On going cases
Seeppukulama Medawewa CA 87/2017 (Writ)
The history of Irrigation Tanks (Wew) in Sri Lanka dates back to the 5th century BC and it is believed that the 1st tank Panda Wewa located in the Ancient Kingdom of Panduwasnuwara of Sri Lanka was built by King Panduwasdeva in 450BC. This is also believed to be the 1st man made tank in the world. Thereafter, the Kings who ruled the country contributed towards the development of a complex network of tanks in the dry zone of Sri Lanka, some big and some small, mainly for the purposes of irrigation. The North Central Province of Sri Lanka has been called the Wew Bendi Rajje because of its advanced historical network of tanks and tank systems. Many of these tanks are of ancient vintage and are part of the agricultural, cultural, historical, archaeological and social heritage of the Country. Even today, they store and supply water for the agricultural and agro based industries as well as for a large number of other uses, including domestic use. Majority of the people of the North Central Province of Sri Lanka depend on basic agriculture and agro based industries for their livelihood and are dependent on the waters of the Tanks for agriculture as well as other domestic uses.
At present most of the remaining tanks of the dry zone of Sri Lanka face numerous threats such as encroachment of tank reservations which affect the wellbeing of the tank as it results in siltation, water pollution and forest destruction on tank reservations. Eventually, it affects the livelihoods of the farmers. The Seeppukulama, MedaWewa situated in the Anuradhapura District of the North Central Province and the farmers dependent upon it are also facing a similar plight as this tank has been entered and encroached upon. Parts of the tank and its reservation have been filled and converted to other uses including construction and cultivation, some of it permanent – all with drastic effect on the livelihoods of the farmers. The Seeppukulama, Meda Wewa supplies water to approximately 79.5 acres of paddy land and is governed in terms of provisions of the Agrarian Development Act No. 46 of 2000. The key government agency responsible for the protection of small tanks including the Seeppukulama Meda Wewa tank, is the Department of Agrarian Development.
With the view of protecting this heritage, the Public Interest Law Foundation (PILF), a public interest non-governmental organization working inter alia for the protection of environment together with three farmers representing the Seeppukulama Govi Sanvidanaya, the farmer’s Organisation for the purposes of the Agrarian Development Act, filed Writ Application No.87/2017 in the Court of Appeal of Sri Lanka in March 2017. It compelled the relevant government agencies,(including the Department of Agrarian Development) that are under a public duty, to implement the law to protect irrigation tanks, to take appropriate measures, to ensure the protection of the Seeppukulama, Meda Wewa and its surroundings, which includes forests in the tank reservation that is vital for the well-being of the tank. Illegal activities of the encroachers are also being challenged.
The matter is pending in court and will be will be mentioned on 5th February 2024.
Sinharaja CA 527/2015 (Writ)
In 1875, Sinharaja rainforest located in the South- West of Sri Lanka was declared as a reserved forest in terms of Ordinance No.24 of 1848 (an Ordinance to regulate the cutting down and removal of Timber grown on Crown Lands of Sri Lanka). In 1978, Sinharaja was recognized as an International Man and Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO. In 1988, it was declared as a National Heritage and Wilderness Area under the National Heritage and Wilderness Areas Act No.3 of 1988 of Sri Lanka. In the same year it was inscribed on the world heritage list of UNESCO. The inscription as a world heritage was justified as ‘Sinharaja is the last remaining relatively undisturbed remnant of tropical humid evergreen forest in Sri Lanka’.Its endemism is extremely high with at least 139 species of endemic plants and its faunal endemism particularly for birds, mammals and butterflies exceeding 50%. Sinharaja is also an important watershed, as a network of waterways, generating from it feeds two major rivers, Gin Ganga and Kalu Ganga.
In November 2015, the Public Interest Law Foundation (PILF) through media reports became aware that a 600 Kw mini hydropower plant was being built at the Koskulana River in the Kalawana Divisional Secretariat Area in the District of Ratnapura causing adverse impacts on Sinharaja World Heritage site and the river itself. Upon inquiry PILF became aware that the mini hydropower project was right on the boundary of the Sinharaja World Heritage Site.
The Central Environmental Authority (CEA) had approved the project on the submission of an initial environmental examination report (IEE). PILF’s point is that irreversible adverse impacts of the project on Sinharaja, is best carried out through an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and not through IEE. EIA is a more in depth study than an IEE. The National Environmental Act No.47 of 1980 as amended allows public participation in the decision making process of EIAs and this right is not available for IEEs. During investigations it was observed that the Forest Department under whose control the Sinharaja lies had initially objected to the implementation of the project but had subsequently sent a letter of no objection with no reasons for justification. Also, the IEE report has been submitted to the CEA after the period given for submission in the Terms of Reference. The CEA has granted approval for the project within one day after submitting the IEE report. Another issue taken up by PILF was that the alienation of State land was done in violation of the State Lands Ordinance.
PILF filed Writ Application No.527/2015 in the Court of Appeal of Sri Lanka on 23rd December 2015 challenging the approval process of the project in question.
As the Court of Appeal did not grant relief as prayed for in the petition, PILF filed a Special Leave to Appeal Application in the Supreme Court and the matter will be supported on 7th November 2023.
TRADE UNION RIGHTS AND PUBLIC HEALTH
PILF vs. Government Medical Officer’s Association (GMOA) (5366/Spl DC Colombo) Sumedha Senanayake vs. GMOA(5365/Spl DC Colombo)
RIGHTS OF THE DIFFERENTLY –ABLED
PILF vs. The Colombo Municipal Council (CMC) CA 602/00 (Writ) PILF Vs M.S Jayasinghe ,Secretary, Ministry of Justice CA 603/00 (Writ)
SAVING THE KANTALE BUND
PILF Vs. Minister of Transport et al, CA 627/2004 (Writ)
PROTECTING PUBLIC OFFICERS SERVING THE ENVIRONMENTAL CAUSE
H.G.R Dissanayake vs. B.L.V de S Kodituwakku, IGP, et al M.S. Nandana vs. B.L.V de S Kodituwakku, IGP, et al W. N de Silva vs. B.L.V de S Kodituwakku, IGP, et al
FAILURE TO CONSIDER ALTERNATIVES IN THE EIA FOR THE SOUTHERN EXPRESSWAY (SE)
PILF vs. The Road Development Authority et al
FAILURE TO CARRY OUT A FRESH EIA FOR THE SOUTHERN EXPRESSWAY (SE)
Dahanayake et al, vs Wijewickrama et al, 1330/02 and 1447/02 and SC 135/02 and 136/02
FAILURE TO CARRY OUT A FRESH EIA FOR THE SOUTHERN EXPRESSWAY
United Nations Human Rights Commission Communication No. 1331/2004
CASE TO PREVENT LAND ACQUISITIONS FOR EXPRESSWAY
G. Gunadasa and A.A. Sunanda Vs. G.A.A.L.Wijewickrama and four others and a connected application CA 557/2005 (Writ) and CA 939/2005
REGULATING THE DISPOSAL OF GARBAGE BY LOCAL AUTHORITIESREGULATING THE DISPOSAL OF GARBAGE BY LOCAL AUTHORITIES
PILF v CEA CA 601/00 (Writ)
NON APPOINTMENT OF ELECTIONS COMMISSION
PILF vs. AG et al
CONSERVATION OF KNUCKLES FOREST CASE
PILF and other Vs. CEA and eight others (S.C. Special L.A. 165/2007)
REQUESTING THE GOVERNMENT TO ENFORCE REGULATIONS ON AIR EMISSION STANDARDS
PILF Vs. Samastha Lanka Threeroda Ratha Riyadurange Subha Sadhaka Sangamaya and 58 others (S.C.F.R. 68/2007)
ENFORCING THE EIA REGULATIONS
PILF and others Vs.Geological Surveys and Mines Bureau and other CA 459/00 (Writ)
PILF and affected residents of Narankaduwa challenged the industrial mining license issued by the Geological Surveys and Mines Bureau (GSMB) for a quarry, activities of which threatened the surrounding environment and lives and property of the people. The case sought to create a precedent on the EIA procedure applicable to industries that use explosives.
There were several landslides as a result of quarrying activities which led the GMSB to suspend the license issued. GMSB gave an undertaking that no licenses will be issued for further quarrying by Daya Constructions (Pvt) Ltd, the 2nd respondent.
A report was also been issued by the National Building Research Organization (NBRO) setting out procedures for the removal of boulders from the site, which had been deposited after the earth slip. Final terms of settlement were entered between parties based on the said report. The 2nd Respondent agreed amongst other things to restore and rehabilitate the quarry site and its surrounding environment. Progress reports were to be filed in Court. No fresh licences were issued to the said respondent for quarrying at this site.