Sri Lanka Mega-development, The Moragahakanda Dam
The Problem: The new Moragahankanda dam project will hugely impact wildlife throughout Central Sri Lanka. Loss of "The Gathering" at Minneriya is one result. To meet these challenges, SavingGanesh.org is proposing "10% for Wildlife." This portion of water, as well as funds from electricity sales must be used for country-wide restoration of wildlife habitat. This is an opportunity to deliver water to restored forest reservoir tanks. Elephants need a "water right" before one ounce of water is given to another paddy field. This is the only hope for off-setting the huge impacts from the lost recessional grasslands at Minneriya. Funding for restoration of forest "wildlife-only" tanks shall be provided by a share of electricity sales. There's a lot of ground to be made up due to the unmitigated impacts upon elephants from mega-development projects of the past 5 years.
History: Current President, Maithripala Sirisena, is a staunch supporter of the Dam’s development, as he originated the idea while he was the Minister of Mahawwli Development. His career began when he was appointed Deputy Minister of Irrigation by Chandrika Kumaratunga in 1994. In 1997 President Kumaratunga promoted him to the Cabinet, where he was appointed Minister of Mahaweli Development. He began important irrigation projects such as Moragahakanda, Kalu and Walawe rivers.
What’s the Solution ?
10% for Wildlife. We will promote and the allocation of 10% of the dam’s water to the benefit of wildlife. Having such resources may undue much of the damage done by other mega-projects which were undertaken by the former president, such as the airport, marina, Yala fencing projects and loss of chena-lands forage. Like those other projects, the dam’s environmental mitigation measures were inadequate to begin with, and even then, will likely go unimplemented. At this late stage it is difficult be specific about which tanks should receive a specific amount of water - instead we are promoting a overarching “10% for wildlife.” Until the tanks are identified and repaired, if necessary, 10% of the volume of water will be set aside for this purpose. Also, 1% of the gross proceeds or 10% of the net from the dam's income (whichever is greater) shall go to building and maintaining the tanks and their related habitats (habitat enrichment).
We can't stop the dam, but we can create a game changing public campaign around this concept.
Dam Lies and Propaganda: The government, the press, and even Wikipedia continue to report that the energy benefits of the hydroelectricity provided by the dam will be $2 billion per year. FACT: the installed 25MW generator running at full capacity 24/7 can only generate $11 million in annual income (even given generous wholesale energy value of .05 per kWh). At full capacity the entire hydropower output of Sri Lanka, from all dams, is currently about $81 million per year. Even the giant Hoover Dam in Arizona provides, at the most, $135 million in annual energy value. The $2 billion (US$) valuation has continued to be promoted in all the propaganda, while the true electricity value is many magnitudes less.
Paddylands.Progaganda It’s often stated that the dam will provide irrigation water facilities to 81,422 ha in the Dry Zone. These dry zone areas are often used by elephants (Chenalands) and will now be totally unavailable to the elephants. Historically, these lands have been crucial for the survival of the elephants in the wild, as they come to those fields post-harvest and eat the leftovers. Being converted to year-round use, will likely result in them being permanently fenced off. In addition, several thousand new acres will be under cultivation. This year saw the government buying and storing record amounts of rice in order to subsidize farmers and rice prices. More rice will only add to this problem. Further, shouldn’t Sri Lanka try to move away from complete reliance upon its agrarian economy and look toward other industries and services, including tourism?