Court moves to protect Thibirigolla Reserve

Court moves to protect Thibirigolla Reserve

Court moves to protect Thibirigolla Reserve

Written by Staff Writer

21 Dec, 2015 | 10:33 pm

A decision from the Court of Appeal on Friday, prevented the Thibirigolla Reserve in Bakpitiyawa, Ampara, from facing similar destruction to what was witnessed in Wilpattu.

As per the court’s decision, the police and the Forest Conservation Department, must immediately evict persons who have established unauthorised paddy cultivations in the Wattamadu area of the Thibirigolla Reserve.

When considering the numerous exposés carried on Action TV in the past, with regard to the Wattamadu grazing grounds, it is doubtful if the Forest Conservation Department will show any enthusiasm in enforcing the court order.

While the 4,000 acre area in Wattamadu was declared a grazing ground via a gazette notification in 1976, it was protected until 2010.

The current situation was unravelled, when the Forest Conservation Department took over the land from the Ampara District Secretariat, and laid the foundation for paddy cultivation to commence.

Dairy farmers who, for more than three decades, were allowed to graze their herds on these lands, were denied this right through organised and unauthorised paddy farming, which in turn led to public unrest.

Until the Thirukkovil Police brought this matter to court, the Forest Conservation Department remained complacent.

A notable result of this case, is that while the Pottuvil Magistrate issued a verdict regarding the ownership of the land, the Forest Conservation Department, in its lethargy, failed to even file an appeal.

An appeal was eventually filed by the dairy farmers themselves, at the Kalmunai High Court.

Not to be outdone, the unauthorised paddy farmers, filed an appeal at the Court of Appeal against a backdrop where it became evident that the hearing at the Kalmunai High Court, was not going in their favour.

The unauthorised paddy farmers, who requested permission to remain on this land until they reaped their harvest in two years, returned to the Court of Appeal on Friday, seeking a similar provision.

While this request was rejected by the Court on Friday, our cameras captured this footage yesterday, which shows that the unauthorised paddy farmers have dug a kilometre long waterway through the Thibirigolla Reserve, to irrigate their paddy cultivations.

While the dairy farmers are taking a proactive approach to protect the Wattamadu grazing grounds which come under the purview of the Forest Conservation Department, it boggles the mind, that the Department has failed to even protect the Thibirigolla forest, which it is directly responsible for.

Secretary to the Ministry of Environment – Over to you.

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