Written by Staff Writer
16 May, 2015 | 10:25 pm
Rishad Bathiudeen, the Minister of Industry and Commerce on Saturday accepted that only around 30 percent of persons have been settled in the Wilpattu area at present. The minister made this statement speaking to reporters while touring the area in question on Saturday (May 16th).
The Wilpattu National Park is Sri Lanka’s largest national park. Not only is it large in size, this National Park is home to 605 different plant species and 328 animal species and its roots date back to the Vijaya-Kuveni era of Sri Lanka and possibly event predates this era.
Since 1938, the area of the Wilpattu National Park was expanded from time to time. According to environmentalists and nature lovers, at present around 2500 hectares of this massive National Park has been destroyed.
In February 2013, upon the instructions of the Presidential Task Force, which was formed to handle the resettlement at that time, resettlement of persons in the National Park commenced.
Environmentalist Jagath Gunawardena notes that there needs to be a procedure that is to be followed when lands are provided to the people and a list of guidelines have been presented in articles 23A and B in the National Environment Act. He noted that these guidelines were published in the Gazette 772 / 22 dated the 24 of June 1993.
Gunawardena adds that the Gazette clearly states that conversion of forests covering an area exceeding 1 hectare into non-forest uses needs to be done after an environmental impact assessment report is carried out do determine if the land is suitable for such non-forest uses.
Remarkably when Minister Rishad Bathiudeen visited the National Park today, he noted that there is no need to be impatient over an Environment report.
The area of the Wilpattu National Park which has been subject to deforestation and destruction is the Northern area that comes under the purview of the Department of Wildlife Conservation. According to the Forest Conservation Ordinance, it is illegal to construct permanent or temporary settlements, roads and farmlands in such a forest area.
Minister of Industry and Commerce Rishad Bathiudeen says that around 2000 families will be living in these villages adding that at present only 30% of that number have been settled.
Earlier this month President Maithripala Sirisena ordered for the immediate halt to deforestation and land clearing at the Wilpattu National Park, as it destroys the balance in Nature and takes away all environmental resources that need to be given to the future generations of Sri Lanka.
However, information that came to light today at this media briefing indicates that the resettlement in this area in question is ongoing.
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