Mini hydropower project in Athwelthota waterfall, Sri Lanka

Despite being small, a mini hydro power project is threatening the Athwelthota waterfall. Local communities and environmentalists protest for its conservation


Sakura Energy, a Sri Lankan mini hydro power company owned by Dhammika Ranathunga, is planning to build a dam in Athwelthota waterfall located in Morapitiya- Athwelthota. The project aims to generate a 1.5MW hydro power capacity and got the legal permissions from the Sri Lankan project approving agencies. The project was already proposed in 1994 and 2006 but it has been stopped due to the villangers protests. Today also, thanks to the strong opposition carried out by locals, the permission is under reconsideration by the Central Environmental Authority (CEA) and the forest Department [1][2].

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Basic Data
NameMini hydropower project in Athwelthota waterfall, Sri Lanka
CountrySri Lanka
Province Kalutara district, Western Province
SiteMorapitiya- Athwelthota
Accuracy of LocationHIGH local level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Water Management
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Dams and water distribution conflicts
Specific CommoditiesElectricity
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsThe project will generate on 1.5 MW electricity capacity to sold to the national grid [1].
Level of Investment (in USD)Unknown
Type of PopulationRural
Potential Affected Populationthousands of families depended on the Athwelthota Ella as the only source of drinking water and irrigation in the hilly area [4]
Start Date2004
Company Names or State EnterprisesSakura Energy (Private) Limited from Sri Lanka
Relevant government actorsCentral Environmental Authority (CEA)

Forest Department
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersCentre for Environmental Justice (CEJ) Sri Lanka

Friends of Earth International

Buddhist Monks and Ven. Morapitiye Dhammananda Thera
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)MEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
When did the mobilization beginPREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups MobilizingFarmers
International ejos
Local ejos
Social movements
Local scientists/professionals
Religious groups
Forms of MobilizationArtistic and creative actions (eg guerilla theatre, murals)
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of alternative proposals
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Objections to the EIA
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Referendum other local consultations
Street protest/marches
Arguments for the rights of mother nature
Appeals/recourse to economic valuation of the environment
Ordination of tree: on the 4th April 2015, in order to bring the necessary attention, several trees on the banks of the waterfall were symbolically ordained with robes by the Buddhist monks and local communities [4].
Petition on
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation
Potential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Floods (river, coastal, mudflow), Other Environmental impacts
OtherAffection of the biodiversity, especially fish diversityin Sri Lanka as Athwelthota streams are important habitat of rare fish species [1][2][3].
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Potential: Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Specific impacts on women
OtherThe waterfall is an importatnt turistic spot. Local pepople dipend from the selling of Kitul Honey to the dourists, so the distruction of the waterfall will affect the livelyhoods of residents in the area [3].

The mini hydropower project will modify the streams causing problems to local families which depend from Athwelthota streams for drinking water and irrigation [4].
Project StatusProposed (exploration phase)
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseUnder negotiation
Fostering a culture of peace
Project temporarily suspended
Development of Alternatives- Ask to the Forest Department, as the project

approving agency, and the Central Environmental Authority, as the ultimate authority, to cancel the approval given to the Morapitiya Hydropower

project which will guillotine the Athwelthota waterfall and the biodiversity hotspot, the last habitat of the variety of fish species.

- Suggest that the Athwelthota River should be declared as a conservation area under the Fauna And Flora Conservation Act [6] or under the National Environmental Act [5] to stop future degradation of this important habitat [1].
Do you consider this as a success?Not Sure
Why? Explain briefly.The project was already proposed in 1994 and 2006 but it has been stopped due to the villangers protests. Today the permission given by Project approving Agencies - (CEA) and the forest Department- is under reconsideration [1][2]
Sources and Materials

[6] Fauna and Flora Protection Act
[click to view]

[5] National Environmental Act, No. 47 of 1980


[3] Online Article from Amantha Withange blog (16/02/2015). Stop destroying Athwelthota waterfall for power generation. By Hemantha Withange (accessed 23/04/2015)
[click to view]

[1] Ejustice Quarterly News Letter (03/2015). Saving Athwelthota-Peelithuda waterfall. By Hemantha Wiyhange (accessed 23/04/2015)
[click to view]

[2] News paper article published on 'The Sunday Times' online (01/03/2015). Sylvan spot threatened by dam proposal. By MalakaRodrigo (accessed 23/04/2015)
[click to view]

[4] News paper article from 'The daily mirror' Sri Lanka (06/04/2015). Athwelthota Ella endangered wiyh mini-hydro power project'. By Madawala and Kusal Chamath (accessed 23/04/2015).
[click to view]

Other Documents

Buddisth Monks protesting to save Athwelthota waterfall
[click to view]

Athwelthota waterfall
[click to view]

Meta Information
ContributorCentre for Environmental Justice (Colombo, Sri Lanka) and Paola Camisani (EJOLT team, Barcelona)
Last update05/05/2015