Jun 30, 2017

This is how Uma Oya swallowed $248 million.

Uma Oya drilled a hole in the heart of the hill country purely for commissions and certainly not for development, CaFFE Executive Director Keerthi Tennakoon said.

Issuing a statement, Tennakoon said politicians and officials who increased the estimate of the multi destruction Uma Oya project by $248 million within 6 months, should be held responsible for the destruction that it has caused.

The first estimate for the Uma Oya project was prepared by a Canadian consultation company named Dublin in 2005-2006. According to that estimate the Uma Oya multipurpose project would cost $ 155 million.

Election platform rhetoric

The Rajapaksa regime were attracted to the Uma Oya project not merely to bring in water from Welimada to Monaragala. This theory was nothing more than a mere election platform statement.

Three years after the Canada estimate, Iran mediated in the Uma Oya project.
During the Iranian Presidents visit to Sri Lanka in April 2008, they were ready to commence the project and the Irrigation Ministry Secretary A.D.S. Gunawardena was entrusted with the powers to sign this agreement on behalf of the government.

However, due to his objections, after the feasibility study and the estimate conditions, a blank agreement was signed during the Iranian President’s visit. At the time the Irrigation Minister was Chamal Rajapaksa.

Estimates kept increasing:

Meanwhile, the Iranian company kept increasing their estimates for the project and at $ 300 million the Sri Lankan government officials as well as the engineers objected claiming that they were against spending anything beyond this amount for the project.

However, the estimate drafted in December 2008, by a group of extremely corrupt Sri Lankan officials and a group calling themselves Iranian experts raised the figure to $ 548 million.

While this estimate was presented to Cabinet for approval, the Ministry Secretary also submitted a report against the drafted estimate.

However, it was agreed that the Sri lankan government would bear 15 % of the cost of the project while the Iranian government would take on 85% of the project cost.
The current estimate however, for the Uma Oya project stands at Rs. 76,320 million.

Political pressure to sign agreement:

the Sri Lankan officials faced pressure to sign this agreement at this point.

As a result the Ministry Secretary A.D.S. Gunawardena resigned from his post on January 9, 2009. In his resignation he cited the reason for his resignation, ‘As this project is costing the government an additional $ 248 million, I cannot place my signature on this agreement and have decided to resign.’

Ivan Silva:

Ivan Silva eventually filled the vacancy left by Gunawardena’s resignation.

Thereafter he commenced the Uma Oya project amidst severe protests by the local specialists, Uva people and environmentalists, against this project.

The project by then was estimated to cost a little less than four times the initial estimate by the Canadians. It was also $ 248 million above the cost agreed upon by the Sri Lankan Irrigation Engineers.

The environment assessment report for the Uma Oya project was received on April 12, 2011.

Major mystery:

The decision by the Central Environmental Authority and the Environmental Ministry to permit the drilling of the Eastern slope of the central hills just before the dawning of the new year, is certainly shrouded by mystery.

Politicians then and now who were involved in this multipurpose project that has brought destruction to the central hills and transformed the once picturesque Bandarawela into a desert, should be held accountable.