Bomuruella Mini Hydro Power Case


CA 1556/2004

The Environmental Foundation Limited v. The Central Environmental Authority and others

The Petitioner, the Environmental Foundation Limited, instituted an action in the public interest by challenging the validity of approval given by the 1st Respondent (Central Environmental Authority), to a private company regarding the construction of a mini hydro project on the upper reaches of a river, at an altitude of about 1750 metres above sea level, within the Kandapola-Seetha Eliya Forest Reserve.

The petitioner argued that the respondent had abused or exceeded its powers as the approval was granted on the basis of an IEER (Initial Environmental Examination Report), without at EIAR (Environmental Impact Assessment Report). It was also revealed upon further inspection of the documents that the decision to grant permission solely on an IEER was made by a TEC (Technical Evaluation Committee), rather than by the Project Approving Agency (1st Respondent).

Furthermore the approval had ultimately been granted for the project on the basis of the ‘Environmental Questionnaire’ and not the IEER as was previously thought.

Despite the 1st Respondent’s arguments that the approval given by the TEC was valid the Court found that the TEC in fact had no jurisdiction under the National Environmental Act and that the Central Environmental Authority had failed to exercise its discretion reasonable and in good faith in discharging its public duty.

Hence it was held that the 1st Respondent had acted ultra vires and Court issued a writ quashing the approval given for the project. The Respondent was further ordered to pay a sum of Rs. 10,000 to the Petitoner.

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Significance of the case

EFL  challenged the validity of approval given by the Central Environmental Authority (CEA) as the project approving agency to a private company to construct a mini hydro project on the upper reaches of a river at Perawella, Nuwara Eliya without an Environmental Impact Assessment.  The Court of Appeal issued a Writ of Certiorari quashing the approval given by CEA to the said mini hydro power project due its failure to exercise its direction reasonably and in good faith in discharging its public duty in granting its approval in the manner provided in Sec.23 BB (1) of National Environmental Act.