Koskulana Mini Hydropower Plant in Sinharaja Strict Buffer Zone
Posted on January 2nd, 2016

WaterLanka  Jan-Mar,2016

This report is based on a recent visit made to the Northern Buffer Zone of the Sinharaja World Heritage Site and a comprehensive analysis of Initial Environmental Examination (IEE) Report on Koskulana Mini Hydropower Project (KMHP) submitted to the Central
Environmental Authority (CEA) by Waste Management Water Power (Pvt) Ltd. Although the IEE report is subjected to a painstaking analysis, this article
highlights only the potential negative impacts of construction and operation of KMHP on ecological and social aspects and how people go against ethics and morals to make money.


Project site in the Sinharaja buffer zone

The Koskulana mini hydropower project, which is under construction is supposed to generate 0.60 MW of electricity by diverting the Koskulana River flowing along the northern border of the Sinharaja World Heritage Site at Hupugoda Grama Niladhari Division (80⁰ 27’ 23”
62 E; 6⁰ 25’ 09” 70 N) in the Kalawana Divisional Secretariat. The project includes the construction of a concrete weir (2.5x 12 x 2.0 cubic meters), 86 m long
headrace channel, a forebay, and a powerhouse with 29 m long tailrace channel. Water will convey from the forebay to the powerhouse via 265 m long penstock while after generation of electricity water will be released back to the Koskulana River through 29 m long tailrace channel. The project has calculated 2.54 m3/sec as the design flow to generate electricity and 0.1 m3/sec as the environmental flow to maintain the aquatic fauna and flora downstream of the powerhouse.

Accordingly, the weir releases only 3.9 % of the design flow as the environment flow, which has occurred only once over the last thirty years. Further, the river stretch from the proposed weir site to the tailrace outfall is about 450 m and it lies on the strict buffer zone of the Sinharaja World Heritage Site. The left bank (LB) of this river stretch has thick riparian vegetation with valuable trees endemic to Sri Lanka while the right bank (RB) with steep slopes has been subjected to different land use including scattered human settlements. The river gradient varies from 400 m to 300 m above mean sea level between the proposed weir site and the tailrace outfall and this river stretch is characterized by typical pools and riffles and isolated boulders with a moderate cascade towards downstream. These charterers of the stream stretch with clear water are evident for rich aquatic biodiversity including the abundance of native and endemic fishes.

According to the IEE report, IEE team has examined hydrology, geomorphology, flora and fauna and socio-economic status of the project area, up to 500 m upstream of the proposed weir site, 500 m downstream of tail race outfall and 100 m wide stretch along the Koskulana River banks including the mainstream of the river for the same length.

Existing environment
The IEE report describes the general features of the project area to some extent but never state that the project area is exclusively within the buffer zone of the Sinharaja Rain Forest. The report also states that due to the high gradient of the river after the diversion point, construction of a 2.5 m high weir would not create any emergency situation like  flooding, which is incorrect. Most of the statements given under this section on biological environment are misleading and incorrect to a greater extent and deliberately hides some important information.

The IEE report includes only four fish species in the study area of which one species is endemic. The IEE team has found only four species, but there are five species in the detail faunal list namely Long Finned Eel. Giant Danio, Carveri Rasbora, Stone Sucker, and Mahseer. According to published literature, there are 26 freshwater fishes in the Kalu Ganga basin of which seventeen are endemic and the Kukule Ganga is a type habitat for several endemic species according to expert fish ecologists in the country.

The ecologist in the IEE team, a Botany special graduate is neither academically qualified nor competent to investigate aquatic fauna and flora in stream ecosystems, because a person with botany background cannot examine stream ecosystems for its fauna which is the most important ecological part as far as the mini hydropower projects are concerned


Mining the Koskulana River bed for weir construction

According to the IEE report, there are no river users along the river bank within the proposed project area, which is incorrect. There are many houses beyond the proposed weir on both sides of the river bank. People explore theses streams for gems and also to catch fish. Most of these houses are susceptible for flooding as the 2.5 m high weir is built. It should be considered the flood levels occurred beyond the proposed weir on the 7th December 2015 following heavy rains.

Soil erosion: The IEE report victimizes the upstream inhabitants for soil erosion rather than the devastating activities taking place during the construction phase as shown below. There will be an unprecedented soil erosion and subsequent sediment load into the stream due to the construction of the weir, excavation for headrace channel, forebay and powerhouse and other infrastructure development activities such as the construction of access roads. The soil erosion resulting from construction of power projects cannot be compared with minor agriculture activities. The main problem with soil erosion is not increased turbidity, but the elimination of microhabitats and spawning grounds of fish due to sediment deposition and also aquatic organisms will be affected by smothering.


Excavation near the border of Sinharaja Rain Forest

It is apparent that Koskulana mini hydropower project results in every negative environmental impact that
inherent to most of the mini hydropower projects and some are site-specific social impacts. But the case is site-specific and critical being located bordering the Sinharaja World Heritage Site within the strict buffer zone. All responsible government agencies have given approval for the project forwarding their own justifications. The District Forest Officer of Ratnapura has categorically denied their responsibility for the buffer zone of the Sinharaja World Heritage Site. Nevertheless, the available information reveals that the buffer zones of forest reserves must be protected by the Forest Department. Besides, the ecologist of the IEE team is neither qualified nor competent to conduct an IEE of this nature as mentioned before. Because IEE/EIA teams of hydropower projects must comprise a stream ecologist with a proven knowledge on freshwater fishes. Further, acceptance of the IEE report by the CEA is questionable as two of the four
team members including the team leader have not certified their commitment. The most critical environmental problem of the construction and operation of mini hydropower projects in mountain streams are endemic fishes evolved for millions of years. Sri Lanka is ranked as one of the biodiversity hotspots because of her endemic fish fauna and other species endemic to the country. None of the designated Project Approving Agencies (viz., NBRO, FD, ID, NWSDB, GSMB, CCD, CEA, and CEB) are not capable of evaluating this aspect by themselves due to non-availability subject specialists. Further, 0.60 MW electricity can be generated by a solar PV panel without causing any devastating environmental damage.

The total length of the affected stream stretches (ASS) in the Kukule Ganga including the Kukule major hydropower project is 12.39 km of which 8.18 km have resulted from Kukule Ganga major hydro dam, which generates 80 MW whereas about 4.5 km stream stretches have been destroyed from six mini hydropower plants, which generate only 10.50 MW. This indicates that mini hydropower projects destroy more stream habitats than major hydropower projects. This is true for all other major river basins such as Mahaweli, Kelani, Kalu, and Walawe with respect to the development of mini hydropower projects. Hill streams are the type habitats of endemic fishes and the tributaries of the Kukule Ganga sub-watershed area also rich in endemic fishes evolved for millions of years, There
is tangible evidence to show that the fish fauna in mountain streams in Sri Lanka is declining due to the construction and operation of hydropower plants.
It is obvious that about 12.0 km of river water of the Kukuke River sub-watershed flow through conduits without contributing to plant growth while decreasing soil properties. This value for the Mahaweli and Kelani Rivers are about 100 km and 89 km respectively. This will certainly affect the propagation of riparian vegetation cover and stability of the overburden of the landscape. These ecological impacts are not addressed in developing countries including Sri Lanka when mini hydropower plants are proposed and engineers do not understand the gravity of the problem whereas entrepreneurs do not care about the environment.
The negative effects of incorrect and unacceptable operations of mini hydropower plants in Sri Lanka on endemic fish fauna as a result of habitat alteration and
elimination are inevitable. The evidence is there for declining and vanishing of endemic fishes from hill streams over the last two decades with escalating small
hydropower development. Construction of mini hydropower in the areas of sensitive vegetations such as Sinharaja World Heritage Site will certainly affect the propagation riverine vegetation and their sustainability.

2015 Madura De Silva Nandika Hapuarachchi Thilak Jayaratne

Zoogeography of freshwater ichthyofauna of Sri Lanka is poorly understood although many new species are reported after the publication of Pethiyagoda’s text on Freshwater Fishes of Sri Lanka published in 1991. Several new genera of freshwater fishes were described (e.g. Dawkinsia Pethia) while introducing sixteen new cyprinids (viz., Dawkinsia singhala, Dawkinsia srilankensis Devario pathirana, Laubuca insularis, Laubuca ruhuna, Laubuca varuna, Pethia banduala, Pethia reval, Puntius kamalika, Puntius kelumi, Rasbora armitagei, Rasbora naggisi, Rasbora wilpita, Rasboroides rohani, Systomus asoka, Systomus martenstyni) and two gobids Schismatogobius deraniyagalai and Stiphodon martenstyni). This has lead to a great confusion among most of the local and international scientists those who study freshwater fishes and their biology. Most of the hill stream fishes endemic to Sri Lanka had been described by early workers (Axelrod, 1972; Bleeker, 1863; Bloch & Schneider, 1801; Day, 1888; Deraniyagala, 1929, 1930, 1937, 1952,1956; Günther, 1861,1964,1868; Hamilton, 1822; Jordan & Starks, 1917; Meinken, 1957, 1966; Steindachner, 1892).

De Silva, Hapuarachchi and Jayaratne (2015) compiled freshwater ichthyofauna of Sri Lanka in a similar manner to Pethiyagoda’s publication together with most of the newly described species after Pethiyagoda (1991). They included four cyprinids under sub-family Barbinae (e.g., Devario Sp Altus, Devario Sp Natalei, and Devario Sp Processus and Systomus Sp. Richmondi) without having species authorships. They also vaguely described the type habitats or localities, breeding potentials of newly described species and the sampling methods during their surveys were not correctly described. Further, these authors did not include Puntius chola (Hamilton, 1822) and Garra philipsi (Deraniyagala, 1933) in their compilation. Several cyprinids widely distributed in Sri Lanka such as, Puntius filamanetosus and P. sarana that have been re-described as new species by different authors without mentioning their former identities. It should be noted that Batuwita et al. (2013) described Rasboroides rohani from Walawe River basin which was not found by the extensive survey conducted over eight years (2007-2014) on Sri Lankan freshwater fishes by the Wildlife Conservation Society of Galle. Sri Lankan Freshwater Fishes” which also highlights many brackish water species and several marine fishes has deliberately ignored most of the worked published in peer-reviewed journals after Deraniyagala (1952) and Munro (1955) on fish taxonomy and biology. An unprecedented attempt has made to highlight only a few people as great ichthyologists in the world, of which some of them were specimen suppliers to foreign laboratories and museums. This compilation with full of excellent photographs is lacking literal integrity and academic clarity. Besides, this compilation has reviewed by two non-subject specialists. In addition, there is no evidence for proper proofreading, the most important part with respect to standard publication. Nevertheless, the collective effort of this group of armatures to be appreciated to a greater extent, because of their time and dedication. But, perhaps, non-professional guidance has led to several shortcomings. The sponsorship of the Nations Trust Bank should be respected and valued because their willingness and commitment to conserving nature. Further, the price of the book is extraordinarily high, perhaps due to its printing cost and capital investment but it has limited the circulation among the laymen who are really keen about freshwater fishes of Sri Lanka as nature lovers.

Mining 100 sq km Seabed has no Effect on Environment
Port City Project

Supplementary EIA report (SEIA), opened for the public comments in December 2015 by the Coast Conservation Department states that dredging 65 million cubic meter sand from the west coast of Sri Lanka to reclaim 269 ha land area of the suspended Port City Project (PCP) has no significant negative impact on ecological and social environment. Forty-five-member SEIA team representing National Aquatic Resources Research Development Agency (NARA), Geological Survey and Mines Bureau (GSMB), University of Moratuwa (UoM), Lanka Hydraulic Institute Ltd. (LHI), Central Engineering Consultancy Bureau (CECB), has submitted a 357 page SEIA report to the Coast Conservation and Coastal Zone Managements Department., the Project Approving Agency (PAA).
Proposed mining sites; yellow, Site I; Blue Site II

There are ample number of examples to show that heavy industries such as boat manufacturing, port development, off-shore oil extraction have resulted in the depletion of fish stocks. Coral communities are the most sensitive aquatic biota with respect to seabed mining and land reclamation for port development. Corals are sensitive tochanges in environmental parameters such as temperatures, salinity, depth, current velocity and direction, suspended solids, tidal fluctuations etc. The impact of turbidity on larval settlements of Indo-Pacific coral, Pocilopora damicornis in Polhengoda reef has been shown. Turbidity is an aggregate property of water, which results from mechanical disturbance of seabed and by dumping dredged materials back to the seabed. Experimental evidence suggests that suspended particles move over greater area due to oceanic currents when the seabed is disturbed. It has been demonstrated that increased turbidity and siltation in the coastal zone are among the most potential threats to coral reef communities and associated reef fishes. Proposed sand mining activities will certainly affect the reefs located in the vicinity of proposed sand mining area (viz., Kalapugala, Godagala, Hiriya, Thambalagala, Galmathgala, Galmaga and Watiyagala) in turn fish populations in the area because herbivorous fish are the vital links in the food chains in the reef ecosystems.

The western border of the Negombo lagoon along the west coast from Uswetakeiyawa to Pitipana is the narrowest coastal margin of the lagoon ecosystems, which is less than 1 km wide at certain stretches for example at Basiyawatte village. This stretch is very susceptible for severe erosion if the seabed is mined for the extraction of sand creating 2-3 m deep crater spread over 100 km2 in the near shore area. This situation may be more aggravated by predicted weather changes associated with global climate change. A recent study conducted on the impact of sea level rises on marine mouth of the Negombo lagoon concluded that a vast area of the lagoon periphery will be inundated within the next 50 years. Lack of sufficient knowledge and understanding and engineering biased development projects have lead the promotion of the development projects this nature. Further, politically motivated engineering biased SEIA team has made a enormous attempt to justify and convince the establishment of PCP by comparing with other development projects of similar nature, for example Palm Island in Dubai, Rotterdam Port and industrial area, Hong Kong Chek Lap Kok airport etc. Nevertheless, environmental settings and socio-economic conditions of those projects are quite different from CPC. On the basis of the understanding that there will be a significant negative impact of sand mining in the west coast on fishing community from Uswetakeiyawa to Pitipana whose livelihood depends on this coastal resource. The SEIA has proposed to give rupees 500 million to the fishing community as a compensation for lost resources, which is Rs 4.15 per day per person if assumed 10 years will take to recover the environmental damage. Nevertheless, recovery should be very slow since there is no sufficient amount of land based sediment transport into the sea from this stretch. The Negombo lagoon is a large silt trap of the Attanagalu Oya basin and northward littoral transport from the Kelani River estuary is not very strong due to weak coastal current. Similar situation occurs with respect to sediment transport via Ma Oya basin. This has lead to poor beach nourishment and progressive coastal erosion in west coast. The report does not discuss the impacts on Negombo lagoon fishery as a result of proposed sand mining in near shore area assuming that there is no recruitment of fish and shrimp between the lagoon and coastal areas. It is a pity that NARA scientists have shown the importance of larval recruitment and juvenile migration of shrimp on lagoon shrimp fishery, the most economic return of the Negombo Lagoon, the most productive brackish water body of the country. The SEIA also states that there are no fishing grounds in the vicinity of PCP area but fisher communities operate only from Mutual/Mattakkuliya and Dehiwala. As fishing is not allowed in the vicinity of Colombo Harbour due to security reasons one cannot say that fisheries resources are not available that particular area. Of course, fisheries potential of this area may be relatively low due to poor natural naturalness of the area. Many groups of environmentalists and individual scientists complaint against many discrepancies, procedural irregularities, and misleading statements in this SEIA. The SEIA report includes many diagrams produced using data generated by tank experiments and subsequently coupled with complicated mathematical models although no attempts have been made to collect very basic information but extremely important with respect to marine ecosystems.

Aqua- 2015, Fisheries and Aquaculture Forum
Blue Revolution: Challenging New Frontiers though value addition Uwa Wellassa University (11, December 2015) The organizing committee of the above forum invited several key subject specialists to deliver lectures on marine resources, shellfish and fin-fish processing, management of aquatic resources, eco-toxicity, novel approaches in fresh and brackish water aquaculture, feeds and nutrients in the aquaculture industry and ornamental fish industry. Subsequently, presentations were opened for panel discussions.

Speakers of the Session I were; Dr. D.C.T. Dissanayake (USJP) Mr. S. Thayaparan (King Aqua Services) Mr. Samantha Gunasekara (Former SLC) Prof. E.I.L. Silva (WRST) Mr. B.K.K.K. Jinadara (NARA) and lectures were delivered by; Ms. J.M. Asoka (NAQDA) Prof. M.P.K.S.K. De Silva (Uni.Ruhuna) Dr. K.R. Gamage (Uni. Ruhuna) Dr. D.H.N. Munasinghe (Uni. Ruhuna) and Mr. Kapila Tissera (Aquatic Bio-Resources) during the Session II. . Session I and II were chaired by Dr. S.C. Jayamanne and Dr.D.K.D.D. Jayasena respectively. Both sessions were followed by very fruitful panel discussions with active participation of undergraduate students. The overall programme of Aqua-

9 Responses to “Koskulana Mini Hydropower Plant in Sinharaja Strict Buffer Zone”

  1. Dham Says:

    It doesn’t make any sense to generate 600 kW with the destruction shown on the photographs.

    For a mere 600 kW power generation, “the construction of a concrete weir (2.5x 12 x 2.0 cubic meters), 86 m long headrace channel, a fore bay, a powerhouse with 29 m long tailrace channel , 265 m long penstock and a 29 m long tailrace channel” -doesn’t make any sense, even if the fish are not affected.

    Solar panels or a small wind turbine will cost very much less than this destruction.

    Furthermore, a 2.5m high 12m long dam can be made by beavers, no need humans.

    Where is the Minister for Environment ?

  2. Fran Diaz Says:

    Looking at the photos, it is probably too late to stop this unworthy mad project.
    Wonder what building is to be erected to use the electricity – a super luxury hotel for the ultra rich, or a mansion for
    same ?

    The public ought to know the line of command that issued permits for such an environmentally damaging project. Where are the Prov Council members for the area ? Are they afraid to come forward to protect the environment ?

    Recall also that a couple of years ago, how an Airforce big wig built a mansion in the protected Knuckles Range and had same confiscated later. May be this project also should be confiscated, sooner or later.

    This is possibly a taste of what ultra Captalism may bring under Yahap. For the environment of Lanka : with friends such as Lanka has internally, who needs enemies !

  3. Nanda Says:

    This is not under Yahap Gov. They don’t do ANy development.

    This is by your good old Rajapakse Governement. Now people can speak up, that is why it appreas now.

    Japan Invests on Kosgulana Mini Hydro Power Plant

    Posted date: October 15, 2013 In: Hydro Power, News | comment : 0

    Kosgulana Hydro Company (Pvt) Ltd signed an agreement with the Board of Investment of Sri Lanka to set up a Mini Hydro Power plant. Dr Lakshman Jayaweera, Chairman of the BOI signed the agreement on behalf of the BOI and Watanabe Satoru, Chairman and Mohamed Azam Koya, Director of the company have signed the agreement on behalf of the company.

    The wire site of the 1.5 MW project is located on Kukule Ganga in Kosgulana village in the Ayagama Divisional Secretariat in the Ratnapura District. The project’s estimated investment will be around LKR 475 Million.

    Watanabe, who has considerable experience in solar energy in Japan, saw the potential for Mini Hydro power plant in Sri Lanka. Furthermore, Watanabe had made his decision to invest in Sri Lanka following the recent State visit to Japan by President Mahinda Rajapaksa. The Sri Lankan President had invited Japanese entrepreneurs to invest in the Island.

    In addition, Watanabe had also decided to invest in Sri Lanka to support a country which had helped the Japanese victims of the 2009 Tsunami. He wanted to express his gratitude for this gesture.

    The Power plant will commence construction shortly and is expected to be completed soon. The mini Hydro plant will provide electricity to the National Grid.

    Lakshma Yapa Abeywardana, Minister of Investment Promotion formally presented the investors with the BOI Certificate of Registrations at the Ministry of Investment Promotion.

    The Sri Lankan Government is giving high priority to developing its remaining hydro-power resources in the island to reduce dependence on costly fuel imports as well as for their potential to earn carbon credits in the initiative to reduce the effects of global warming. Private sector developers are being encouraged to launch mini hydro power projects under an ambitious plan of the Ceylon Electricity Board,

  4. Dham Says:

    Very suspicious indeed.

    a) A useless project which can be replaced by a $5000-$10000 wind turbine came as a BOI project. What kind of investment is this ? How many people they employ ? 10 ?

    b) Why did capacity reduced from 1.5MW to 0.6MW and BOI agreement still valid ?

    c) Company director’s name Mohamed Azam Koya , sounds like a Ganja grower from Kerala.

    d) After Rajapakse met Watanabe the project percieved.

    e) Lakshma Yapa Abeywardana – still in government ?
    Maithripala Sirisena – Now enviorment minister – stopped Port City ( 1 billion ) cannot stop this Beever Dam ?

  5. Fran Diaz Says:


    My point is :

    Whatever the govt that allowed the project, why didn’t the Prov Council of the area protest ?

    When the govt changed to Yahap with enviro conscious Pres MS in charge, all the more reason that the PC should have protested.


    I am not in the habit of ‘garbaging’ a good President (such as MR) as some of the ‘tirade’ Readers are wont to do ! Using people to max and throwing them out is a habit of folks with no principles, unreliable and inconsistent.

  6. Nanda Says:


    “Good” ? Look at the pictures.
    “Protest” ? – easy for you to say.

    I fully agree with you on “Yahap” gov. should have kicked out the Muslim man stopped this project.

    My3 is the Prsident. He stopped Avan Gade. Why cant he stop this Cannabis project ?

    But please open your eyes.
    Who sold this country you and I love to Arabs drug dealers ?

  7. Nanda Says:

    Dham and Fran,

    Suspicious ? Extremely.

    I calculated what is required for this little “dam”. What you need is to drill 400 diameter holes at 2m spacing ( 5 holes) to a depth of 1m in rock. Then you put in 300×300 steel columns and concrete the hole. Under this climate Galvanized steel will be enough to last 100 years. Then you bring in 170 mm thick precast slabs and put them between columns. You can leave one bay for the sluice gate. That is all. That will have minimum impact on the site, what you need is a small access road.
    Here they are casting 2m thick concrete wall according to this article, which require 48m2 plan area. Using my method area is only 3 m2. Even if they make a 2 m wide dam , why dig such a huge hole (in the photograph).
    I don’t know the pipe size required buy could be around 300mm only and this can be run without much damage. Power Station should also be very small.
    I am puzzled why so much damage done to do this very minor work.

  8. Fran Diaz Says:

    Perhaps other buildings are due to come up too ?



    You are besotted about MR giving way to various Muslims from near Lanka.

    Re Pakistan : Pakistan stood by Lanka in her hour of need and pay back time came in. Everyone benefitted from eradication of the LTTE. We can hardly criticize some of the help given. One might ask why is Yahap purchasing planes from Pakistan now ? Does Lanka need fighter jet at this point in time ? It’s like saying let the common people eat cake if they don’t have bread ….
    Re Maldives : As far as I know, Maldivian past President was educated in Sri Lanka and requested various favors from MR govt as he feared his country was going under water due to Climate Change and rising sea levels. He even came to the USA and made such statements about his fears.

    It was not an easy that MR achieved. I am not critical of the path that HAD to be taken, given the circumstances MR faced.

  9. Fran Diaz Says:

    read as : It was not an easy task that MR achieved.

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