United Nations Environment Programme

Dams and Development Project

About DDP
Promoting Dialogue
Practical Tools
Inventory of Policy/Normative Frameworks
Compendium of Relevant Practices
Experiences and Lessons Learned
Contact Us
Related Links
Site Map
The World Commission On Dams

Details of submission:

Upper Kotmale Hydropower Project

Contributor / Author:
DDP  Secretariat

Relevant WCD Strategic Priority(-ies):

  • Gaining Public Acceptance
  • Comprehensive Options Assessment
  • Addressing Existing Dams
  • Sustaining Rivers and Livelihoods
  • Recognising Entitlements and Sharing Benefits
  • Ensuring Compliance
  • Sharing Rivers for Peace, Development and Security


Why this is an example of these Strategic Priority(ies)
Stakeholder participation is an important element of gaining public acceptance. This example addresses the following aspects:

  • Involvement of government agencies (including the Local Council) and a range of stakeholders (including those directly affected by resettlement)
  • Formal consultation processes, access to EIA information and expert reviews, appeal process
  • Development of a Resettlement Action Plan and consultation with Resettlement Committee of affected persons and
  • Local Council regarding sites and compensation
  • Range of consultation mechanisms including socio-economic survey, committees, web-site


The purpose of the project was the generation of low cost electricity to meet the additional demand of energy by various sectors through regulating the daily river run off to produce 150 MW of Power. The Upper Kotmale Hydroelectric Project is intended to harness the water of seven tributaries – Devon Oya, St. Andrews Stream, Pundal Oya, Puna Oya, Ramboda Oya, St Claire’s and Holyrood – by diverting water above several water falls.

The community was involved in decisions on: the height of the dam, inundation area, loss or impacts of water falls, loss of water to downstream users, depletion of surface or ground water in the tunnel trace, possible land slides, bio diversity, social impacts of resettlement. The latter, for example included:

  • discussions on relocation of common amenities in a more appropriate way
  • selection of resettlement sites
  • decisions on entitlement of affected households

The Central Environmental Authority (CEA) and the Ceylon Electricity Board invited stakeholders to participate early in the project process. As it was the largest project ever implemented in the Urban Council area, agencies considered that educating and involvement of stakeholders was essential for its success. Internal staff of CEB ran the consultation.

Stakeholders were identified as those directly affected by the project and through the consultative process in obtaining environmental clearance. They were for most part representative of the affected stakeholders and their representatives. No one was excluded. Stakeholders included: People of Talawakelle (location of reservoir), Environmentalists, Local government authorities and politicians, Government agencies such the Departments of Irrigation, Agriculture, Mahaweli Authority , Ceylon Tourist Board, Ministries of Power & Energy, Plantation Industries, Environment, Central Environment Authority, Water Resources Secretariat etc.

According to the participant manager, the legal requirements of participation were met in 30 days. In reality it took 6 years, which was approximately 45% of the whole project timeframe. Because the project had such a long timespan it is difficult to measure how long it has taken.

Consultation process was implemented by Internal CEB project staff and Government staff from another area.

Techniques used for stakeholder participation included: statutory means of obtaining written submissions from public, public hearing held in the project area, seminars, workshops for various stakeholders, consultations held with stakeholder groups such as local level politicians, government sponsored negotiations with stakeholders and litigation and settlement of such litigation with granting of hearing to environmental NGOs. A socio-economic survey was run with the affected communities.

After each consultation, the recorded discussion was reviewed, the issues raised were discussed internally and when required were submitted for approval by higher authorities as the case may be.
Stakeholders were provided with information on benefits from the project to the nation and to the people of Talawakelle, and entitlements of the affected households. Stakeholders were provided with information about what was heard and how their input was used.

A key stakeholder reported that he participated in:

  • Environmental Monitoring Committee Meeting convened by the CEA
  • Resettlement Committee Meeting held once in two months
  • Housing Committee Meetings held monthly (Nine Housing Committees)
  • Meetings at the Ministry of Power & Energy.

At these meetings several critical issues were discussed and he was able to raise issues raised by the people living in Talawakelle (the project area ) and the requirements of the Urban Council. In particular the requests made by the affected households were discussed and certain important decisions were taken. He was able to get agreement to all affected households being resettled within Talawakelle-Lindula Urban Council area and that the living standards of the affected people should be better off with the project.

Stakeholders received feedback on other input and how their input was addressed. In most cases decision-makers responded favourably to the input, which thus influenced decision-making. In some cases, such information was included as part of the vital decisions required by statutory regulations.

Over the 6 year period, it is estimated that the stakeholder participation process cost approximately Rs. 6 Million Equivalent to 60,000 US, - about .025% of the total project cost. From a key stakeholder’s perspective, the ‘cost’ for his involvement was about 1100 hours to attend meetings in Colombo, Nuwara Eliya and a large number of
Resettlement Committee Meetings and Housing Committee Meetings held in Talawakelle. He had to spend about Rs. 35,000 for travelling. Some expenses were met by the Urban Council. The project did not bear any of these expenses.

Main lessons learned:

  • It was a tremendous challenge to attempt to gain stakeholder acceptance for a dam to be built in an area of beautiful and popular waterfalls. It is not clear that any amount of stakeholder participation would have resulted in acceptance of such a project. CEA acknowledged that it might be the last of large dam projects in that country. Other possible sites would have similar constraints and opposition.

Compliance with national or international guidelines or policy

  • Land Acquisition Act 1950 and Ministry of Lands
  • National Involuntary Resettlement Policy, 2001 and Ministry of Land Development
  • National Environmental Act of 1980 and Central Environment Authority, Ministry of Forestry and Environment
  • Environmental Regulations of 1993 of the Central Environment Authority

Additional Information

  • IAP2 Final Report, 2006 Anon 2001, Sir Lanka National Involuntary Resettlement Policy (NIRP), Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka.
  • 2005, Civil group fights against Upper Kotmale Hydro Project, TamilNet, viewed 26.5.06 www.tamilnet.com/art.html?catid=79&artid=15112.
  • 2006, Current Status of Upper Kotmale Hydropower Project as on March 27, 2006, Ceylon Electricity Board, viewed 23.5.06 www.ukhp.lk/currentstatus.html
  • Ceylon Electricity Board 2004, Upper Kotmale Hydropower Project, www.ukhp.lk/location.html
  • Kodituwakku, D & Moonesinghe, V 2004, 'THE EIA PROCESS AND THE UPPER KOTMALE HYDROPOWER PROJECT', SARID Journal, vol. 1, no. 1.
  • Withanage, H 2000, Upper Kotmale Hydropower Project: Another Disaster in Dam History, www.dams.org/kbase/submissions/showsub.php?rec=soc028Gas power plants as an alternative to hydropower

Home About DDP Promoting Dialogue Practical Tools Networking Dissemination Publications Events Contact Us Links