River conservation zones to be designated
BY THAMEENAH RAZEEK
In a bid to remove those who are currently occupying lands along river banks, the Environment Ministry has decided to launch a programme to designate river conservation zones immediately.
When the programme is implemented, lands next to river banks will not be allowed to be used for any construction or cultivation up to at least 150 metres from a river and steps will also be taken to relocate people living along river basins to alternative locations. Environment Minister Mahinda Amaraweera said if not, the entire river system risks being destroyed in a few years, due to the misuse of river water.
“The extent of river basins in our country is 10 to 10,000 square metres. In addition to this river system, our country also has a large spring system. About 1,544 water sources have been identified in the Nuwara Eliya District, 204 in the Kandy District, 19 in the Kurunegala District, 210 in the Moneragala District, and 2 in the Matale District.” Amaraweera said the designation of these protected areas is also necessary to protect water sources.
“Various individuals have been occupying lands near rivers for cultivation. As a result, the banks of the river have been severely damaged and it has been revealed that the chances of the banks breaking and damaging public lives as well as property during floods are increasing,” he said. Amaraweera instructed the Central Environmental Authority (CEA) to pay close attention to this situation.
The Minister instructed that river conservation zones be designated for all rivers in the country under the Surakimu Ganga programme implemented by the Ministry of Environment.
Amaraweera reiterated that there are 103 rivers in our river system and most of the rivers start in the Central Highlands and the rest start in different parts of the country. On the instructions of Amaraweera, the CEA has collected information on all rivers in the country and it appears that various individuals are engaged in illegal activities to destroy river basins and according to the video evidence collected by the CEA there are more than 10,700 effluents dumped into rivers.