Posted on August 30th, 2009

Mahinda Weerasinghe

Greater Teldeniya villages such as Udispatuwa, Ranmulla, Rankanda, Udawela, Pahurugolla, etc., have blood on its plains and mountains. The environment of these villages the last four years has been battered and its landscape systematically turned into a veritable desert. Indeed thousands of acres of its magnificent bio-diverse vegetative canopy, exotic animals and plants, natural aquifers and other sources of water have been systematically violated. Agricultural lands (e.g., cash crops, cocoa, pepper, vanilla, mangos, avocados etc.,) of the Central Highlands are being literally eradicated as we speak.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ The reason is palpable; its surface and ground water is draining off as soon as the rains touch the ground as a result of the on going rock quarrying activities. And during the drought intervals the existing trees are dying in large numbers as no water is retained by its roots due to such unrelenting quarrying. These areas which once fed the Victoria reservoir with a substantial amount of water are now incapable of doing so. ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ This in turn would effect the power generation the country needs badly.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ How has this appalling situation com to be?

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ The Kandyan peasants who are residing in these areas are innocent and pretty backward. They are mostly unlettered and ignorant of taking up issues and defending their rights. Also they are utterly helpless and frightened of the rich and powerful outsiders who intrude into their life and float commercial ventures detrimental to their well been. So when a cancerous project is set in motion injurious to their environment, they are helpless to resists or protect their rights or their heritage.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ Indeed the situation is very similar to a cancer. A cancer starts with a single renegade cell, and then commences to multiply, and finally take control of the entire body before delivering it the coup de grace. This environmental degradation is similarly gathering momentum to encompass the whole of Victoria reservoir belt.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ How was the rape of this bountiful land initiated?

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ It was covertly initiated by the corrupt agents of the environmental authority of Minister Campika Ranavaka. These watch dogs of the environment have been slyly issuing licenses for rock quarrying without first consulting the local populace as the law of the land dictates. Now greed of the rock quarry interest and the avarice of the environmental agents have merged, and their greed knows know limits.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ Bottom line is, these peasants now find they not only have to walk miles for their water needs, but ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ they also will soon loose their livelihood; for they are unable to plant any crops or grow them as they find the land deficient of water, for as soon as the rains hits the ground the water drains off and dissipates.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ Mining affects the environment and the society. Its related disruptions can significantly affect the physical environment in the form of contaminated surface and ground waters, changes in river regimes and water tables and the destruction or loss of habitat for certain species. Mining also affects the local communities through the disruption of their livelihood activities. In order to mitigate these impacts, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) spearheaded several initiatives to cushion the effects of mining to the environment. The immediate impact of rock quarrying is:

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ The vegetation and the roots of trees which conserve the water after a rain fall is shaken by the blasting and incessant vibration, hence the slow process of release of water by the root systems is disrupted. In such a manner its water retention powers shattered and the vegetative regeneration aborted.

Also fissures caused by the dynamiting and the subsequent vibration activity breaks down the water retaining systems of the top soil. Hence the water just dissipates and seeps out as soon as it touches the ground.

Indeed the incessant vibration due to the quarrying process of the material also helps filter the water out and hinders the roots from being able to store the water. The immediate results are:

  1. Due to dynamiting and systematic vibration of the hills the acqufirs are destroyed and water retaining roots and top soil is shaken, that the roots water retention abilities or conservation of the water it needs is disrupted. So no rain fall means, the trees and plants simply wither away and die.
  2. Erosion of soil after heavy rainfall is also a resultant of such activity.
  3. Lack of air pollution measures as no provisions are made for dust control or restoration of sites, affect the air and bring terrible diseases to man and beast that inhabit these areas.
  4. Vibrations/noise pollution resulting from use of explosives in blasting disrupts the pollination related activity. And the pollination processes are disrupted that fresh vegetation is suspended.
  5. No provisions are made for dust control, noise or restoration of sites.
  6. No environmental or ecological studies have been developed before initiating these quarries.
  7. No solution has been taken in connection with land degradation as a consequence of washings and sludge disposal, as well as abandoned quarries.
  8. Lack of modern tools and equipment makes matters worse.
This quarrying activity not only destroys the natural surface/underground water sources, it also contaminates the downstream rivers and ultimately the Victoria catchments itself, as it feeds from the quarrying environs hence will have far reaching consequences. Sri Lankans will soon find that through rock mining, which hardly pay any taxes, the land becomes caustic and completely devoid of water to a point that no living thing can survive on it, leave alone its vegetative canopy which is being blasted to smithereens.

At the moment an estimate of over 10000 families are adversely affected. But that is just the beginning. ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ Under this ruthless mining activity the cancer will keeps multiplying and the place will soon be like a war torn area. Unless itƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s brought to an immediate halt, the forests plains and hills of the Central Highlands which has existed thousands of years will be lost and in time would come to disrupt the Victoria energy production itself.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ 

While Hon. Minister Champika Ranavaka is preaching to the world how to protect the environmental and what remedies should be initiated. His corrupt agents are raping the environment and minting money through the rape of the nationƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s wealth. The very people who were paid salaries to look after the environment are in fact helping destroy it by joining the ruthless and unethical miners. Indeed asking environmental agents to look after the environment is like asking the fox to look after the chicken coop.The over ridding fact seems to escapes the Hon. Minister. The BuddhaƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s first act upon gaining enlightenment was; he did not go out to pronounce to the world, his findings. What he did instead was he approached the Bo tree to give thanks for the shade it provided in his long quest for knowledge. ThatƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s the reason every Buddhist temple has a Bo tree, and the devotees pour water to its roots. But no Buddhist temple that I know of has rock quarrying in the temple. Naturally; for indeed it is extremely harmful to the environment, and an adverse effect on the creatures subsisting in it.

The writer begs the concerned people such as geologists, environmentalists and hydrologists to come forward and aid us to bring these corrupt environmental ministry agents to book and defend the country from rape and violation of our beautiful heritage. If not in time this cancer will engulf the whole nation. We call upon both national and international environmental watchdog agencies to aid us fight these corrupt environmental mafia agents and save this wondrous Victoria heritage from rape. E mail to mybecoming@gmail.com your suggestions. All support and advice will be greatly appreciated.

Mahinda Weerasinghe


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