Concerns mount over clearing lands in Rambakan Oya

Concerns mount over clearing lands in Rambakan Oya

Concerns mount over clearing lands in Rambakan Oya

Written by Staff Writer

01 Mar, 2021 | 8:27 pm

COLOMBO (News1st): Residents of Galwalayaya near the Rambakan Oya forest reserve have complained of several issues that have arisen as a result of releasing lands for private investors.

One such grievance surrounds the acquisition of farmlands that have now been given away to these businesses.

The forest reserve is located close to the Hambehela, Kambaragala, Nil Gala Manikkawela, and Malgahaussa reserves in the area.

The area is rich in biodiversity and historical value and is believed to be the location of King Buddhadasa’s Herbal Garden which is famous for its indigenous medicine.

Attempts to give away lands embedded in this eco-system dates back to the 1990s.

Between 1990 and 1993, attempts had been undertaken to clear land in Nilgala, believed to be the site of the herbal garden, to pave the way for pineapple cultivation.

But such efforts had been called off amidst stiff objection from the public.

A proposal had been tabled before the cabinet on the 12th of December 2006, to give away 65,000 acres of land from the Rambakan Oya to Nilgala, covering 11 divisional secretariats, to commence sugar cultivation.

300 acres alone had been sought from Nilgala for the construction of a sugar factory. But the project, that would have a grave impact on the government, was defeated by the people.

In August last year, the Executive Board of the Sri Lanka Mahaweli Authority had approved a proposal to give away lands from the Rambakan Oya forest reserve to a private company.

However, this was to be carried out under the condition that it does not damage the forest cover in the area.

Cabinet approval had also been granted under several guidelines of the Central Environmental Authority, to release 2750 acres of land for a private investor to commence maize cultivation.

This was to be done under the condition, that water bodies and waterways in the forest reserve must remain untouched, and that the existing forest cover must be protected and improved.

However, a large area in the reserve had been cleared recently, while flouting these guidelines.

Farmers point out that forest lands and farmlands have also come under the threat of being grazed by large-scale businessmen.

“The Mahaweli authority had forcefully destroyed our rubber and cashew cultivations that we had been carrying out for several years,” one farmer lamented.

He added that the Mahaweli Authority is selling these lands to large scale businessmen and leaving the farmers helpless while strengthening investors.

News 1st was able to identify many of the problems faced by the people in these villages in our few days here.

To find solutions to these problems, News1st will be hosting another phase of the Gammadda Pradeshiya Mandapa, at the bund of the Rambakan Oya.

Officials from the Wildlife Conservation Department, Mahaweli Development Authority, Central Environment Authority, the district secretary’s office and even those from the local political setup will be here to provide solutions to these issues faced by the people.

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