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Home » Chinese Projects Continue to Damage Environment and Buddhist Heritage in Sri Lanka

Chinese Projects Continue to Damage Environment and Buddhist Heritage in Sri Lanka

by Bhaskor Maity
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The Sri Maha Bodhi tree which is sacred to the Buddhist population from all over the world is now under threat from the Chinese power plant in Sri Lanka. Ecologists found the pollutants from the China-funded Noracholai Power Station have caused damage to the Bodhi tree as well as to the health of people living in the area.

A huge number of skin, respiratory, and heart diseases are reported in Puttalam district, where this power plant is situated.

There are many such Chinese projects in Sri Lanka, which have been criticised for environmental degradation and health threats.

China’s flagship Belt Road Initiative (BRI) has been under the lens for its negative impact on the environment, especially, in South Asia.

China has built a few projects in Sri Lanka under the BRI. Sri Lanka has already lost its control over the strategically important Hambantota Port to China as it could not fulfil tricky loan repayment conditions.

Also, it is under huge financial stress after Chinese-built Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport failed to attract flights. Now, the Noracholai Power Stationis posing threats to people’s lives. The Chinese projects appear to have negative political, economic, and environmental implications for the island country.

The Noracholai Power Station, which is also known as Lakvijaya Power Plant, releases a large amount of gas, water, and solid waste without required treatment.

This led to the emission of Sulfur, Sulfur dioxide and Nitrogen oxideinto the atmosphere.On reaction, they form acids such as Sulfuric acid and Nitric acid and subsequently reach the clouds through condensation. This has led trees around the power plant to turn yellowish, said Colombo-based Centre for Human Rights and Research (CHR).

Skin diseases in children and even in newborns are reported. Bronchitis, pneumonia, asthma, and emphysema are major health problems the Chinese power plant is causing.

Ecologist Dr. Ranil Senanayake said such dangerous clouds spread up to a radius of 6 to 6.5 km. They travel to human populations and seas, thus posing threat to the ecosystem.

“The unfortunate situation is that these clouds containing toxic acids travel towards Anuradhapura District. The sacred Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi is within the range of these clouds and could pose a threat to it too,” he said.

The Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi tree is said to be the oldest tree in the world and grew from a branch of the bodhi tree in Bodh Gaya. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited the sacred tree when he visited Sri Lanka. Heads of Thailand and Vietnam have received saplings of the bodhi tree, which they planted in their countries.56Buddhist people show great reverence for this tree. Thus, the potential threat to it by pollution has raised concerns. Locals said sea turtles and other marine species have stopped being seen thanks to the high-water withdrawal rate by the Chinese power plant.

Sri Lanka’s National Aquatic Resources, Research and Development Agency raised concerns over the pollution in the sea due to the wastewater release from Noracholai Power Station.

Besides, the fly ash carried by winds is affecting agriculture and polluting water supplies. In 2021, Sri Lanka found contamination in the fertilisers that were imported from China.

There was the presence of organisms, including certain types of harmful bacteria, found Sri Lankan government.

Dr Ajantha De Silva, director general, of the Sri Lankan Department of Agriculture, said “Our tests on the samples showed that the (Chinese) fertiliser was not sterile. We have identified bacteria which are harmful to plants like carrots and potatoes.”10 China had even threatened Sri Lanka with legal action for rejecting the “harmful” fertilisers.

Chinese-built Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport did not only become infamous for being “the world’s emptiest airport” but it put 15,000 acres of fertile land owned by poor farmers at risk.“Look at what they have done to our land, it looks like a giant hedgehog has been here,” said a 70-year-old farmer named Dharamadasa Banda.

Moreover, the highways being built by Chinese companies are causing huge destruction of pristine forests, damaging elephant corridors.Now the toxic pollution from the Noracholai Power Station has posed a great threat to the Buddhist heritage as well as Sri Lankan farmers.

Source : Colombo Gazette

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