By Harischandra Gunaratna
Environmentalists are calling for action against a powerful Cabinet Minister from the Vanni electoral District for going ahead with what they call unlawful settlements in the forest reserves in and around Wilpattu in defiance of President Maithripala Sirisena’s orders.
Dineth Mallikarachchi, leading environmentalist, addressing journalists at a news conference organised by the National Joint Committee at the National Library Services at Colombo-07 on Tuesday (April 4) to protect the country’s forest cover and fauna and flora from rapacious ministers.
Mallikar-achchi flayed Minister Rishad Bathiudeen and National Unity Alliance leader and former Colombo Deputy Mayor Azad Sally for making false statements that the government was planning to evict those who were already settled. “They are working with selfish and vested interests and their bogus claims would only lead to racial tensions,” he said.
Medical Specialist Dr.(Mrs) Anula Wijesundera hailed President Maithripala Sirisena for having issued a gazette notification amalgamating five forests surrounding Wilpattu national park thereby prohibiting settlements therein.
Forest reserves so amalgamated under the special gazette notification and declared as Mavillu forest reserve are Mavillu, Weppal, Kaaradikkuli, Marichchikadi and Wilattikulam.
Dr Wijesundera said there were around 4,000 families illegally settled in the forest reserve.
Economist and environmentalist Chris Dharmakirti said the new settlements in the area were all politically motivated ones with majority being IDPs. Those acts by politicians would destroy the whole eco system making the country uninhabitable.
Otara Gunawardena, a key member of the National Joint Committee said due to the environmental imbalance the country faced a crisis situation with water resouces drying up.