Conditional sand mining permits to be re-issued for Kaluganga | Daily News

Conditional sand mining permits to be re-issued for Kaluganga

Environment Minister Mahinda Amaraweera, Ports Development Minister Rohitha Abeygunawardena, Environment Ministry Secretary Dr. Anil Jasinghe, GSMB Chairman Anura Walpola and Water Supply Board, Irrigation Department, Kalutara District Secretariat and Police officials participated at the meeting. 

Sand mining permits will be re-issued conditionally for a short period of time in the Kaluganga, the Environment Ministry said in a press release on Thursday.

This decision had been taken at a meeting held at the Environment Ministry on Wednesday with the participation of Environment Minister Mahinda Amaraweera, Ports Development Minister Rohitha Abeygunawardena, Environment Ministry Secretary Dr. Anil Jasinghe, GSMB Chairman Anura Walpola, and officials from the Water Supply Board, Irrigation Department, Police and Kalutara District Secretariat.

As per the new decision, a sand survey and an electronic survey of the Kaluganga will be conducted three months after the issuance of the permits, and sand mining will be banned again if it is confirmed that the sea water is mixing with the river water.

Also one family will have the opportunity to dig sand only four days a week and only three cubes of sand can be dumped per person per day. Previously, some families had been issued 4-5 sand mining permits, so only one sand permit will be allowed per family.

It has been proposed to the Presidential Task Force to minimise the taxes levied on sand mining permits for various purposes after they are issued, thereby providing relief to sand miners.

These sand mining activities are regularly monitored by the District Secretariat and the Kalutara Police.

The Geological Survey and Mines Bureau (GSMB) suspended sand mining in Kaluganga in December last year considering the damage to environment and irrigation due to extensive sand mining. As at that time, 246 sand mining permits had been issued for Kaluganga.

The people of Kalutara have faced a drinking water problem due to the intrusion of sea water along the Kalu Ganga during the dry season. Due to this, the supply of drinking water to the people of Kalutara was suspended for several occasions in 2019. An investigation by the GSMB confirmed that the river depth is 12-14 metres at various places in the area due to sand mining.

It was also decided to stop the sand excavation for some time to prevent the river from deepening and to allow time for the sand deposits to re-form.

However, as a result of this decision, a number of families who made a living from sand mining have become helpless and their families have requested for a concessionary solution.

Accordingly, a discussion in this regard was taken at the meeting on Wednesday.

Minister Rohitha Abeygunawardena requested that a grace period be granted as hunger is more important than anything else.

Minister Mahinda Amaraweera pointed out that thousands of people in the Kalutara District would have to face a major drinking water problem in the near future. The Water Supply and Drainage Board and the Irrigation Department also requested that action be taken to prevent a drinking water problem in the Kalutara District.

Finally, it was agreed to issue sand mining permits again on several conditions.

Minister Mahinda Amaraweera requested those involved in sand mining to engage in these activities in a responsible manner.