Updated: July 06, 2021 11:40 AM GMT
The Muthurajawela sanctuary has 102 species of birds. (Photo supplied)
Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith has urged the Sri Lankan government to halt a liquefied natural gas (LNG) power plant project on the Muthurajawela wetlands.
He said the government has a plan to fill nearly 405,000 square meters of the wetlands with sea sand.
"The LNG project will be implemented to obtain electricity for the Colombo Port City, Multipurpose Transport Center, Maritime City Project, etc," said Cardinal Ranjith in Colombo on July 5.
"The rulers should know that the country belongs to the people and the rulers are not owners of the country."
He said he had sent a letter asking the director-general of the Central Environment Authority to refrain from granting approval for the project.
"The devastation would cause severe flooding in the marine environment as well as the villages around Muthurajawela. People in the area would have to keep a boat at home due to flooding in the future," said Cardinal Ranjith.
Priests, nuns and laymen rallied to protect the Muthurajawela sanctuary in 2017 from the dumping of garbage
Muthurajawela has a highly diverse ecosystem with 209 species of animals, 194 species of trees, 40 species of fish, 31 species of reptiles, 102 species of birds and 48 species of butterflies. It has 18 out of 22 mangrove species. It also makes a direct contribution to natural flood control.
Among the limited number of wetlands in the Western Province, Muthurajawela is the largest one.
The Asian Wetland Inventory has named it as one of 41 internationally important wetlands. It was declared a sanctuary in 1996 under the fauna and flora protection ordinance.
Cardinal Ranjith said that 30 days had been given for public comments on the project’s environmental impact assessment (EIA) report during the lockdown period.
"It [the government] seems to be trying to pass it secretly," said Cardinal Ranjith.
Priests, nuns and laymen rallied to protect the Muthurajawela sanctuary in 2017 from the dumping of garbage. Many Catholic churches are located in the area.
Dinusha Nanayakkara, president of the Society of Protecting Muthurajawela and a resident of the area, said some officers say the EIA report is not legal.
Hundreds of houses around the wetland were flooded in the last two months.
Sajeewa Chamikara, a prominent environmentalist, alleged that the EIA report is completely illegal because it has been divided into separate sections.
"The Port City does not have an accurate environmental impact assessment report, so a separate project has to be implemented to get electricity to the Port City project today," said Chamikara.