Our main focus today is not on the three islands off the Northern coast leased out to a Chinese company to set up a power project. The company has hit out against any ‘outrageous interference by any third party sans legal and factual basis’ neither is it on the West Container Terminal (WCT), which is to be leased out to India on the basis of a Private Public Partnership (PPP) in lieu of the East Container Terminal (ECT) after the government unilaterally pulled out of the tripartite agreement with India and Japan; nor on the Trincomalee Oil Tanks, which Energy Minister Udaya Gammanpila said would be soon acquired by Sri Lanka, but not surprisingly, he sheepishly backtracked on his statement saying it was not so and claimed he had been misquoted by the media.
We are also not focusing on the six-member ministerial committee -- comprising Chamal Rajapaksa (Chairman), Johnston Fernando, Udaya Gammanpila, Ramesh Pathirana, Prasanna Ranatunga and Rohitha Abeygunawardene -- appointed by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to examine the report of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI) on the Easter Sunday attacks. It has of course irked Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, who has been clamouring for justice to be meted out to those who died or were injured in the April 21 attacks saying it is the Attorney General, who should decide on the action to be taken and not by those who have failed even the GCE O/L examination; nor on the government’s ongoing COVID-19 vaccination programme, with some health experts and frustrated citizens expressing serious concerns saying the programme appears to have ‘gone out of control with no proper system in place’. For that matter even the website launched by the State Ministry for Primary Health Care, Epidemic and COVID Disease Control urging people to register online to obtain a date, time and place to receive the vaccination but vanished a few days later. Initially there was much talk about a priority list for vaccinations, that too has disappeared with people now seen queuing up in large numbers at several places anxious to get the jab no matter what and neither are we focusing on the draft resolution on Sri Lanka tabled by the core group at the United Nations Human Council (UNHRC) in Geneva.
But instead our focus today is on the manner and the speed at which environmental devastation is currently taking place in Sri Lanka. Our serious concern is that if this trend continues it would not be too long before Sri Lanka is stripped of its precious forests, forest reserves and wildlife habitats with only the sediments left for posterity.
The Daily Mirror, during the past few weeks carried eye-opener articles on this serious matter highlighting the blatant crimes committed by some villagers against the life-support systems of our Motherland. It was Kenyan environmental activist and Nobel Prize Laureate Wangari Maathai, who underscored the fact that sadly though the price for the wanton destruction of our precious environment, would have to be paid, not by those destroying the environment, but by future generations.
The media report filed by DM investigative reporter Kamanthi Wickramasinghe in an article headlined, “When poor elephants can’t fathom political thinking” highlighted the destruction being caused to the Dahaiyagala Wildlife Sanctuary situated in the Monaragala district and the elephant corridor used by the elephants going in search of food, water, shade and other resources.
In a subsequent article headlined, “Ecocide – Another pandemic in disguise” she highlighted the devastation caused to the Walankanda-Suriyakanda elephant corridor in the
Her list of reported incidents of deforestation in 2020 include the Walankanda Forest Reserve; the Orugalyaya Forest Reserve; Bambaragaswewa and Sambaltive Mangroves in Trincomalee; the Welikanda Diwulana Forests; the proposed elephant management reserve at Wandama Demalya; Kirisuddan in the Madu Forest Reserve; Mangroves in Kalpitiya, Kirinda and Tissamaharama; the Walikanda Elephant Corridor; Mahadivulwewa Forest Reserve; Pinkattiya in the Anavilundawa Ramsar Wetland; the North-Eastern section of the Gal Oya National Park; the Huruluwewa Protected Area; Lahugala National Park and the vicinity of the Rambakan Oya while the reported cases of deforestation this year include Muthurajawela, Wilpattu; Walankanda-Suriyakanda and Lankagama in the Sinharaja Forest and the Dahaiyagala Elephant Corridor.
The present government held out a lot of promises to the people and the people supported it wholeheartedly at the presidential election in 2019 and the general election in 2020. But unfortunately, what we see today is disappointment, confusion and contradiction while worst still our precious fauna and flora will soon top the list of extinct species.