Instead of developing the Kandyan Areas we are destroying existing development.
Posted on September 6th, 2018

by Garvin Karunaratne

The Kotmale Valley was a thriving  area full of production when I worked in Nuwara Eliya in the Sixties. This valley, its luxurious vegetation and  a vibrant community that lived in plenty was sacrificed to get  200 MW of power.    The Kotmale dam does not provide any water for irrigation. Fifty Wind Turbines could have achieved that target of power, and Kotmale, its people and luxurious economy would have been spared extintion.

As I write, action in being taken to destroy miles of verdant jungle, luxurious home gardens  and a  developed tourist attraction- the rapids of the Maskeliya Oya at Kitulgala.

It is a mini Hydro Project-the Broadlands Dam, sited  700 meters below the Kitulgala Rest House. The water will be taken down in a 3 kilometer tunnel and enter a Power House that will  produce 35 MW of power. There will be two small weirs(tanks) of water.

The tunneling of the river water will change the eco system for at least 3 kilometers. Already the tunneling has caused damage to many homes and land.

Further the Maskeliya Oya at Kitulgala has 18 rapids and already it is a highly treasured tourist attraction, world wide, attracting some 100,000 tourists a year. The tunneling of water will make 13 rapids defunct. In short the tourists will not come. White water rafting is a developed , highly sought for sport and the only site for this is Kitulgala in Sri Lanka.

Compensation has been offered but the fact remains that the verdant Kitulgala Valley will be ruined- its eco sysytem will be damaged and the untold damage  in an unexpected manner like at Uma Oya in Welimada Bandarawela cannot be ruled out.. 

I know the Kitulgala area well having worked  as the Additional Government Agent at Kegalla and earlier in Agrarian Services. I have walked through the area and can imagine the damage..  I can state that the Kitulgala Valley is having verdant forest and home gardens that will be sacrificed. White water rafting was not developed as a tourist attraction when I worked there in  the Sixties. The people have developed tourism and it is a shame to sacrifice the tourism  that has already been built up. I am certain that we attract youngsters world wide- even from the USA to Kitulgala for Water rafting..

 As far as the production of electricity is concerned i can state without any reservation that  that the proposed 35 MW of power can easily be produced by constructing 10 wind turbines. The wind turbines can be sited in Kitulgala itself and constructing 10 wind turbines can be done at a fraction of the cost of  $ 85 million. 

It is perhaps a travesty of our fate that our Power Ministry does not believe in wind power that can easily be harnessed . Costs of wind power are only 5 US cents a kilowatt in the USA. At most our cost will be Rs 10 a kw  which is a third of today’s cost.

There is said to be a loan from China. No foreign funds are required for wind turbines. It is only  the turbine mechanism that has  to be imported. The rest is built locally. The turbine mechanism  is not that costly.

Perhaps it is our fate that makes us destroy what development  we do have, specially in the Kandyan Areas. Then it was Kotmale. Now it is Kitulgala.

Let Kitulgala be spared the devastation that happened to Kotmale

Garvin Karunaratme


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