08/21/2013, 00.00
SRI LANKA
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Weliweriya: after the massacre, residents may have to pay for clean water

by Melani Manel Perera
The government is providing drinking water to more than 15 villages affected by the problem of water pollution, but supplies are insufficient and too expensive for local residents, who, after the violence of the army, are "scared and frustrated," unable to pay for water to drink and to bathe their children.

Weliweriya (AsiaNews) - There is no peace, nor justice for the people of Weliweriya and other villages in Gampaha District.

After the violence of the army, who opened fire against peaceful protests by people asking for clean water, residents maybe now forced to pay for water supplies made available by the Government of Sri Lanka.

To add insult to injury, people still have to pay their water bill at the end of the month, even though they cannot use because it is still contaminated.

Interviewed by AsiaNews, a group of residents said they felt "scared, frustrated and hopeless."

On 12 August, President Mahinda Rajapaksa promised clean water and the transfer of the plant held responsible for the water contamination. However, to have access to the water provided by the authorities people have to pay first.

"We cannot afford it," residents said. "We are day labourers and do not earn enough. We never had any problems with the water that flows naturally in the area. But since the plant opened, people started to get sick."

Unable to buy water, many families take their young children to relatives in distant villages to give them at least a bath a week.

For Buddhist monk Theripehe Siridhamma Thero, "the water [made available by the government] is insufficient. More than 15 villages have contaminated water, each with 500 and 1000 households. But water tanks contain only 400 and 500 litres each. It is just enough to drink. And it is not even clean. Sometimes, what comes out is brownish. We do not know where they get it."

After weeks of peaceful protests, the army attacked thousands of civilians in Weliweriya on 1 August, firing at the local church where some young people had sought refuge. Three of them, boys aged 17, 18 and 29 years, died in the incident.

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