Environmentalists Cry Foul

By Indika Sri Aravinda

Environmental organisations have decided to go to the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) against the Colombo Port City project charging that it will erode the beach and land area around Sri Lanka.

The President of the Nature Group, Thilak Kariyawasam pointed out that reclaiming the sea land from Mount Lavinia to Kalutara and from Wattala to Negombo without carrying out proper feasibility studies may harm Sri Lankan coastal areas.

He said that the Chinese companies that are to carry out this project had stated at a conference with the Nature Group that they would use the soil excavated from the two locations of the sea and the stones from the middle of the country required for the project.

Kariyawasam said that the project needs 12 million of cubic meter of stones and that Sri Lanka can provides only four lakhs of cubic meter of stones. The Central Environmental Authority (CEA) has allowed the project to take place without appraising the relevant environmental feasibility reports, he said.

He added that they have informed several international environmental organizations about the issue since the project may cause heavy erosion of the Sri Lankan inlands.

He said that taking legal step against the project at the ITLOS would cost them very much and many international environmental organisations have agreed to help them out in this regard.

When asked for a comment, the secretary of the Ministry of Environment D.M.U.D Basnayake said that he does not have a clue about the project and the distance of the land that is going to be reclaimed for the project.

He, however, said that he can confirm that the stones needed for the project would be taken from the country itself.

The project would require reclaiming 233 hectares offshore land and it would be taken from the Galle Face to Wellawatta coastal areas.

3 Comments for “Environmentalists Cry Foul”

  1. Sangaralingham

    Let a group of intellectual with geology geography soil science environmental knowledge analyse this and come to a definite conclusions before a foreign company who has no self intrest in the country not only the environment as well as the living status of people living in those areas. Let us use our heads and heart before start messing the environment ecology of the coastal areas

  2. Dulip Jayawardena Retired Economic Affairs Officer United Nations ESCAP

    it is not possible for Environmental Groups to make representation to the International Tribunal of the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) as only sovereign states could file cases involving any overlapping claims on maritime boundaries for example the continental shelf , extended continental shelf beyond 350 nautical miles or the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) or under Part XII Protection and Preservation of the Marine Environment especially Article 194 (Measures to Prevent and control Pollution of the marine Environment). These provisions will apply only to adjoining maritime boundaries of sovereign states for example between India and Sri Lanka.The intended pollution form a proposed series of nuclear power stations and those already commissioned by India will lead to pollution across our maritime boundary in the Gulf of Mannar to our waters will have have a adverse effect on our coastal environment and it is justified if decided after carrying out EIAs to go to ITLOS in this case for arbitration
    Since the Island that is being constructed by reclaiming the sea is connected to the land, China if it owns a part of this reclaimed Island will not have any legal provision to extend the maritime boundaries such as territorial sea , contiguous zone , or Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) see( Part VIII Regime of Islands Article 121}
    .However according to newspaper reports the Chinese are planning to create an artificial Island off Hambantota and in this case if the ownership is transferred to China, they will have legal jurisdiction to demarcate separate maritime boundaries and even an EEZ
    .The problems created in the East China Sea by such uninhabited islands caused clashes between the Security Forces of Japan and China.Again in the same area clashes were noted between China and Viet Nam over another uninhabited island .Further, the South China Sea is another flash point with 5 countries claiming the Sprately and Paracel Islands namely China , Malaysia , Indonesia Brunei Darusalam and Viet Nam. However paragraph 3 of Article 121 specifically state that “Rocks which cannot sustain human habitation or economic life of heir own shall have no EEZ or continental shelf.
    It is interesting to note that some of these countries bordering the South China Seas have established heir military presence by constructing military infrastructure to get over this requirement.
    If China established its ownership of any off shore island created by reclaiming the sea it will have claims for t the continental shelf and a EEZ as these reclaimed islands will have habitation and other infrastructure for people for recreation etc . Accordingly this will pose a serious security problem in the South Indian Ocean as these reclaimed land is detached from the mainland.It is recommended that even the land to be reclaimed form the sea at Hambantota have a land bridge to the mainland to avoid any future complications
    I further recommend that local experts on the Law of the Sea and ITLOS be contacted and obtain their advise before agreeing on any ownership of the reclaimed land from the sea without any land bridge to the mainland.

  3. G.M.Jayawardena

    Where those environmentalists for the projects reclaimed land from sea in dubai and in Qatar? Why is this double standard way of acting?

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