Biodiversity safeguards mooted in Sri Lanka building contracts

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s private sector is considering ways to introduce safeguards in construction contracts to protect the island’s rich biodiversity, which is threatened as economic growth gathers pace amid a building boom.

Companies which voluntarily include biodiversity safeguards at higher cost risk losing contracts to bidders without the same regard for the environment, a forum on ‘Mainstreaming Biodiversity in the Construction Sector’ was told.

The island’s construction sector has emerged as the fastest growing sector since the ethnic war ended in 2009.

Construction projects funded by foreign donor agencies come with stringent controls like built in biodiversity safeguards, speakers told the forum organised by the biodiversity unit of the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce.

But most locally funded contracts lack such safeguards while local agencies do not have the same strict monitoring of foreign donor agencies.

Anandalal Nanayakkara, Attorney-at-Law and former consultant to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, suggested all contracts come with build-in biodiversity safeguard clauses.

“Safeguards should not be part of competitive bidding. “They should be fixed, which every client has to take into account and budget for.”

Saranga Gajasinghe, Safeguard Specialist and Consultant to Asian Development Bank, said donor funded projects have special safeguard clauses but that’s not the norm in most projects.

“Whether it’s donor funded or not we are polluting the environment and we should not do it. We should take our own protective measures,” he said.

Gajasinghe, who has also worked for Sri Lanka’s Road Development Authority, said environmental management plans are part of RDA bid documents.

“So bidders must consider mitigation measures and price on that.”

But he noted that in practice where such conditions are not enforced construction firms ignore biodiversity safeguards to reduce their costs and win bids by offering lower prices.

“I know of a well-known project where the environmental management pricing was zero and the contractor got the contract and there was no money even to spray water,” Gajasinghe said.
(COLOMBO, April 01, 2016)