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ECONOMYNEXT – Researchers from a leading Sri Lankan university have raised concerns about the practicality of the Beira Lake nano-technology neutralisation project, which received cabinet approval on Monday (11) for a pilot trial of the technology.

The cabinet decision said that the move is meant to “improve” the quality of water in the Beira Lake using micro nano-bubble and carbon fibre biofilm technology, and environmentally friendly enzymes.

By introducing more oxygen (aerating) and enzymes to the lake, the technology is said to induce bacterial growth, which would feed on the thick algal bloom that covers the lake, clearing it of it.

The project was a combined proposal made by President Ranil Wickremesinghe in his capacity as Minister of Urban Development and Housing, and Groepo Pte Ltd, a Japanese company based in Singapore.

Mahesh Jayaweera, a Researcher from University of Moratuwa Department of Civil Engineering said that the project roll out seemed strange, considering its novelty and dearth of information on the implementation of similar projects in Asia.

“They say that they are going to make use of this state of the art technology, but I’m very sceptical because I have not seen this being applied.”

An Officer from the Central Environmental Authority (CEA) informed Economy Next that the Authority has not been presented with a project proposal so far with regards to the evaluation of the feasibility and safety, which it is usually tasked with before projects of the sort are rolled out.

“We haven’t been made aware of the project, we are only just as informed of the project as the rest of the general public.

Based on the question: can a biological neutralisation neutralise the Beira Lake with the loads of pollution that enters it? We have to ask, has the pollution load been calculated?”

“There are direct sewer lines that go to the Lake,” the officer said.

Jayaweera said the waste that comes from the sewer lines need to be treated separately for the process to show positive signs.

“Unless you curtail what is coming in the form of nitrates and phosphates, since nitrogen and phosphorus are the main culprits for high algal growth, half of your problem would be solved.”

The sewage system which connects sewage lines in Colombo to the Beira Lake dates back to Colonial British rule.

“The sewage lines need to be intercepted and diverted to a main line away from the Lake, to either be treated or disposed of elsewhere. Otherwise, whatever aeration that takes place under this project will have a very short term impact, since enormous amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus enter the lake daily.”

“It’s basically considered to be a sink,” he said.

According to protocol, The CEA officer said that they should be presented with an Initial Environmental Assessment (IEA) or Environment Impact Assessment (EIA).

“We would study those, hold a series of meetings over them and then decide whether we would approve it.”

The cabinet decision said that the implementation of the proposed pilot project would be under the “necessary guidance of an expert committee consisting of experts on water quality from all universities in the country, representatives of all relevant testing institutions and other relevant institutions.” (Colombo/Sept16/2023)

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