Hydroelectric power plant project threatens World Heritage site

COLOMBO (New 1st); An area rich in biodiversity not far from the Knuckles mountain range in the central highlands of Sri Lanka, which is also a UNESCO World Heritage site, is in danger of being destroyed due to the construction project of a hydroelectric power station, damming the picturesque Heel Oya.

“It also poses a threat to the famous Kalu Diya Pokuna, loosely translated as the black water pond,” local villagers said.

Heel Oya was identified as a tourist themed village in 2015 by Sri Lanka Tourism (annual report to Parliament), and rice cultivation remains the main livelihood for people in the region.

Heel Oya provides water for the daily needs of its villagers as well as for agricultural activities.

However, the villagers said the authorities wanted to implement the proposed hydropower plant at Kalu Diya Pokuna, the water source of Heel Oya.

The villagers point out that the trees in the forest are being cut down for the project, threatening the ecosystem irreparably.

As a result, the villages of Kurukohogama, Hakmana, South Doraliyadda, Maligawela and Watagala will also be severely affected.

Environmental groups stress that development work at a World Heritage site should only be carried out on the advice and supervision of the World Heritage Committee.

Meanwhile, Medadumbara Divisional Secretary Mangala Wickramarachchi said that according to the government’s national policy, there is a demand for a small hydropower plant near Heel Oya – Kalu Diya Pokuna.

However, he added that a field visit will take place on October 27, to examine the protests and that a discussion will take place between contractors, officials and residents of the village about the construction concerned.

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