Feature Article

Illegal excavation of limestone threatens ecology of Jaffna

[TamilNet, Monday, 21 June 2010, 04:05 GMT]
Threatening the entire groundwater and fragile ecology of Jaffna peninsula, a private Sinhalese company is engaged in the illegal excavation of limestone in the High Security Zone (HSZ) in Valikaamam North while Rajapaksa government refuses to reveal details of this enterprise in the area from Maaviddapuram to Keerimalai where the uprooted residents have not been allowed to resettle for the past twenty years. The indiscriminate excavation of limestone in a 4 sq km area at depths of nearly 40 feet has already caused seepage of sea water and it is feared the area becoming submerged. The underground channels that bring in freshwater to the innumerable aquifers of the peninsula, have an underneath entry into sea adjacent to the locality of the quarries. It is obvious how indiscriminate quarrying and the possibility of seawater coming inside can affect the potable water of the masses.

The Jaffna Peninsula depends largely on the limestone bed for the preservation of rainwater into groundwater.

It is already an alarming news that 30 percent of the groundwater in the peninsula has become saline in recent times due to various reasons.

The hasty reopening of the factory when people are not resettled and not even allowed entry into this High Security Zone raises suspicion on many quarters, on the intention of the government and involved companies, whether the aim is to exploit the resources making use of the situation.

Highly influential persons in the Sri Lankan government are engaged in the current illegal business of excavating limestone, which gives them profits amounting to millions of rupees.

Meanwhile, academic circles in Jaffna blamed big powers such as India for assisting the Sri Lankan state under the pretext of 'development' of Jaffna peninsula without any preconditions involving the considerations of the people of the peninsula. They viewed the so-called 'development assistance' as a move abetting the Sinhala state's continued structural genocide on Eezham Tamils.

Big mounts of excavated limestones are heaped on both sides of the road from Maaviddapuram temple to Keerimalai temple.

A private company, ‘V. V. Karunaratne’ from the South, has installed heavy machinery including crushers in the above militarised HSZ where limestone is dug out, crushed and sent to a cement factory in Galle in South.

Hundreds of Southern Sinhalese labourers are engaged in excavating lime stone in Valikaamam North where its residents had been evicted by SLA, Jaffna MP, Appathurai Vinayagamoorthy who visited the place said in a press meet held in Jaffna 27 May 2010.

The excavated limestone is taken to the cement factories in Galle in ships and via A9 road.

The Kaangkeasanthu'rai (KKS) Cement Factory, which was started in the 1950s, was closed down in the 1980s due to the war.

The reason for starting the factory at that location was the availability of good quality limestone.

In those days when it was functioning it was a common sight that even palmyra palms of the surrounding villages were found with cement dust. Maaviddapuram, Kollangkaladdi and Pannaalai, which catered to the betel leaf requirement of the entire peninsula, had to compromise with the cement-covered crops.

The limestone bed is at its thickest in this stretch of land, reaching up to 50 feet at the nearby coast of Keerimalai. This also happens to be the highest altitude reached by the landscape of the peninsula.

The limestone was quarried for the factory, leaving a narrow margin along the coast. If at any time there is a breach in this margin or a tidal wave occurs, one is sure to find a lagoon in the quarried stretch.

Palaali, KKS, SL military occupied HSZ
The Sri Lankan military occupied High Security Zone (HSZ) along the northern coast of Jaffna peninsula, that evicted a large number of Tamil civilians from their homes for two decades now [Satellite image courtesy: Google Earth]



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