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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
Name of conflict:Uma Oya Multi-Purpose Development Project, Sri Lanka
Country:Sri Lanka
State or province:UVA province
Location of conflict:Area 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 commodities:Electricity
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:10,000
Level of Investment:529,000,000
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:about 5000 households
Start of the conflict:2011
Company names or state enterprises:Hadish 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 actors:Ministry 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 Finance InstitutionsExport and Development Bank of Iran (EDBI) from Iran, Islamic Rep.
Government of Iran from Iran, Islamic Rep. - Sponsor
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Centre for Enviromental Justice (CEJ)
People’s Alliance for Right to Land Sri Lanka
Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
International ejos
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Social movements
Local scientists/professionals
Religious groups
Forms of mobilization:Community-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
Other Environmental impactsIncrease 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-economical ImpactsVisible: Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession
Other socio-economic impactsMost 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
Conflict outcome / response:Migration/displacement
New Environmental Impact Assessment/Study
Project temporarily suspended
Development of alternatives:To stop the project. Right and proper compensations for displaced people
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:The project has been temporarily suspended, not definitely withdrawn
Sources & Materials
Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

[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
[click to view]

[4] News paper article published on 'The Sunday times': Uma Oya project: Register your objections, urge environmentalists. 17th February 2013
[click to view]

[2] Article on, the official Government News portal of Sri Lanka. Work on Uma Oya Multi-Purpose Project Temporarily halted
[click to view]

[1] News paper article from 'The Sunday Times': Uma Oya project thumbs nose at the law By Chathuri Dissanayake
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Reportage by News 1st’s 'Demonstration against Uma Oya multi-purpose project held in Bandarawela'. February 2015
[click to view]

Other documents

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
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:Centre for Environmental Justice (Colombo, Sri Lanka) and Paola Camisani (EJOLT team, Barcelona)
Last update21/07/2015
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