Concerns Over Cable Cars To Adam’s Peak

By Nirmala Kannangara

Provincial cordinating committee meeting minutes that shows Minister John Seneviratne’s proposal on cable cars

Environmentalists, civil societies and Buddhist clergy have expressed concerns over the proposed plan to introduce cable cars to Adam’s Peak (Sri Pada).
Sri Pada the fourth highest mountain in the country is also of religious importance to Buddhists. According to environmentalists and civil society organizations, the proposed plan would not only bring adverse impact to the surrounding environment which is with a high bio diversity consist rare fauna and flora but also has a great threat of de-listing Sri Pada from the world heritage site by the UNESCO.
It was not so long ago UNESCO declared Adam’s Peak, Knuckles Range and Horton Plains as world heritage sites. The environmentalists point why this government wants to introduce new changes knowing that UNESCO would not allow any environmental impact to be taken place that would be detrimental to Sri Pada.
According to President Nature Group and Director Environmental Conservation Trust Thilak Kariyawasam, the proposal to introduce cable cars has come from Minister John Seneviratne to boost tourism in the country. “If the Economic Development Ministry wants to boost tourism in the country why cannot they introduce cable cars to the central hills rather than to Sri Pada. Sri Pada is a holy place and no one wants cable cars to visit Sri Pada as they want to go on a holy pilgrimage,” added Kariyawasam.
According to Kariyawasam, Minister John Seneviratne has taken advices from the Nepalese government on how to introduce cable cars to Sri Lanka.
“True there are cable car systems in Nepal which is very famous there. Why we object to this is that Sri Pada is a holy place and we do not want to disturb the holy atmosphere that prevails in Sri Pada and its’ environ. No one would object if this system is introduced to any other place in the country leaving the holy places aside,” said Kariyawasam.
Meanwhile, Kariyawasam alleged as to how plans are afoot to put up hotels and car parks at the foot of the cable car lines by several private parties. “It is said that the tea estate in Erathna that belongs to the Lands Reform Commission is to be used as the focal point. I came to know that Minister John Seneviratne and his supporters in the Kuruwita and Eheliyagoda Pradeshiya Sabha had gone to Erathna to see as to how they could start it,” said Kariyawasam.
He further added how the mountain has prone to earth slips from recent past and said that the situation would be worsen once the jungle is cleared to fix iron posts to strengthen the cables.
“If cable cars are introduced to Sri Pada people will come for fun when the devotees climb up the peak with religious devotion. If the government wants to go ahead with the project the Archaeology Department has to be consulted and an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) has to be done. We came to know that the Minister has told that there is no necessity to go for an EIA since this is a government project to which we would strongly protest. When I spoke to Minister Seneviratne’s Secretary to find out whether it is true that the minister has brought such a proposal, the secretary said that the Minister has not brought any such proposal as stated in the media. How can the secretary claim as such when we have the minutes of the provincial coordinating committee meeting held on December 20, 2012 at the Divisional Secretariat Kuruwita? The environmentalist groups and civil societies are planning to go to courts in this regard,” added Kariyawasam.
He further noted as to how UNESCO would stop providing financial assistance to preserve the listed world heritage sites in the country.
“If this goes ahead without considering the UNESCO stance, our UNESCO representative Dr. Dayan Jayatilleka would have to give an explanation as to why such a decision has been taken. If the country’s world heritage sites are de-listed it would then badly affect the country’s tourism sector as well,” added Kariyawasam.
Director EFL Vimukthi Weeratunge meanwhile said that if the Economic Development Ministry makes any attempts to introduce cable cars to Sri Pada it would certainly bring more repercussions to the country, as there is a risk that UNESCO will de-list all world heritage sites in the country. Sri Pada is a world heritage site and no one can do any development work in such places without consultation with the UNESCO. If taken the sacred city Kandy as an example, which too has been declared a heritage site by UNESCO, no one can widen or change the road network. It applies the same to Sri Pada as well,” added Weeratunge.
Weeratunge queried as to how these cables could be strengthening without causing severe impact to the environment.
“Huge posts need to be erected to strengthen these cables in the down stream. How could these posts be fixed without causing severe damage to the peak? When there was no request from the devotees to introduce cable cars who has made this request? Even we have seen as to how the foreigners climb up the peak together with locals. For them this is a new experience and they love hiking. The foreigners will laugh at us as they would not want to go to this holy site comfortably but want to experience the long journey,” said Weeratunge.
He further added as to how such proposals came from interested parties on earlier occasions, which were defeated with the strong agitation from environmentalists and civil groups. Recalling as to how the government’s plan to construct a road through the Sinharaja rain forest had to stop when the UNESCO intervened, Weeratunge added that what ever attempts are now made to introduce these cable cars to Sri Pada the government would not be able to do any development without the consent of UNESCO.
“The environmentalist and civil societies were up in arms when the government wanted to construct a road through Sinharaja rain forest in 2011. When the construction work was on its way, the UNESCO wanted the government to stop its plan, as it is a world heritage site. For the government there were no other options but to stop the work abruptly. In the event if the government tries to introduce cable cars to Sri Pada, the end result would be the same as Sinharaja. If the government will be still adamant and go ahead with the proposed plan then UNESCO would certainly de-list our heritage sites and it would bring more repercussions to the tourism industry,” said Weeratunge.
However Ranjith, a member of a civil society that engages in environment conservation work in Sri Pada said that all civil groups in and around Sri Pada have come to a firm decision to agitate against the proposed plan since it would bring detrimental effect to the surrounding environment. According to Ranjith, all civil environmental conservation societies have held two seminars recently to show what the negative impact would be if cable cars are introduced and added that they are planning to meet President Mahinda Rajapaksa, Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa, the Foreign Minister and all other senior officials to tell how such a project would bring an impact to the picturesque environment.
“If we do not get any positive response from these higher officials we would not hesitate to inform UNESCO as to what is going to happen to one of the sites they have declared as world heritage. We are also in the process of educating the Buddhist clergy what the negative impact would be. If devotees in their old age too climb up the peak from Kuruwita, Ratnapura and Hatton and even the foreign tourists why do we need a cable car system? Even we have seen as to how foreign tourists go on hike to Sri Pada during the off-season since they love climbing up the peak. If they want to go in cable cars they would rather go to Nepal to see the mountains,” said Ranjith.
Chief Incumbent Abhayaraja Temple Ratnapura, Ven. Ratnapure Sumana Thero said that introducing cable car system would not impact the environment since the cars would not go straight to the top of the peak.
“We were told that these cars would not go straight to the top of the peak but to 2km below from the top,” said Ven. Sumana Thero.
When asked whether the Buddhist clergy would mind if the mountain is prone to earth slips once the surrounding thick jungle is cleared to install the huge iron posts to strengthen cables, Ven. Sumana Thero said that the Buddhist clergy would never give any consent for such a detrimental impact.
“It is true that cables have to be strengthen by these posts and the the thick jungle has to be cleared to install these posts. Anyway there were reported cases of earth slips in and around Sri Pada. Once the jungle is cleared it would certainly be prone for more earth slips which would impact the peak top as well in the years to come,” said the Thero.
The Thero further said that if the UNESCO too comes against the cable car system, the Buddhists clergy too would support them to protect the world heritage site.
“Although we are not against the introducing cable cars to Sri Pada, UNESCO and our own environmentalists know what the effect that would bring. UNESCO does not declare certain places as world heritage sites unless they find it out through proper evaluation. They know better than us the importance of preserving such sites. Whatever the decision the UNESCO takes we will certainly back them up as we too want the best for the country,” added Ven. Sumana Thero.
Meanwhile Divisional Secretary Kuruwita M.W. Kulathilake when contacted confirmed that a proposal was brought by Minister John Seneviratne at the Divisional Coordinating Committee Meeting held on December 20, 2012.
“At this Divisional Coordinating Committee meeting Minister Seneviratne said that he discussed the possibilities of introducing a cable car system to Sri Pada with the Nepalese High Commissioner and that it would be installed from Erathna to Sri Pada. According to the Minister this would benefit for those who cannot climb up the peak and for those who wants to save time and that he would see whether there are any possibilities to go ahead with the proposed plans from January,” said Kulathilake.
Public Administration Minister John Seneviratne was not contactable for a comment nor did he reply to the text message sent to him till the paper went to press.

15 Comments for “Concerns Over Cable Cars To Adam’s Peak”

  1. an elderly

    SriPada is one of the few places that maintain an atmosphere of deep piety and dedication . Why destroy the atmosphere by this type of unwanted modernity to coin a word . The Pilgrim who climb with difficulty get inspired by a sense of devotion an achievement . Must we fast track this by this noisy inwanted mode of travel . Once we become an elderly person we have our ways of devotion and piety and sometimes meditate at home and lead a sedantry life for in our youth we have gone on pilgrimage and helped the world to be a better place . If the Mjnister finds that he can win votes by going up the peak and cannot do so due to age well try a helicopter drop down an one event and not commercially available to all Ministers .. Leave the devotional climb to the old Upasikawa who could climb while I was huffing and panting at the ahe of 35 . The atmosphere was so peaceful and the chanting lingers on .

  2. Helaya

    This is not Adam’s Peak as per the our Buddhist history this is Load Budda’s Sri Padaya

  3. Saint

    From a scientific point of view, the cable cars will save the forest and cause less environmental damage than hundreds of thousands people go on foot through the thick jungles littering and making noise disturbing the wild life.

    Yes for those religious people this may not be fun, but remember what saved this world and able to provide accommodation and food for 7.2 billions of people on this earth is science not religion.

    religions only brought dist ructions. To manage our resources wisely we have to use science.

  4. Shaik Anwar Ahamath

    This molney would be better spent improving the roads to Sri Pada. These aretoo narrow and prone to landslides and mudslides and extremely dangerous at times.

  5. Duminda N Jayatileke

    How can SL afford cable cars? People in this country are starving and poverty is everywhere. SL does not have the money or skills to construct cable cars and maintain it. We are not like rich first world countries like Australia, Canada or the US to have cable cars.

  6. faraz

    Nirmala, why would the installation of a cable car system cause UNESCO to de-list the area as a heritage site? If these things are done properly there will be no delisting. Also where in any religous books or preachings does it say that one has to undergo grave hardship and pain to pay respects to any diety? For people like me – who simply cannot go up sri pada due to physical and health conditions (you have seen my girth no?) the installation of aa cable carsystem will open up a whole new vista of opportunity to view the beauthy of our country not previously fully available. Come on, every new thing does not have to be cloaked in controversy. Some change is good, is necessary and must be made. I am sure there were issues whenever something new was made – like the aeroplane, a ship, whatever.. But change is welcome and in this instance take Sri Lanka from the dark ages to modernity. Well done whoever who wants to do this and a big BOOO to those that oppose change.

  7. Sri Babu

    Disgraceful act of unholy group of politicians. Most likely they are intoxicated most of the time. Please leave our holy and hallow places outside your personnel avarices (introduced as economic development in disguise). Some politicians have descended to the lowest level (culturally, morally and spiritually) in this life. May all “devas” protect our holy places from these unholy political thugs- I hope Sunday leader is good enough to publish my opinion.

  8. Lashan Jay

    this is not adams peak
    This is “SRI PADAYA”

  9. sam

    Please do not have cable cars to our beautiful heritage & Sripaada. This will distroy natural beauty as well as the value of the place. this time for all religous leaders stop this motion.

  10. Sinhaya

    what else can you expect from our present day politicos other than working for commission?

  11. ks

    Every efforts will ahve negative as well as positive effects how can mitigate all things in one shot

  12. Dinu

    There will be no harm to environment by installing cable cars. When Kadalama Hotel built there was a huge protest and a Bikku threaten to set fire him-self. That Bikku still living today Kandalama Hotel built no body can finger at it today.

    If my grand mother wishes to worship Sri Pada if this kind of facility is available how easy it can make it. Those who wants to go walking let them have their choice. If a person with disability or having heart problems how come he worship Sri Pada?

    We cannot develop Sri Lanka because always there are some organizations oppose like this without a fair deal. Some people wants to keep our country as is, in a poor status, while they enjoy their lives, traveling developed overseas etc.

    They dont like our nationals develop and enjoy our country.

    Minister please educate these pandiths and implement this project asap.

  13. Lionel Perera

    Sri Lanka is negative for everything and anything

  14. RBCR

    I worked in Sri Lanka in the eighties and climbed Sri Pada three times. It is a challenging yet very rewarding experience. I have seen young, old and the infirm climb this peak. Installing a cable car will ruin the surroundings and the whole ethos of why it must be climbed. Most tourists do not go to Sri Pada, only those with a desire to climb the peak for the experience.

    I have promised my daughter that I will take her to Sri Pada in the near future – she has seen my treasured photos. We will take the traditional route and I will ring the bell once again.

    Come on Sri Lankan people – why do you tolerate these crazy ideas?

  15. Rednaxela

    Haven’t these M.PP. got much better facilities to provide to their electorates??? The sooner they are purged the Country will benefit. Time to retire these silly idiots who do not know their priorities or limits. God Save Sri Lanka!

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