Uma Oya Multi-Purpose Development Project, Sri Lanka

Uma Oya Multi-Purpose Project aims to generate hydropower and water for industrial activities. However, it is affecting the right to water of the local communities and thanks to the protests it has been temporary suspended

The Uma Oya Multi-Purpose Development Project (UOMDP) consists of the construction of two dams across two main tributaries of Uma Oya at Welimada and Dyraba and in a 23km long trans-basin diversion tunnels with an underground power station at Randeniya. The objectives are the generation of hydropower, irrigation, provision of drinking water and of water for industrial activities. In particular, the major concern is to provide water for the second International Airport in Hambanthota, the Industrial Zone of Hambanthota, the Hambanthota Harbour and the Oil Refinery.
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Basic Data
NameUma Oya Multi-Purpose Development Project, Sri Lanka
CountrySri Lanka
ProvinceUVA province
SiteArea extending from Welimada to Hambanthota, in the Districts of Badulla, Monaragala and Hambanthota
Accuracy of LocationMEDIUM regional level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Water Management
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Water access rights and entitlements
Dams and water distribution conflicts
Interbasin water transfers/transboundary water conflicts
Specific CommoditiesElectricity
Project Details and Actors
Project Details
The major crops cultivated in the areas submerged by the reservoir include paddy, vegetables and potato. A production capacity of 87.4 metric tons will be lost per year due to submersion.
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Project Area (in hectares)10,000
Level of Investment (in USD)529,000,000
Type of PopulationRural
Potential Affected Populationabout 5000 households
Start Date2011
Company Names or State EnterprisesHadish Engineering Company ( from Iran, Islamic Rep.
FARAB Energy and Water Projects (FARAB) from Iran, Islamic Rep. - company engaged in the construction of the infrastructures
Andritz Group from Austria
Relevant government actorsMinistry of irrigation and Water Management

Ministry of Power and Energy

Ceylon Electricity Board

Ministry of Mahaweli Development and Environment

Sri Lankan Former President (Mahinda Rajapaksa)

Sri Lankan President (Maithripala Sirisena)

Central Environmental Authority (CEA)
International and Financial InstitutionsExport and Development Bank of Iran (EDBI) from Iran, Islamic Rep.
Government of Iran from Iran, Islamic Rep. - Sponsor
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersCentre for Enviromental Justice (CEJ)

People’s Alliance for Right to Land Sri Lanka

Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)MEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
When did the mobilization beginIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups MobilizingFarmers
International ejos
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Social movements
Local scientists/professionals
Religious groups
Forms of MobilizationCommunity-based participative research (popular epidemiology studies, etc..)
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Objections to the EIA
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Arguments for the rights of mother nature
Appeals/recourse to economic valuation of the environment
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Soil erosion, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Food insecurity (crop damage), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Noise pollution, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Potential: Air pollution, Other Environmental impacts
OtherIncrease of Human-Elephant conflict due to the loss of habitat of the elephants
Health ImpactsPotential: Accidents, Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Occupational disease and accidents
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession
OtherMost of the areas to be developed as agricultural land under the Uma Oya Multipurpose Development Project are scrublands, grasslands or forests where people are often engaged in animal husbandry. With development of these lands, the areas available for grazing the animals will be limited. In turn, cattle will be taken deeper into the protected forests.

Villages and crop land will be submerged causing loss of livelihood for local communities
Project StatusStopped
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseMigration/displacement
New Environmental Impact Assessment/Study
Project temporarily suspended
Development of AlternativesTo stop the project. Right and proper compensations for displaced people
Do you consider this as a success?Not Sure
Why? Explain briefly.The project has been temporarily suspended, not definitely withdrawn
Sources and Materials

[1] News paper article from 'The Sunday Times': Uma Oya project thumbs nose at the law By Chathuri Dissanayake
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[3] Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka web site. Article: HRCSL monitors Uma Oya Multi-Purpose Project – right to water & other effects of Inhabitants. March 2015
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[4] News paper article published on 'The Sunday times': Uma Oya project: Register your objections, urge environmentalists. 17th February 2013
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[2] Article on, the official Government News portal of Sri Lanka. Work on Uma Oya Multi-Purpose Project Temporarily halted
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Media Links

Reportage by News 1st’s 'Demonstration against Uma Oya multi-purpose project held in Bandarawela'. February 2015
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Other Documents

Work on Uma Oya Multi-Purpose Project
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Uprooting people from the land. Land grabbing, current status and trends in Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka Nature Group, People’s Alliance for Right to Land - PARL. June 2012
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Protest opposing Uma Oya Project
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Meta Information
ContributorCentre for Environmental Justice (Colombo, Sri Lanka) and Paola Camisani (EJOLT team, Barcelona)
Last update21/07/2015