Article courtesy of Hafsa Sabry | October 24, 2015 | The Sunday Leader | Shared as educational material
People in the Biyagama area are faced with a shortage of water in their wells due to the alleged attempt by a company – Lion Brewery – to dig more wells in a bid to access more water for the production of beer. The necessity of water for beer products is high and the residents in the area have expressed concerns claiming that their livelihoods are directly affected by the company’s actions. People in the area where the brewery is located claim that although the issue has been brought up with the relevant authorities, action against the company is yet to be taken.
The Lion Brewery (Ceylon) PLC is a predominantly Sri Lankan owned and operated brewery. The company is listed on the Colombo Stock Exchange and produces the highest selling beer, in both Sri Lanka and the Maldives. However, the company has now been accused of violating the national environmental act of Sri Lanka while depriving the residents in the area from using clean ground water.
People in the area claim that their wells have become dry or have been contaminated with waste water from the brewery which dumps the waste water during their cleaning process into the ground water of the area without a proper treatment. Waste water from any company should meet the national standards of the waste water treatment in the country.
A company before beginning its operation in the country is said to obtain the Environmental Protection License (EPL) from the Central Environment Authority (CEA) which will empower the protection of the country’s environment and the geography. The EPLs are issued after a thorough inspection of the industry production and discharge of emission, especially gas and radiation.
The EPLs are renewed every year by the CEA to ensure that the environment is safe from such contaminations. If the companies disobey the rules and regulations of the national environmental act and if proven with scientific evidences the EPL’s are to be cancelled immediately while restricting the companies from their operation.
Nevertheless, many companies in Sri Lanka are being accused of contaminating not only the surface and ground water but also the soil and habitat of the nation while affecting the livelihoods of people. However, the relevant authorities are also accused of failing to speed up their investigation and legal actions against the law violating industries in the country.
Despite measures being taken to put pressure on the relevant authorities to take legal action against the company in order to assure the public access to clean drinking water, people in the area complain that waste water from the brewery still contaminates the groundwater which they claim is the only source of water. A considerable number of people who have been using only well water for their domestic usage and for consumption are still affected by the factory.
Many People in the area along the factory in Biyagama village say that they used well water for their domestic usages and consumption whereas now they have involuntarily abandon the wells for any purposes by the factory as the wells do not produce water even at 35 feet deep.
“We are unable to consume or use the well water for any domestic usages, because of its strong smell”, said one of the villagers who were victimized by the factory in the area. Many of them claimed that they get water at a very low level as a result the factory’s water usage is enormously high.
When people speak against the company and express their discomfort about the contamination in the area the factory in question buy their homes, with not many choices left, some of the villagers leave their homes after selling their lands to the company.
Consequently, there were several health issues reported in the area claiming that people suffer from chest pain as the smoke from the factory pollutes the air.
“There is some kind of white smoke carried by the wind that blows in the direction of the village when they clean their factory and it leaves stains on our pipe lines and pots and pans”, claimed one of the villagers.
“They dug a well at 20 feet last year and, they have recently dug another well at 30 feet which results in failure of the areas wells to produce water at even 35 feet”, claimed another villager from the area.
We even wrote to the secretariat of the Western Provincial Council as well as the local government bodies in Biyagama and Delgoda and we have made many police complaints but no action been taken against it by the relevant authorities, the villager also noted.
Even though it was said that the beer company has started a project ofwater supply to the areas residents with the National Water Supply and Drainage Board (NWSDB) ensuring that the people in the area could have access to clean drinking pipe-borne water, the water bills have to be paid by the public who raisedconcern, claiming that they cannot afford it, which indicates the factories fail to succeed in its effort. However, the NWSDB claims such projects were not commenced or proposed by the factory in question.
Daily check by NWSDB
The Chairman of the National Water Supply and Drainage Board (NWSDB) Ansar said, that they check the raw water samples every day and the treated water is checked and tested on a daily basis hence if contamination is found in the water that we supply, immediate measures taken into action regarding that.
“We even inspected the pipe-borne water from the area two weeks back as to check whether any contamination is positive with highly dangerous chemicals but nothing was noticed by the CEA and the relevant authorities who were engaged in the inspection. There is no such contamination in the water which was supplied to the Biyagama area by the NWSDB but people tend to use the well water as to prevent them from paying the water bills, adding that our water supply is given to us cheaper than in most parts of the world, hence people cannot say that they cannot afford to pay the water bills as we charge accordingly,” Ansar said.
Noise and smoke emission
However, the Chairman of the CEA Mervin Lal Dharmasiri said “Our officials had inspected the factory there is also an investigation being carried out on noise and smoke emission tests of the factory, the reports will be submitted to the CEA within this week hence, information on the lion brewery contamination can be revealed within a short period of time”.
Since Lion Brewery is a BOI approved company The Sunday Leader questioned the Director for Environment Management of BOI approved companies.
Responding to the questions Sherin Perera said, “We always work together with the CEA and regularly check and inspect the factories under our authorization as to arrest any such dangerous and hazardous environmental contaminators”.
However, she also claimed that she is unaware of any particular contamination from the factory in question, but will take action against it if the areas residents express concern over any contamination of ground water and environmental pollution.