as Hora (Dipterocarpus Zeylanicus), Thiniya Dun (Shorea trapezifolia) and Yakahalu (Shorea dyeri) have been cut down during construction at the weir and along penstock to the powerhouse within protected forest reserve. Many of these endemic trees in the region are listed in the IUCN red-list of endangered species and in danger of going extinct. The project site has already experienced severe soil erosion and earth slips due to removal of these large rainforest trees. Further, a massive trench dug through a hill has jeopardized the stability of the soil mass which may soon result in a severe landslide.
While the project developer has submitted an Initial Environmental Assessment (IEE) report to the authorities, an unbiased Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) with a public comment period has not been carried out although construction is taking place within a protected forest reserve. Therefore, approval given to this project by Forest Conservation Department is questionable.
The project is expected to generate a mere 0.77 MW energy but at an enormous cost to the biodiversity of the sensitive rainforest habitat and possible extinction of many freshwater endemic and endangered fauna. With the continued destruction of the rainforest and diminishing groundwater reserves, “Anda Dola” is in danger of completely drying up even during a short dry season which will further reduce the practical capacity of this project. It is puzzling why Sustainable Energy Authority and Ministry of Power and Energy are continuing to push destructive mini-hydro projects within protected rainforest reserves, instead of promoting environmentally friendly and drought tolerant alternatives such as rooftop solar, waste to energy and offshore wind. Relevant authorities are urged to take immediate corrective action to stop further destruction due to this project and ensure the national policy on renewable energy focuses on technologies that do not cause ecological destruction to our vital catchment areas.
Rainforest Protectors of Sri Lanka