Attidiya wetlands: Species under threat as land reclamation begins

Attidiya wetlands: Species under threat as land reclamation begins

Written by Staff Writer

31 Dec, 2013 | 9:54 pm

Environmentalists claim that land reclamation is taking place in a section of the Attidiya Wetlands, an area renowned for its bio-diversity. Newsfirst investigated the matter.

The Attidiya Wetlands were declared a nature sanctuary on July 25, 1990, owing to the bio-diversity of the area and its contribution to controlling floods. The wetlands which span over 930 acres, is endemic to the country and a paradise for migratory birds.

Forty four species of fish including six which are endemic to the country have been identified in the waterway of the Bolgoda River which flows through the wetlands.

The wetlands are also home to 21 reptilian species, 17 species of mammals and ten butterfly species.

In 1989, Attorney-at-Law, Jagath Gunawardena discovered the swallow sub-species known as the Ceylon Swallow in the Attidiya Wetlands.

For several days now, land reclamation has been undertaken in a portion of the Attidiya Wetlands, by the Sri Lanka Land Reclamation and Development Corporation.

Environmentalist Attorney-at-Law Jagath Gunawardena expressed these views, ” If section of a sanctuary is being reclaimed, no matter how small, then a report on the estimated environmental effect or a preliminary report on the environmental impact must be produced.

As per the Flora and Fauna Protection Act Section 7, you cannot reclaim lands that are part of a sanctuary. We can clearly see that the land reclamation taking place in the Bellanwila-Attidiya sanctuary is illegal both in terms of the Flora and Fauna Protection Ordinance and the National Environment Act.”

Western province Director of the Central Environmental Authority, Devika Withanage said that the Sri Lanka Land Reclamation and Development Corporation had made no request for an environmental assessment.

Chairman of Species Conservation Centre, Pubudu Weeraratne said, “This land reclamation is taking place without any notice being given or legal permit being sought. Senior officials at the Wildlife Conservation Department and the Head Office in Battaramulla have not taken any steps as yet. Through this, the possibility of floods will increase and people in surrounding areas will be affected. In addition a large number of species will be under threat owing to the loss of habitat.

Attempts made by Newsfirst throughout the day today to contact the Chairman of the Land Reclamation and Development Corporation to make inquiries into the matter proved to be futile.

The General Manager of the Corporation and the Chairman of the Urban Development Authority Nimal Perera declined to comment.

However, the Director General of Wildlife, H.D. Ratnayake said that the Land Reclamation and Development Corporation had been requested to temporarily halt work in the sanctuary.

Director General of Wildlife Conservation Department, H.D. Ratnayake expressed these views,  “When inquiries were made they said that they were using the land to park heavy vehicles being used in another project.

We have only granted permission for the Cheres River Project. We had not been informed prior to this about any land reclamation that was to take place there.

Notwithstanding this assurance, today our cameras captured footage of continuing land reclamation at the Attidiya Wetlands Sanctuary.”

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