The Sunday Leader

Re-check Of Water Samples Prove Cancer Causing Chemicals

  • Kelani  water  contamination issue

by Hafsa Sabry

Coca Cola Beverages contaminated the Kelani river

It has been more than a month since the Coca-Cola Beverages Sri Lanka (CCBSL) contaminated the Kelani River water with 4-methylimidazole, a chemical that causes cancer. It was reported at the beginning that the water was contaminated by only diesel following a leakage of a fuel pipe line of the factory, but an Indian laboratory Report claimed the availability of 4-methylimidazole which is a highly dangerous chemical in the source of drinking water.

The report of the checked test samples which was sent to the Deputy Director of the Maharagama Cancer Hospital Vasantha Dissanayake to be re-examined, confirmed that the Kelani River water was contaminated by 4-methylimidazole, a cancer causing chemical.

However, the contaminated water was said to be purified and supplied to Colombo and the surrounding areas with the National Water Supply and Drainage Board (NWSDB) spending more than 30 million out of public funds which have not been reimbursed by the CCBSL, claimed the environmentalists.

Nevertheless, the NWSDB has no legal authorisation to claim the expenses incurred by the CCBSL as it is the responsibility of Central Environmental Authority (CEA) to claim the compensation from the factory. The expenses of the NWSDB should be compensated by the CCBSL through CEA claims the environmentalists.



Even though, the factory has promised to reimburse the expenses incurred by the Marine Environment Protection Authority (MEPA), CEA and NWSDB, the total amount of money spent has not yet been compensated which raises the question as to why the CEA has not taken any action against it while renewing the Environmental Protection License (EPL) and permitting them to continue their function.

They have already re-issued the EPL to the CCBSL before receiving the compensation. Hence, it is a question why the relevant authorities seem to be irresponsible of their given duties.

However, the question also rose against the factory in question as to why the CCBSL that was accused of contaminating the Kelani River water with a high risk level of chemical, did not give a straight answer while they respond through an advertisement company that helps to promote their business.

“Even if their company has been highlighted in the media many a times about their irresponsibility and about the violation of Environmental law they did not respond to the allegations directly,” claimed the environmentalists.

Nevertheless, environmentalists stress the need to question why the CEA and the NWSDB were late in taking action. They also lodged a complaint to the Human Rights Council Sri Lanka (HCRSL) with regards to the failure of legal actions which should be taken by the relevant authorities.

The Environmental Conservation Trust (ECT) and the Transparency International Sri Lanka (TISL), a National Chapter of Transparency International (TI), the leading global movement against corruption joined together in drafting a petition against the factory while the lawyer in the TISL Jagath Liyanarachchi drafted the petition.

“NWSDB and the CEA could have taken action by filing a case against them right after the inspection reports revealed the availability of the Chemical in the drinking water”, claimed the Director of ECT Sajeewa Chamikara.


Failed to file case

The NWSDB also failed to file case against the CCBSL for contaminating the Kelani River which is said to be the only source of water for Colombo and many other areas, while the CEA failed to take legal action against the factory that operated violating the National Environmental Act of Sri Lanka.

In the meantime, “the Biyagama Police also failed to take legal action according to the criminal act against the factory hence the petition that was submitted to the HCRSL included their failure for the action too,” said Sajeewa.

The relevant authorities will be ordered to assess the total amount of damage caused by the company such as the loss for the NWSDB to purify the contaminated water and the CEA to test the contaminated water samples following a court order if there is a case against it.

The company in question to cover up all these reports and legal actions has negotiated a deal to reimburse the expenses incurred by the government authorities as to prevent any future legal actions against the company claims the Environmentalists in the country.

“It will tarnish the image of an international company in Sri Lanka if the relevant authorities file case against it hence they negotiated between themselves to compensate the money whereas it should be done through the courts”, said Sajeewa.


Failure to abide

According to the sources, the CCBSL’s failure to abide by the environment rules and regulations while discharging highly poisonous chemical water without treating them caused the NWSDB to undergo Amabatale water treatment plant’s biggest ever cleaning process in its history.

However, when The Sunday Leader contacted the Chairman of the NWSDB K.A. Ansar said that the total amount of expense around 131 million spent by the NWSDB for purifying process was reimbursed by the CCBSL last Thursday, more than three weeks after the incident.

NWSDB also claimed that the General Manager of the NWSDB have already written to the Attorney General’s (AG) department to seek advice to clarify whether there is a possibility of filing a case against the company as the authorisation of filing a case against it lies on the hands of the CEA.


Investigations underway 

The Sunday Leader questioned the CEA about their legal actions against the CCBSL so far, responding to the questions the chairman of the CEA ,Prof. Dharmasiri R.K. Lal Mervin said “NWSDB, CEA and the Public Health Inspectors (PHI) of the area work as a team over the contamination of the Kelani River water by the CCBSL, hence, the NWSDB has already lodged a complaint to the Biyagama police station against the CCBSL for contaminating the Kelani River water, and the investigations are underway”.

The CEA cancelled the EPL licence according to the environmental national act as soon as the inspections were positive with the effluence of the CCBSL in the river water and re-issued them when it was purified and were at the level of national standards of water treatment, “therefore we have taken the possible legal action against the company,” he added.


Compensation reimbursed

He also claimed that the compensation from CCBSL has been reimbursed with 1.6 million to MEPA, 1.5 million to CEA adding that they deny the accusations completely.

However, the CEA claimed that they look forward to file a case against the company following the submission of the assessment report by Sri Jayewardenepura University Environmental Economist over the environmental damage caused by the CCBSL adding that the report will be submitted within three weeks.

5 Comments for “Re-check Of Water Samples Prove Cancer Causing Chemicals”

  1. sarath

    Government should take action against the country manager of coca cola as he was big talker thank putting the right produce in place to track hazard and monitor the process. but you find 100 of management meetings for a day in these type companies to improve efficiency and just to show of that ,the school they come from and to prepare some “Sobana ” reports to impress management . This is very common management practice in Sri Lanka .

  2. So, who has been fooling whom. The escape clauses to many areas of the law , after been framed , initially, is only divulged to the few connected with the issue. This approach to the issue is absurd, where, in other countries it is not only the cost of but also a heavy fine is imposed and without all this poppy-cock to and fro debate.

  3. DH

    What about the consumers, who used the water? If there are after effects of the contamination who bear the cost?

  4. easwaran

    Not only coca cola. Check all the companies adding waste water to the Kelani River. Including the Biyagama Zone and Awissawella Zone.

  5. How do you expect a government officer to have a super life style, which they are now having, with such a meagre salary, and when the politicians are amassing wealth by any means, . We are discovering , day after day, the intrigue and deception that has is put into practice by them. It has been like a Sunami of crime and fraud. And they are seen visiting their places of worship constantly with cameras focusing on them and doing charity.

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