Mount Lavinia beach nourishment project successful – DG Coastal Conservation Dept.

June 02, 2020

  •     Project isn’t a waste of funds and has created a beach Northward Mount Lavinia
  •     The soft engineering solution is the best method in the world for coastal erosion
  •     CCD has obtained a license from the Geological Survey and Mines Bureau.

By Lt. Com. Dilan Jayatillake

The Artificial Soft Beach Nourishment Project is a successful and effective project that was planned to prevent coastal erosion along the coastal zone extending from Mount Lavinia to Kaluthara, Director General Coastal Conservation Department (CCD) Prabath Chandrakeerthi said yesterday (June 1).

He said the Rs. 890 million project, which was approved by the Cabinet last year, will not only prevent coastal erosion in the Mount Lavinia beach but it will also help to nourish the  Calido beach in Kalutara and Angulana beach in Ratmalana.

At a press briefing held yesterday refuting allegations over washing away sand in the Mount Lavinia beach stretch, where sand was artificially filled under this project to prevent erosion, Chandrakeerthi said the media has highlighted only one location of the entire project and the information in those media reports were misleading the community.

“Among the total cost, only 110 million has already spent for the Mount Lavinia project which is successful” he said “Aftermath of inundation in 2017, the coastal erosion in Calido beach in Kalutara, Angulana and Mount Lavinia beaches had improved significantly.”

CCD’s Chief Engineer (Coastal Development) Sujeewa Ranawaka said the coastal behavior was changing from time to time, causing changes to the sediments.

“The free flow of inland river water brings enough sand to the coastal area which reduces erosion. But, during the past, we have also experienced a gradual decrease of such free flow of sand towards the sea due to illegal inland sand mining,” he explained.  

Ranawaka said due to climatic changes, the coastal erosion took place along the coastal-belt and it had resulted in a drastic reduction in the expected gravity of river sand flow from inland waters to the sea, which accounted to nearly 350,000 cubic meters annually.

Meanwhile, Chandrakeerthi said a larger portion of the cost was allocated for the Kaluthara project as sand had to be transferred from Ratmalana to Calido Beach, which was planned to be filled with 300,000 cubic metres of sand.

“Ratmalana and Angulana areas required 350,000 cubic metres of sand while 150,000 cubic metres of sand is required to nourish the Mount Lavinia beach. The total of 800,000 cubic meters of sand was extracted by mining sand”, he added.

Chandrakeerth, who said that the CCD had conducted a feasibility study on the project beforehand, explaining the reasons why the CCD was continuing with the project during curfew hours said it was done to avoid paying an extra massive amount of money to the foreign contractor due to delay in construction following the prevailing coronavirus situation in the country.

“The project was started on February 14 and continued till the end of April since there were no provisions for postponement as high charges for delay would have been levied by the foreign contractor, if we had failed to meet the deadline. Therefore, the CCD had obtained the approval from the relevant authorities to continue with sand filling amidst curfew, since the charges for the delay, were amounting to Rs 200,000 per hour,” he said.

Responding to a question on obtaining an Environmental Impact Assessment prior to the commencement of the project, Director General CCD said the CCD had sought approval from the Central Environmental Authority (CEA) only to construct the burrowing pit and obtaining an EIA for this project was not mandatory.

According to Chandrakeerthi, sand for this project was obtained from a sand deposit located about 2-6 kilometers away from Ratmalana using a license issued by the Geological Survey and Mines Bureau of Sri Lanka.

In a response as to why Wellawatte beach was not included in the initial proposal presented to the Cabinet, Chandrakeerthi said, the CCD included the three significant coastal zones and by stating Mount Lavinia beach, CCD meant the entire coastline.

However, when asked whether the CCD was held accountable for the public funds used for this project, he said it was not a waste of public funds since sand eroded from the Mount Lavinia beach had been deposited in the neighboring beaches as expected.

When asked why the contract was not given to a local contractor, Chandrakeerthi said it was handed over to a foreign contractor under the international bidding process, since the machine used for extraction of sand cost for about Rs. four billion, which is a massive amount to a country like Sri Lanka.    

CCD’s Chief Engineer (Design and Research) Lalani Ruhunage said, along with the decade-long past experience, the CCD had noticed a two to three-meter coastal erosion in this region that would damage the habitats of the regional fishing community and the tourism industry.

“In such a situation, sand nourishment is vital to regaining the beach. We used soft engineering method of sand stockpiling which is carried out to pre-identified locations while allowing sand to be shifted and deposit elsewhere according to the Northward ocean current, which Sri Lanka has experienced. Therefore, we have noticed that the coastal erosion along the expected shoreline has reduced to a certain level as we projected,” she said.

According to Ranawaka, beach nourishment encompasses hard and soft engineering methods and construction of a rock armor or boulder barriers is one of the hard engineering methods and filling of artificial beach sand and shifting by ocean current or alongshore drift is the soft engineering method.  

He said soft engineering approach as the most successful and environmentally friendly method in the world and the beach nourishment soft methods is not only used to nourish the places to fill sand, but also applied to replenish sand in the entire northward oceanfront.

“This will automatically make a healthy beach area for both fishing communities and for the tourism industry along the Western coast,” he said adding that the beach nourishment method is not a new practice to Sir Lanka as the initial beach nourishment dates back to 1986 in Negambo beach area.

He said the very first such project was conducted under foreign funds and similar projects had also been implemented in Marawila and Unawatuna, areas in the country.

“Although, the recent development of Southwest monsoon and the cyclonic weather condition has shifted, a larger portion of sand has been unexpectedly deposited in the nearby beaches of  Mount Lavinia, so this cannot be taken as wasting of sand nourishment,” he said adding the best solution available in the world is the hi-tec soft engineering methods, which are  more effective and long-lasting, but hard engineering methods, which are comparatively cheaper for a country like Sri Lanka would not be much effective.