Port City, Wilpattu, Uma Oya, Yan Oya, Dole banana, Rathupaswela, Mini hydro and many other environmental controversies are roaming on main media, social media, environmental circles, political stage and even inside the close rooms of the government authorities at national and divisional level. The agencies and the political authorities that should be giving solutions to these problems play mediocre rather than resolving burning environmental controversies. The Central Environmental Authority lost its credibility over the past decade and have much weaker position in fulfilling its duties.
Politicizing the CEA over the last two decades is a great environmental disaster in Sri Lanka. This happen when Minister Champika Ranawaka appointed Mr. Udaya Gammanpila, a politician as the CEA Chairperson. Since then most Chaipersons and some time even the Director General have appointed with no environmental background but to play the role which the political authority ask them to play. While some of the actions taken are good, often they made wrong environmental decision to satisfy the political leadership.
CEA was not a corrupted agency until very recent. But it is one of the corrupted agency now. The officers unofficially produce the EIA/IEEs and approve them later. We have heard that some of the waterfalls have been removed from the Waterfalls list in order to allow damming them for mini hydro project. Some of the projects that need to go through the EIAs are requested to do an IEEs, so that they can avoid public commenting period. Some industries get the EPL without much hassle. EIA technical committees even comprise EIA consultants. It has failed to manage the E-waste, or even garbage problem. Likewise CEA has failed to arrest the natural resources destruction, environmental pollution and failed conservation of the nature.
Rathupaswela incident happen due to the lack of a timely response to the public voice. CEA failed to stop environmental disaster in Uma Oya since the known technical problems were not addressed in the approval stage. Moragahakanda, Yan Oya projects also happened since the CEA was serving the political needs rather than environmental conservation as one of the mandate given by the National Environmental Act.
CEA is not the only agency responsible for current environmental controversies in Sri Lanka. Forest Department, Wildlife Department and number of other agencies with environmental conservation as part of its mandate are responsible for the current crisis. But CEA is the main agency among them whose mandate is managing the environment in coordination with others.CEA has failed to listen to the environmental community for a long time.
Ministry of Environment and the CEA currently comes under the President himself. Therefore everyone thinks that environmental conservation is a top priority and it is safe. But many wrong environmental decisions have taken under this leadership. Some says Prime Minister is responsible for those bad decisions. However, the CEA is the right body to advise the top political leadership on environment. If they are ignorant or unskilled, then we cannot blame the politicians.
Sri Lanka’s much of the natural wealth which can decide the future of Sri Lanka is in the hands of the CEA. Foreign industrial investments certainly are not our future. Undoubtedly, we need more straight environmental leadership to fulfil the CEAs mandate. Putting right people in the conservation hot seats and act as a real conservation agency is a need of the day.(END)