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)Dams and water distribution conflicts
Water access rights and entitlements
Interbasin water transfers/transboundary water conflicts
Specific CommoditiesElectricity
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsThe 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.

The corresponding loss of revenue amounts to Rs. 2.62 millions.

In an area of 8 hectares of croplands and gardens submerged by the reservoir, vegetables and potato are being cultivated two or three seasons per year. A harvest of 48 metric tons will be lost due to submersion per year. Loss of revenue is Rs. 2.16 million.

The other main reservoir, Dayaraba reservoir, will be built in Atampitiya. This dam is 50m high, 142m long and 6m wide. The capacity of the reservoir is 15.6 hectares. Farmlands of 69 families submerge due to this reservoir. Mainly paddy, vegetables and potato are cultivated in this area. Loss of paddy harvest duet to submersion is 65.44 metric tons per year. Loss of revenue caused by this is Rs. 1.96 millions. Croplands of vegetables and potatoes and gardens spanning an area of 14.51 hectares will be submerged by this reservoir. Loss of vegetable and potato harvest due to submersion is 87 metric tons per year resulting in a loss of Rs. 3.91 million in terms of revenue.

The monetary value of the resources lost due to this project is substantial. The main crops cultivated in the areas subject to submersion due to the two reservoirs are paddy, vegetables and potato. The paddy yield lost due to submersion is 153 metric tons per year which is a loss of Rs. 4.6 million in terms of revenue. Production capacity of vegetables and potatoes is 135 metric tons. This accounts for a loss of revenue of Rupees 6 million.
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
[click to view]

[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]

Media Links

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

Other Documents

Work on Uma Oya Multi-Purpose Project
[click to view]

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]

Protest opposing Uma Oya Project
[click to view]

Meta Information
ContributorCentre for Environmental Justice (Colombo, Sri Lanka) and Paola Camisani (EJOLT team, Barcelona)
Last update21/07/2015