The President has made an order declaring the Waratenna-Hakkinda area in the Mahanuwara(Kandy) District in the Central Province to be declared as an Environmental Protection Area under Section 24C of the National Environmental Act (NEA), together with the regulations permitting,regulating and prohibiting certain activities in this area under Section 24D of the NEA.
This order has been published in Gazette Extraordinary No; 2024/06 of 19.06.2017(today), titled “Order to Declare Waratenna-Hakkinda Environmental Protection Area.”
This is the culmination of a six year struggle by a small group of activists following a well-defined and consistent strategy to get this area protected under the NEA and also to prevent several harmful projects that paved the way for this victory.
It initially started with a plan to have a mini-hydro project across the Mahaveli Ganga, but the real issue here was to protect a uniquely important area of the river and an important habitat and a most unusual geographical formation,where the narrowest place in the Mahaveli Ganga (Width only 3 meters) and the widest point (1.7 kilo meters) are within a distance of one kilometer along the river in Waratenna, the islets in Hakkinda, endemic plants and endemic animals.
This campaign was launched by a small group of local environmental activists and was helped by another few in other areas. It was carried on against overwhelming odds, but with dedication and in adherence to a carefully thought out and long-term strategy. The following are some of the lessons learnt, including the relevant steps in the strategy, that may be of help in our future endeavors.
1. Have a long-term plan, a clear objective and who and how to do it.
2. Your strategy has to be planned in accordance with the objective in mind, looking at the situation and in accordance with anticipated problems.
3. Open action should be preceded by a carefully planned out measures and with more than enough materials for a long-drawn and hard campaign.
4. Gather allies, know your real adversaries, those who will help you and those who will not help you before relying on others
5. Always play by the facts. Do not make use of lies and deceptions.
6. Do not make unwanted enemies. All state bodies are not your natural enemies.
7. Media has to be used wisely, knowing what needs publicity and what needs to be kept confidential.
8. Resorting to “Public Protest Actions” has to be used very sparingly, only when it is of absolute necessity.
9. It is the lobbying and representation at the right for a in the correct manner that matter much, not publicity events.
10. The campaign must adhere to a firm position (in this instance, getting the area protected) and is not solely intended to stopping a venture (In this instance, mini-hydro projects and hotel projects in islets)
11. Persistence and perseverance are very important. Look ahead for a long-term campaign,not for quick fixes and quick results.
12. Be patient. Let things take their own time. Everything has to proceed according to the procedures and time frames.
13. Make maximum advantage of the lies, deceptions, half-truths and propaganda efforts of adversaries.
14. Know the “Key Points” and address them. Do not waste time and effort on trifles.
15. Trust, understanding and synchronized action amongst key players is of vital importance.
16. Never let your moves be known to any unwanted parties.
17. Restraint in speech, action and activities is vital. Do not go beyond your limit however tempting it may look at first sight
18. Numbers alone confer no advantage in a campaign.
19. Choose allies carefully. It is better to have a small cohesive group working consistently than a big event and a subsequent fallow period.
20. Be careful of back-stabbers, saboteurs and provocateurs.
21. Be formless and thereby prevent adversaries anticipating your moves in advance.
22. Be adaptable and flexible, to grasp opportunities and to face threats
23. Do not fall prey to intimidations and provocations.
24. Keep your forces in a “Middle-Position” to quickly respond when necessary.
25. There are more than one way to do things to bring out your objectives. Hence, do not be a prisoner of “time-tested” ways only.
26. Creativity and innovation are most vital in all activities. Respond in novel and unanticipated manners
27. A small number of key people, working independently and for the same goal, play a vital role in a campaign.
28. Aggression is often counter-productive. Use it only when absolutely necessary to startle and unsettle adversaries only, and not on any others.
29. Every move on your part does not need publicity. Do not try to be in the limelight too much, as it will cause fatigue to others and your issue may be considered as a nuisance.(Familiarity begets contempt).
30. Anticipate both victories and defeats. Be humble and grateful in a victory. It is a collective effort.
31. Learn the lessons carefully. There are failed moves in any successful campaign.
32. Do not try to replicate one strategy to all events because it is successful. This is because
• Issues are different.
• Players are different
• Things happen in different ways
• Time frames are different
• Adversaries may be different and hence will act in a different manner
• Your adversaries know your way of doing things, so will anticipate your moves well in advance
• Your strengths and weaknesses are not the same