Monday, February 16, 2015

Stop destroying Athwelthota waterfall for power generation

-->Athwelthota waterfall is a known tourist destination among the local people in Kalutara and Rathnapura district. However, Forest Department and the Central Environmental Authority) CEA) have approved a mini hydro project proposed by Sakura Energy, a company owned by Dhammika Ranathunga. The project will generate on 1.5 MW electricity capacity to sold to the national grid. The water flows along the river will add few more millions to the wealth of Ranathunga family.

However it will destroy the livelihood of local people who depend selling Kitul Honey and Jaggery to the local tourist. 

Beauty of this location was a gem for the Sinhala films industry before. White water flaws from Sinharaja forest along the  Athwelthota river creates a natural pool then falls down creating a waterfall, which is about 12 feet.  The water which falls down disappearing in a deep hole created by the nature makes this fall different to other waterfalls. 

I was born in Morapitya, only 2 km away from the waterfall. I know that there are many legends around this waterfall. One legends says that Prince Veedhiya Bandara who ruled Palindanuwara in 16th century has hide his jewelries and gems inside the water curtain in this water fall. According to our elders, there is a tunnel located little downstream of the waterfall  connect to  Palanda (a small village located near Molkawa) a city developed by Prince Veediye Bandara then. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest generals of Sri Lankan history who fought against the Portuguese.

I know that many people travel 30- 40 km to reach this waterfall for picnic and all local people enjoy it as part of their life. Ironically the Initial Environmental Examination (IEE) does not mention this as a waterfall. This IEE also does not mention this waterfall as a tourist destination. According to the officials, this waterfall does not come within the technical definition of a waterfall.  A waterfall higher than 3 meters will only be considered as a waterfall.  However, all people in the area refer Athwelthota fall as a waterfall.  This is clearly an issue of how we treat our aesthetic beauty in the DEVELOPMENT BUSINESS.

This NATURAL WATER POOL is a bathing spot for the local people. Many people use this for bathing especially during the dry season. Ironically Palindanuwara Pradeshiya Sabha has given the authorization to the project saying that this place is not safe for bathing. Several people have died over the last 50 years in this location. But, how can it be a reason to destroy a natural landscape.  This is the ugly side of the CORRUPT POLITICS.

Watawala waterfall is no more. St Cair had a narrow escape of destruction due to the public pressure.  Lakshapana also facing threats. Number of other small water falls have been killed by the mini hydro industry. We are not ready to loose Athwelthota waterfall for this development. 

Its ours. Government officials have no right to approve such destructive project in the name of development. The so called developers too have no right to destroy our nature, beauty,  livelihood and  history for rupees ad cents.