CEJ Goes to Court Over the Mt. Lavinia Beach Nourishment Project

Weeks after the Mt. Lavinia Beach Nourishment Project was completed, there were reports that a large chunk of sand had been washed away.(Courtesy Twitter)

Kshama Ranawana

The Centre for Environmental Justice (CEJ) has filed a case in the Court of Appeal against the Mt. Lavinia Beach Nourishment project (CA/WRT/128/2020).

The case filed on June 19th  this year is against the Coast Conservation Department (CCD), the Central Environmental Authority (CEA), the Marine Environment Protection Authority (MEPA), the Minister of Environment and the Attorney General regarding “beach pollution and the failed sand filling of the Mount Lavinia beach without following due procedure,’ according to a  media notice on the CEJ’s website.

The CEJ is asking the court to direct the Minister and the CEA to investigate the Mt. Lavinia Beach Nourishment project to determine if the project was carried out in keeping with the provisions of the Coast Conservation, Coastal Resource Management Act. No 57 of 1981 as amended and ‘National Environmental Act as amended and to international conventions and declarations signed or ratified and considered as soft laws of the country and to take actions against the CCD  for any violations or deviations from the said laws.’

The Mt. Lavinia Beach Nourishment Project is part of larger operation to halt erosion along the coastal area from the Calido Beach, Kalutara to Mt. Lavinia at a total cost of Rs. 890 million. According to the CCD, the cost of the Mt.Lavinia portion of the project is Rs. 110 million.   The Mt. Lavinia project was carried out in the early months of this year, during which time the country was under curfew owing to the spread of COVID-19. At that time, environmentalists opposed the work being carried out while a curfew was imposed, preventing public scrutiny.  However, the Coast Conservation Department defended its actions, stating that failure to carry out the work which had been contracted out to a Danish Company within the agreed time period, would have resulted in a heavy penalty.

Within weeks of the completion of the project, it was found that chunks of sand that had been pumped onto the Mt. Lavinia Beach had been washed away.The CCD said at that time, that it was natural as the sand was expected to move northwards  Soon after that, a large amount of plastics had washed ashore on that Beach.

Apart from the Mt. Lavinia Beach Nourishment project the petitioner is simultaneously seeking a directive on several other environmental issues such as single- use plastic and the implementation of the Sri Lanka Coastal Zone and Coastal Resource Management Plan 2018. It is also requesting that the Minister in charge be directed to amend regulations falling under “Gazette Extraordinary Number 772/22 dated 24 June 1993 to include the coastal zone within the scope of the area where an environmental assessment for a prescribed project is a mandatory requirement.”

Hemantha Withanage, Executive Director of CJE explained that they included the other issues pertaining to the environment in the petition as it would save the Courts time to look into all concerns together and to also be financially prudent.

The full list the CEJ is seeking Grant Writ of Mandamus through the petition is listed below:

  1. Directing the Minister to make regulations for minimization or the ban of the use of single-use plastic and to formulate policies, plans or strategies for the prevention of coastal and marine pollution and discharge of waste and other effluents to the ocean;
  1. CCD to take necessary measures to implement the Sri Lanka Coastal Zone and Coastal Resource Management Plan – 2018;
  2. Directing the CCD to give effect to the provisions of the Coast Conservation and Coastal Resource Management Act, No. 57 of 1981 as amended, especially with regard to the provisions of Sections 4 (e), 4(f), 14, 16, 25, and 31 of the said Act;
  3. Directing the CEA to give effect to the provisions of Coast Conservation and Coastal Resource Management Act, No. 57 of 1981 as amended and National Environmental Act as amended and to make necessary regulations to give effect to the existing principles in relation to the protection of the environment as laid down by the apex Courts of the country and to the provisions of the aforesaid statue, especially with regard to the discharge of waste and effluents into the ocean and the protection and conservation of the coastal zone;
  4. Directing the CEA and the Minister to give effect to the provisions of the and National Environmental Act as amended, especially with regard to the provisions of Sections 10 (b) to 10(i), 10(k), 10(l), 10(p), 15, 17, 18, 19, 23C, 23BB, 23H, 24B, 32,  and the protection of the Coastal Zone ; directing the MEPA to give effect to the provisions of the Marine Pollution Prevention Act No. 35 of 2008 and to formulate plans and strategies for the prevention of marine pollution;
  5. Directing the CEA and the Minister to investigate into the said Mt. Lavinia Beach nourishment project and ascertain whether the said project was implemented in accordance with the provisions of the Coast Conservation, Coastal Resource Management Act, No. 57 of 1981 as amended and National Environmental Act as amended and to international conventions and declarations signed or ratified and considered as soft laws of the country and to take actions against the CCD  for any violations or deviations from the said laws as;
  6. One or all of the Respondents take necessary measures in terms of the law to investigate into discharge of waste materials to the ocean which were washed up to several coastal areas and to punish the perpetrators who are responsible for discharge of waste and other effluents into the ocean; and
  7. Directing the Minister  to amend the regulations under Gazette Extraordinary Number 772/22 dated 24 June 1993 to include the coastal zone within the scope of the area where an environmental assessment for a prescribed project is a mandatory requirement.

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