Block-I of the Yala National Park was declared open nine days prior to the scheduled date on October 23 due to political pressure from a powerful minister, said Dr. Sumith Pilapitiya, former Director General, Wildlife Conservation Department (WLCD).
The decision to close the park on September1 was taken by the Department of Wildlife Conservation (DWC) and on the advice of a special committee appointed by the Prime Minister’s Office.
“Although the national park was reopened last Monday, it was earlier decided to be reopened on October 31 after being closed for two months due to the prevalent drought condition and low rainfall,” Dr. Pilapitiya said.
On a different note, Dr. Pilapitiya said tourist arrivals had gradually increased over the years, and from 2008 to 2016, there had been a 1,000 per cent increase in tourist arrivals.
“As the former DG, I would say the DWC, during the past fifteen years or so, was politicised to a great extent. This decision was purely political and undermines the authority of DWC in administering one of its national parks, and brings the whole environmental and conservation policy of this country into disrepute. We strongly protest this politically-motivated decision. It is detrimental to the future authority of DWC, compromises its conservation function and is injurious to the well-being of this country and its people. This is not good governance,” he added. (Chaturanga Pradeep)