Protect Wilpattu National Park – Sri Lanka.

The Wilpattu forest complex – the system supporting Sri Lanka’s largest forest park and the veritable kingdom of our birds and animals – is today being destroyed by the subhumans we know as corrupt politicians and their cronies and beneficiaries. The forest complex and its ecosystems are being disrupted merely for short-term gain.

We are fighting these forces as a federation of all nature-loving Sri Lankans. This photography competition and exhibition is one of the many marches of that fight; it seeks to bring to the focus of the public and our current administration the beauty of the Wilpattu forest complex and its wildlife as well as the unforgivable, irreversible destruction being wreaked there with impunity…!


‘Wilpattu’ is undoubtedly a politically laden word today. The historical reasons for this are known by all Sri Lankans in summary at least. The word is pregnant not only with political debauchery, but also with the recreancy of our citizenry. Yet, over and above these, the redolence of the spirit and tenacity of Sri Lankans fighting for Wilpattu prevails. This endeavor is to spread that note far and wide..!

 

Whether you live on the border of a forest or in central Colombo, the destruction of our natural resources affects us all.  It is the responsibility of Sri Lanka’s citizens to protect and ensure that our country’s forests and wildlife are managed wisely; it is our responsibility to hold those who have committed to the care and conservation of our natural resources accountable.

Deforestation is presently taking place on the legally declared Forest Reserves of Maraichukkaddi-Karadikkuli (Kallaru Forest), Vilaththikulam and Veppal, in clear violation of the forest conservation laws and regulations in Sri Lanka. Commencing in 2009 at the Northern Sanctuary, bordering the Wilpattu National Park, deforestation has taken place with the aim of developing housing schemes for allegedly displaced persons during the ethnic conflict between the Government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE.

 

The case:


The Environmental Foundation (Guarantee) Ltd. (EFL) together with the Wildlife and Nature Protection Society filed a Fundamental Rights application against the Forest Department, the Minister of Environment and Mahaweli Development Rishad Bathiudeen (Minister of Industry and Commerce) and several others on 31March 2017. This questioned the illegal release of land within these Forest Reserves, in the District of Mannar, for alleged ‘resettlement’ purposes. The Petition probed into several matters regarding the said release, inter alia:

a)The release of lands within the said Forest Reserves by the Senior Deputy Conservator of Forests, to the Divisional Secretariat of Mannar, for the alleged purposes of “resettlement”, and the clearing of the Maraichchukaddi-Karadikkuli (Kallaru), Vilaththikulam and Veppal Forest Reserves.

b)The decisions, permissions and/or endorsements taken/granted by the relevant authorities, in releasing forest reserves to cater to the land and/or settlement demands of The Presidential Task Force for Resettlement Development and Security – Northern Province and the Inter- Agency Committee appointed by the Task Force.

c)The irreparable, irreversible and grave environmental damage caused to the Maraichukaddi-Karadikkuli (Kallaru), Vilaththikulam and Veppal Forest Reserves due to the imprudent and/or incautious and/or unlawful acts and/or omissions of the relevant governmental authorities.

d)The construction and forest clearing allowed by the Forest Department, within the above mentioned Forest Reserves, being carried out by unauthorised private contractors with funds obtained from the Government of Qatar, in violation and/or in disregard of the laws, procedures and/or regulations set out in the National Environmental Act, as amended..!



Discoveries in brief.!

Prior to litigation, EFL took this issue up with the Conservator General of Forests, the Chairman of the CEA and the District Secretary of Mannar respectively, in January 2017. The District Secretary of Mannar answered the issues raised by EFL in February 2017, stating inter alia, that the necessary approvals and clearances have been allegedly issued and/or granted by the Conservator General of Forests and further that “resettlement work had been implemented under the resettlement policy.”It appears that the Senior Deputy Conservator of Forests, by letter dated 8th May 2013 has informed the Divisional Forest Officer of Mannar, that 770 acres of land on either side of the Silavathurai- Maraichukkaddi road and 650 acres of land adjoining the Pichchai– Vannikulam road has been identified as the land necessary for the purpose of resettlement of displaced individuals. The decision was made at a meeting attended by Mr. Susil Premajayantha, Minister of Environment and Renewable Energy (at the time), Mr. Rishad Bathiudeen, Minister of Industry and Commerce and Mr. Unaiz Farook from the Electoral District of Vanni.The said letter of the Senior Deputy Conservator of Forests, further requires that the Divisional Forest Officer of Mannar, mark the boundaries of the forest in the aforesaid areas, and in doing so, should also indicate the boundaries of the lands required to fulfill the aforementioned requirements for “resettlement,” from among the lands lying outside the forest boundary, which have been damaged due to illegal and other activities.It is pertinent to note that the clearing of forests in the declared Forest Reserves is beyond the released extent mentioned above. Further that there is no indication that an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and/or an Initial Environmental Examination (IEE) have been conducted prior to the release of any such forestland.

 

This goes against the terms of the provisions of the National Environmental Regulation (No.772/22 of 1993) as provided for in the National Environmental Act (as amended), which is the overarching applicable law for environmental protection in the country.Considering the extent of Forestland being destroyed which appear to have remained intact as pristine forests even before 1984 (as per Google Earth images), the pretense of clearing these areas for the alleged purpose of “resettlement” of displaced communities “as a resettlement policy” is capricious and exudes bad faith…!


Help Us To Protect This Nature As Well As You Can..!


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Protect Mother’s Nature.?

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