Locals staged a protest in Mannar, against mineral excavation by an Australian-based company in the region.
The protest organised by Mannar Citizens Committee and Mannar Environmental Protection Authority (MENA) was staged in front of Mannar city bus stand yesterday, and was attended by religious leaders, representatives of public organisations and women's organisations. Demonstrators ensured that social distancing measures and hygiene practices were maintained throughout the rally.
The drilling company, Titanium Sands Ltd, has been criticised by environmentalists, and most recently completed a study on mineral excavation in Mannar and is currently in the process of excavating the soil and has proposed tripling of exploratory drilling.
Protestors who were concerned about what the proposals would mean for their livelihoods and future carried banners with slogans reading; “Stop sand mining in Mannar island”, “Let us join our hands to protect environments”, “Daylight robbery in Mannar”, “Let us all unite to prote[c]t the environment of Mannar”, “We will protect Mannar island from submerging in the sea” and “Your Excellency the President, protect our Mannar Island from submerging in the sea”.
One of the demonstrators emphasised the severe environmental impact as well as the huge effect it would have on the livelihoods of the fisherman community in Mannar, which makes up for a large percentage of employment means for the district. “ We will not accept and allow this at all,” he said.
Daniel Franks, program leader of the development minerals strategic program at the University of Queensland, warns that such drilling could “dramatically transform the ecosystem” and that it could also “limit the land uses that the community already has for the islands” thus impacting groundwater in the region.
Signatures were obtained from the demonstrators against the excavation of the mineral resources during the protest, and a letter was handed over to the Mannar District Secretary to be handed over to the Sri Lankan president.
Earlier this year, Sri Lanka’s cabinet approved a proposal to investigate "unauthorised" mineral exploration conducted by the Australian company in Mannar to which the company argued that they “are in total compliance with the Sri Lankan regulations” despite reports yet to be published.