Deduru Oya, at the brim of total destruction – wake up Good Governance

Everybody knows that water is the essential resource in life. Everybody accepts the fact that everything is binned with water. However it is disappointing to realize the water which creates life could be used for the life’s destruction. A similar destruction have occurred for the lower part of the Deduru Oya River, the heart of the Wayamba people an immediate neighbor fulfilled all needs of the Wayamba people. Clear water which flowed over the Deduru Oya sometimes back has now become sluggish and pale. In order to know the truth we made a fact finding mission to the lower part of the Deduru Oya and able to meet and question few villagers.

The objective of us is to return the life which they started with Deduru Oya and this letter has been dedicated for that task. Water in the Deduru oya and the well water of the villagers in the suburbs have become brackish due to the whopping sand mining. The river bank has been severely plowed. Although there was a prohibition from the Mines Bureau and Geological Center still the sand mining is continuing. For the past three to four years due to the water getting contaminated people living around Deduru Oya is falling sick more often than before.

The villagers complain the pollution is due to the waste discharged by a coir factory operated in the Nikaweratiya area. The villagers allege it is due to the release of the chemical Nitrate which has caused hindrance to the environment. This pollution has been reported by The Central Environment Authority when the officers of the institution made an observation trip in 2013. The report states that due to the reduction of oxygen, the Duduru Oya water has been contaminated and there is a danger of destruction to the aquatic organisms.

When we were walking further down Deduru Oya we were able to listen to the catastrophe of Asili Pathirana who was a resident of a village.

“I came to this village in 1957, from then we bathed and drank from Deduru Oya. In 1963 we made a well in our garden. However due to the sand mine the water in the well became salty. From last three years due to the heavy stink we cannot bathe in the river. People say that it is due to the factory situated; however we are walking many kilometers to fetch drinking water. We urge the authorities to give us a solution soon.

S.M.A.P Manchanayake a resident of the Molaeliya villagage spoke to us and said “there is a very big beach in the Deduru Oya and it has larger storage of water. We call Deduru Oya the heart of the Wayamba province. Earlier many wild elephants and other animals use to take bath but the water did not become mud, not affected by moss and no discolor but now Deduru Oya is dying. By now a situation has risen that people cannot step inside Deduru Oya. When we take a bath the body starts to scratch. Earlier we took water for drinking purpose and by now we have to walk many kilometers to fetch water.

Some days the water in the Deduru oya has a corrosion taste and affected by large amount of moss. There is large thick black dirt floating in certain areas we do not know what they are unless experimented. We came to know there is a big coir factory adjoining the Deduru Oya near the Nikaweratiya area. According to reports the factory takes 800,000 liters of water to wash the coir and add chemicals and discharge the waste water onto the Deduru Oya.

In a short time the waters in the Deduru Oya cannot be used for any purpose whatsoever. The beautiful Deduru Oya has made a garbage dump”
Chamindalal a resident of Thisogama told us

“From our birth we were living with this river. We used the river water without any problem but now we cannot take water for any purpose. There is a layer of moss above the water, earlier there was no such a situation”

“Now the Deduru oya water has a foul smell and it was not like this before. There is a coir company started near the river and when the water decrease there is foul smell similar to the smell of retting coir. We take water from digging a pit in the earth. This problem has occurred for the last three to four years. We have to suffer a lot to take the water from the river. We urge the authorities to give us a solution”
M.J. Dias a resident of Bangadeniya gave us his comment

“There is a massive hindrance committed to the Deduru Oya due to sand mining. Therefore all sand mining activities was made illegal and prohibited and the ban is still active. The main responsibility lies with the director of the Wayamba province Environment Authority but he did not fulfill his duties”

An army soldier Sisira Kumara told about the catastrophe made to the Deduru Oya

Many years before, the Deduru Oya was a beautiful river. We dig the beach and take pure drinking water. However now we cannot drink the water because it has turned black color. Due to the illegal sand mining racket the Deduru Oya has become wide. There is a big coir factory in Nikaweratiya and we heard the waste water has been discharged to the Deduru Oya. I think the Wayamba Environment Authority is not active because they do not take any credible steps to prevent this. Due to this people fall sick and inflicted with skin diseases and the fish in the Deduru Oya dies. I urge the concerned officers to open their eyes and see the destruction”

We inquired about the situation with the director of Environment Protection Authority and environmentalist Sajeewa Chamikara, he said the following.

This factory discharge waste water to the Deduru Oya without refinement. This is a company who make coir products. This company export coir to Norway after removing the sodium and potassium from the raw materials within Sri Lanka. The company use calcium nitrate to remove these sodium and potassium. Following the use of this calcium nitrate the company discharges the waste directly to the environment. The company uses three methods to dispose these chemicals. First they directly discharge the waste water to the Deduru Oya stealthily in the night time. Second they discharge these to the rain water during raining. Third they discharge these waste waters to the roads joining the factory pretending to reduce the dust. However they release these waste water they are polluting the environment and the water. This has now become a big catastrophe contaminating the drinking water. The area is becoming similar to Rathupaswala. Apart this dust, micro particle of coir spreading to the air has caused to spread respiratory ailments to the villagers.

This factory is approved by the Investment Board. This factory was started in 2008 with the environment protection certificate. What is confusing is who has given an environment protection license to this factory which pollutes the environment. All these irregularities are done by the Wayamba Environment authority. This authority is one of the most corrupted institutions in Sri Lanka. The Wayamba Environment Authority has no right to issue an environment protection license. This has been issued with the recommendation of the Central environmental Authority.
The company difficult to get recommendations from the Central Environment Authority approaches the Wayamba environmental Authority which is a corrupt provincial body and obtains these illegal references. The factory is operated violating the clause 98 of the criminal code provision and violating the 261 and 270 clause of the penal code. Any public or private institution cannot discharge its waste to common rivulets. Meantime the factory is violating the national environment and investment board bills and conducting this massive environment pollution. However the Wayamba Environment Authority has given a legal authority for these illegal institutions.

Amid the large allegations of the villagers around the Deduru Oya we contacted the director of the Coir factory Sandeeptha Gamlath, the latter denied all the allegations and gave us the following answer.

People who are alleging are not the people living in those villages, they are outsiders

Although they say they are the people from the village but they are not. The people who are against us only raise their voice. Our factory is the largest factory in this area. We cannot continue polluting the environment and do this. We are not clear of what is the environment report they are referring to. We have taken an environment protection certificate.
Quantity of water taken for a day
We cannot precisely say how many liters of waters taken for a day. We have been given permission to take 8000 cubic meters of flowing waters. However we don’t take that much, there are days it is reduced. There are days we take 3000 to 4000 cubic meters.
Discharging of waters
We have a 50 acre cultivation land. There are special crops and ordinary crops grown in that. We provide this waste water for the cultivation. The water contains components contained in the coconut tree. Sometimes these waters are not enough for these crops.
Dropping water to the road

Since there are vehicles going in and out from our factory and due to dust we drop water to the road. We don’t discharge waste water to the road. We drop waters to the road taken from the Deduru Oya or from the well. We drop water to wet the roads due to dust.
These rumors are false, you can come and see

You can come and see whether the water in the Deduru Oya falling down our factory is discolored. There isn’t anything as such has happened. That is a complete false, we deny everything.

However if anybody say anything there is a problem. We have to search the cause for this environment pollution around Deduru Oya. We inquired from the director of the Wayamba environment authority Saman Senanayake, the latter gave us the following reply.
“The Wayamba Environment Authority has given a license to the said factory to conduct its business. Meantime a group of people has gone to the courts complaining the factory is polluting the environment. Currently the case is under inquiry. We continuously search whether this factory is releasing poisonous components to the Deduru Oya. We say the factory is not releasing any such poisons to the river. If they are discharging we don’t give such license.

I deny the allegations that the water in the Deduru oya has become discolored, stinking and there is sludge in the river. We cannot stop people complaining to factories. When you come and see the place you can understand. We have never observed that something as such has happened. Water in the Deduru Oya is mud colored we cannot stop that, it is not blue. If this factory is discharging waste water the river becomes polluted. There isn’t anything such this happening. There are “liesy meters” fixed in the river boundaries to monitor whether the factories are releasing waste materials or any liquids to the river but we never came across such irregularity.

The allegation of sand mining around Deduru Oya is a true story. This should be investigated by the Geology and Mines Bureau.
We took a Supreme Court decision against sand mining in the Deduru Oya. The order is now in process. We are vigilant about this and we never give license to sand mining.

In the countries around the world, Sri Lanka is a country where there is a high biodiversity. Sri Lanka is named as a bio diversity hot zone. Although there is a high biodiversity the environment hindrance is also high.

Human existence is based on the nature’s existence. It is not a good attitude when people destroy the nature and develop themselves. Before establishing such foreign companies it is best to inquire the operations of such multinational companies before developing the country and acquire foreign exchange.

Strong steps should be taken against people who destroy the nature which lives with us from our birth to death. Due to the destruction of Deduru Oya many people in the villagers has become destitute. If a person is acquiring a profit by destroying the people’s living he or she should be able to think once again is that a true profit gained.

Meantime public workers who take salaries from the public tax money should always represent the people but not to the wellbeing of any third party. If a government officer due to the greediness of money and bribe try to hide the truth and promote the false there is no pardon for him in this world.

The current environment minister is the President. Recently he told that he took over the environment ministry to stop the hindrance happening to the environment. Therefore it is a good time to inquire into the said irregularity and punish the offenders. However people expect a clear Deduru Oya free of pollution which they saw in the past. We wait and see how the relevant authorities fulfill their responsibility to secure a clear Deduru Oya.

Translated by Ali asghar

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