Minister Mahinda Amaraweera ruled out the possibility of abandoning the Uma Oya Project because 70 per cent work had been completed already.
The minister, who is a member of the Cabinet subcommittee inquiring into this project said the controversial Uma Oya Multipurpose Development Project (UMDP) was the first-ever project undertaken by Iranian contractor FARAB and the machinery used in excavating the 18-kilometer tunnel was not suitable for such work.
“The government cannot abandon this project because nearly 70% of the US$529 million project has been completed with the government meeting 15% of the cost and an US$450 million loan from the Export Development Bank of Iran. But only US$50 million has been paid because of the fall out from the US trade embargo,” he said.
The minister rejecting claims that more than 7,000 houses had been damaged and a similar number of families affected said only 52 houses had been damaged.
“The government believes that the UMDP is a ‘government-made-disaster’ and the cabinet sub committee has recommended that excavation work be suspended to obtain modern excavators to minimize the damage caused to the environment and to ground water resources. Norwegian experts will visit Sri Lanka shortly and there are plans to modernize the excavators as well,” he said. “I visited the Uma Oya project with other members of the committee — Ministers Patali Champika Ranawaka and Wijith Vijayamuni Soyza. We met the residents, the engineers, officials and the clergy in Badulla and Bandarawela and we found that the UMDP has been launched in haphazard manner without a feasibility study or an environment impact assessment done.” (Sandun A Jayasekera)