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Chunnakam another Rathupaswela?

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Contamination of ground water

Despite numerous protests and calls for independent investigations into water contamination in the North, authorities are yet take stringent steps to ascertain the actual cause behind the issue, Dr Ganesanandan Senthuran representing those affected told The Nation.

Protestors and residents of Chunnakam and the surrounding areas have expressed grave concerns over oil deposits found in well waters in their areas.

Dr. Ganesanandan Senthuran said that the authorities needed to find the cause of contamination. The prime reason, according to Dr. Senthuran, is believed to be the activities of Northern Power Company Pvt. Ltd whose operations have been temporarily halted through a court notice.

However, he stated that a proper investigation was necessary to confirm the actual reason behind the contamination if a suitable solution was to be given. It is alleged that the oil contamination was also caused by an oil lake which is adjacent to the area. “There are speculations, but we cannot come to a conclusion without an investigation,” he said.

The issue has prompted authorities to provide drinking water to residents through bowsers. However, that too had now become a problem as water for this purpose too was collected from nearby areas, and was also contaminated. According to residents, contamination has spread to surrounding villages including Thellipalai, Uduvil, Sandilippai, Chankanai, Koppai, and Kokkuvil.

Dr Senthuran stated that after several attempts a committee of officials consisting of local government and the Northern Provincial Council was formed in order to study the situation.  Accordingly, the committee had requested the affected residents to formally register their complaints. Approximately 1800 persons have registered complaints so far. Dr. Senthuran believes that at least 20,000 residents are affected.

 When contacted, Government Analyst, Sakunthala Tennakoon confirmed that tests were carried out on soil samples collected from Chunnakam and that results were sent back to the officials in the area last month. According to Dr. Senthuran, the Government Analyst’s Department had collected 25 samples and the results proved that the soil was contaminated by oil deposits. “The next step is to find out the cause, and also at the same time come up with a suitable solution for the people,” he said.

An awareness campaign had been organized by the Youth United for Social Good on February 15 in Colombo to bring the issue to the fore. It was alleged that there was political backing behind the program, which the organizers denied.

Attempts to contact Jaffna District Government Agent, Sundaram Arumainayagam proved futile. In addition, The Nation also contacted Northern Province Environment Minister Ponnthurai Aingkaranesan who refused to comment.

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