Eco Golf Resort Project in Soragune Forest, Sri Lanka

Forest land grabbed for a golf resort and a hotel. EJOs and monks join hands and celebrate ordination of trees to save the forest and stop destructive touristic projects


Description
Large scale land appropriation is very common in Sri Lanka. Land grabbing activities are carried on by local and international investors for different purposes (intensive monoculture, mines, tourist infrastructures).
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Basic Data
NameEco Golf Resort Project in Soragune Forest, Sri Lanka
CountrySri Lanka
ProvinceBadulla district, UVA province
Site Ranwanguhawa Grama Niladari Division, Dadayampahalagama village
Accuracy of LocationHIGH local level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Tourism Recreation
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Tourism facilities (ski resorts, hotels, marinas)
Deforestation
Land acquisition conflicts
Transport infrastructure networks (roads, railways, hydroways, canals and pipelines)
Specific CommoditiesLand
Tourism services
Water
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsAccording to the Central Environment Authority (CEA), the project provides a massive luxury hotel with a golf ground inclusive of swimming pools, 18-hole golf course, 5,426 rooms, and 922 building units, with gross floor area of 226,350 square meters. [1]
Project Area (in hectares)254
Type of PopulationRural
Potential Affected Population7000 families
Start Date2011
Company Names or State EnterprisesAlpha and Omega Developers (Pvt) Ltd from Sri Lanka
Relevant government actorsBoard of Investment (BoI) of Sri Lanka

Tourist Board of Sri Lanka

Central Environment Authority (CEA)

Department of Irrigation -Sri Lanka-

Department of Wild Life Conservation -Sri Lanka-

Irrigation department
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersCentre for Environmental Justice

Organization for the conservation of Welioya

“Nagena tharu” youth association

Environment Conservation Trust/ Sri Lanka Nature Group

Participatory Alliance for Right to Land
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)MEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
When did the mobilization beginPREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups MobilizingIndigenous groups or traditional communities
International ejos
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Neighbours/citizens/communities
Social movements
Women
Local scientists/professionals
Religious groups
Forms of MobilizationArtistic and creative actions (eg guerilla theatre, murals)
Community-based participative research (popular epidemiology studies, etc..)
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Arguments for the rights of mother nature
Appeals/recourse to economic valuation of the environment
ORDINATION OF TREES: In order to bring the necessary attention, several trees were symbolically ordained on the 1st March 2014 and the forest has been now handed over to the Buddhist monks to save it. Buddhist Monks lead by Venerable Kalupahana Piyarathana Thero issued a 'Sahngaachna" to the gods to save the forest (see picture)
DHARMA YATRA: A Dharma Yathra started at Vihara Maha Devi park on the 27th February 2014 which reached the Forest on the 1st March 2014 for the ordination of the trees. Over 60 buddhist monks and more than 4000 people joined.
Impacts
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Genetic contamination, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity, Other Environmental impacts
Potential: Desertification/Drought, Floods (river, coastal, mudflow), Food insecurity (crop damage), Global warming, Noise pollution, Soil contamination, Soil erosion, Waste overflow, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion
Other1. There are over 7,000 trees that have been marked to be cut down

2. The land marked for the hotel project blocks the elephant corridor between the Uda Walawa National Park and Bogahapittiya sanctuary. If the project proceeds, the elephants would be forced to enter villages resulting in a massive human-elephant conflict.

3. It is prime forest territory, with savannah grasslands inhabited by elephant, bear, sambhur, and other animals. Precious tropical deciduous forestland in Bogahapattiya is threatened by developers. If the golf course project go through, Sri Lanka will lose considerable area of an extremely biodiverse forest.

4. Loss of vegetation caused by deforestation leads to soil erosion and run-off. The silted water ends up in the Weli Oya reservoir, which irrigates more than 3,000 acres of paddy land and feeds 27 small tanks.

5. The forest feeds two streams that enter the Weli Oya, which in turn feeds into the Walawe. After implementing the project these streams will dry off, creating a huge water problem in the area. The entire area is a hugely important watershed for populations downstream. The land selected for the golf course comes right up to where the two streams, including the Demata Ara, join up with the Weli Oya at a small dam. Construction work on the intended golf course will disrupt the Weli Oya irrigation system. Thousands of families depend on agriculture based on the waters of the Weli Oya.

6. In order to maintain the golf course in good condition, water and the fertilizer urea as well as pesticides should be used in large quantities. Aluminum compounds should be applied to the field in order to enhance binding of soil particles and prevent soil erosion. These chemicals will finally accumulate in the tanks irrigated by the Weli Oya Irrigation Project. That will be harmful to existing faunal and floral diversity.

7. An extensive study has been carried out on the vertebrate diversity of the Bogahapattiya-Soragune-Samanala Wewa Forest Area by Mr. L.J. Mendis Wickramasinghe of the Herpetological Foundation of Sri Lanka. The unpublished report, ‘A Vertebrate Faunal Survey of Samanala Wewa, Towards Declaration as a Wildlife National Park’ identifies around 390 species from 5 vertebrate families. Out of that, 59 are endemic to Sri Lanka. Around 40% of the total number of vertebrate species and 19% of the endemic vertebrate species in the country are found in the area, according to the report. A number of extremely rare species and also several new species have been recorded from the forest.
Health ImpactsVisible: Infectious diseases
Potential: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Other Health impacts
OtherChemicals needed for the mantain of the Golf course in good condition will accumulate in the tanks irrigated by the Weli Oya Irrigation Project. Contamination of these tanks causes serious health problems in the community that depends on these tanks for their water requirements. There is a threat of skin diseases and cancer due to the intensive use of pesticides and other agro-chemicals for the management of golf ground.
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Militarization and increased police presence, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession
Potential: Increase in violence and crime, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Social problems (alcoholism, prostitution, etc..), Specific impacts on women, Loss of landscape/sense of place
OtherThe forests cleared are vital catchment areas for Weli Oya. Maintenance of a golf course requires a substantial amount of water which should be obtained either from Weli Oya or groundwater which are the only available sources in the area. Whichever source is utilized by the project, it will have negative impacts on the Weli Oya Irrigation Project and its beneficiaries. This leads to displacement of the farmers using water from the Irrigation Project for cultivation. Further, construction of the hotel and golf course will result in a severe scarcity of potable water in the Dry Zone leading to serious socioeconomic problems
Outcome
Project StatusUnder construction
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCourt decision (undecided)
Strengthening of participation
Under negotiation
Development of AlternativesEjos propose the forest area which included Soragune and Samanalawewa to be declared a national park [7]
Do you consider this as a success?No
Why? Explain briefly.The project is still ongoing
Sources and Materials
Legislations

National Environmental Act No. 47 of 1980
[click to view]

References

[1] Pesticide action network Asia and the Pacific. Building community resistance against land grabbing. Documentation of cases in selected communities in Asia Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Malaysia and the Philippines. p. 35-44. 2013
[click to view]

Links

[6] News papere article from: The Island. Notice issued on Forest Conservator General. By Chitra Weerarathne. 21st February 2012
[click to view]

[3] Web site: People's Alliance for Right to land. Soragune Proposed Golf Course and Hotel
[click to view]

[4] web site: Environment Conservation Trust. Article: Dumbara Forest are we going to keep it?
[click to view]

[2]News paper article from: Ceylontoday. "Hidden Valley" awaits green lighty. Posted by Harini Akmeemana on 23rd January 2012
[click to view]

[5] Hemantha Wintage's personal Blog. Article: Dharmayathra for Forest Conservation. Posted on 26th February 2014 by Hemantha Wintage
[click to view]

[7] News paper Article from: Daily News. Local appeal to President to halt forest hotel project. Posted by Priyanka Kurugala on 5th February 2015
[click to view]

Media Links

Video showing march for Weli Oya Water. Over 5000 farmers joined the march against the proposed Soragune Golf Course which will destroy the Weli Oya catchment
[click to view]

Video showing Weli Oya Trees Ordination
[click to view]

Other Documents

Ordination of Trees Source: http://hemanthawithanage.blogspot.in/
[click to view]

Meta Information
ContributorCentre for Environmental Justice (Colombo, Sri Lanka) and Paola Camisani (EJOLT team, Barcelona)
Last update07/04/2015
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