Villagers troubled by the damage to the environment caused by mini-hydro power projects joined environment groups on Monday to take their anger to the doorsteps of the Central Environment Authority.
More than 200 villagers from different parts of Sri Lanka were among the protesters who denounced the projects.
“We decided to protest as a last resort. The remaining waterfalls will be destroyed by upcoming hydro projects, so they have to be stopped as our waterfalls are not only for electricity generation,” said Saman Perera from Rainforest Protectors which was one of the organisers of the protest.
The CEA has now promised to review the projects.
“Based on wrong policies and improper guidelines, the mini-hydro power dams have become an environmental disaster,” Samantha Gunasekara, the former head of the customs biodiversity unit who is also an expert on freshwater fish said at the protest.
Protesters blame agencies such as the Central Environment Authority, Sustainable Energy Authority, and the Ceylon Electricity Board for approving the mini-hydro power plants in environmentally sensitive areas. They allege the CEA is too lenient or that corrupt officials are approving projects.
Gunasekara also points out the need for monitoring mini-hydro power plants now in operation.
Many of the protesters were from Marukanda in Kuruvita, Ratnapura.
Ananda Premasiri from Marukanda, said the mini-hydro plant at Marukanda will affect at least 4 kilometres of the river. He said already there are 3 mini-hydros in Kuruganga and another in an associated waterway within a short distance.
He fears these will adversely impact on the biodiversity of a sanctuary.
Premasiri is not willing to accept any more mini-hydro power plants.
Although district officials have decided to halt the latest project, which began in December, it is continuing with the backing of a high profile political figure in Ratnapura.
The CEA Chairman, Prof Lal Mervin Dharmasiri, said new licenses for mini-hydro projects will not be issued.
Projects approved by the Sustainable Energy Authority be evaluated.
He promised that all the problematic mini-hydro power projects will be evaluated within the next three months.