By Sulochana Ramiah Mohan
Amidst controversies surrounding the dredging of the Tissa Wewa, using a Chinese company and its workers, without obtaining a proper permit from the Department of Archaeology, Director General of Debarment of Archaeology Prof. Anura Manatunga told Ceylon Today on Friday (9) that they have decided to grant permission to dredge the Tank as the Archaeological Impact Assessment (AIA) report states that there has been no harm or damage caused to the tank during the dredging that was conducted recently.
“We are issuing the permit to dredge and we will warn the Irrigation Department not to ignore obtaining permission in the future before engaging in archaeologically important sites,” he added. He said he personally visited the tank and checked with those who did the report and the AIA report is clear that the tank can be dredged.
On the question what he would do to those who did not obtain permission prior to the dredging that occurred recently by the company that jointly operated with the Chinese, he said “we will only warn them.”
It was only on 30 June that the Director General had ordered an AIA on the tank and on the 6 July, the AIA report was ready by the four experts who were assigned to do it. Prof. Manatunga said the report is clear that no damage has been caused hence, they are now going to issue permit to continue to dredge.
In the meantime, Ceylon Today learns that the Irrigation Department located in Tissamaharama has been dredging the tank in the past too whiteout taking a permit from the department of Archaeology. The Irrigation department has told the department of archaeology that they were ‘unaware’ that they should obtain permit from the Archaeological Department for dredging.
The dredging of the tank is the need of the hour some say. An engineer attached to the Irrigation Department in Tissa said that the mounting soil from the tank is gathering and illegal paddy cultivation is going on. The tank needs to be dredged as over 250 acres of paddy land has been destroyed due to stagnant tank soil.
The project came to a halt when the public, including environmentalists and archaeological experts accused the Government of using Chinese personnel to dredge the 3rd century old tank and that too without permission from the Department of ArchAeology.
The irrigation department gave permission without doing a proper assessment. The Wildlife Department also has a say and all of them flouted the law said environmentalist Sajeewa Chamikara. He questioned how an AIA report can be completed within six days when it needs so many aspects to be covered to make a report such as an AIA.