The Movement for Land and Agriculture Reform (MONLAR) claimed that 21 000 acres of land belonging to the Knuckles Mountain or ‘Dumbara Range’ had been given to several close associates of some government ministers in order to carry out various projects and added that immediate steps should be taken to stop these proceedings.
MONLAR member environmentalist Sajeewa Chamikara said in a statement on Wednesday that these lands which were managed by State Plantations Corporation and Elkaduwa Plantation Limited had been given to close associates and relatives of two powerful ministers.
“6 192 of 9 675 hectares belonged to State Plantations Corporation and 2 363 of 3 693 hectares belonged to and Elkaduwa Plantation Limited from the lands attached to the boundary of Knuckles Conservation Forest have been given accordingly. A total of 21 400 acres were given to these minister-associates,” he said.
He said these lands had been given several companies including for a large-scale chicken farm, mineral mining of quarts and a large-scale hotel project. He also said that these proceedings were continuing by violating the provisions of the National Environmental Act in an illegal manner.
He said the ‘Dumbara Range’ was a special biodiversity zone which contained climatic variations and added that it would not be permissible to get such a valuable resource destroyed because of the misuse of the lands belonged to it.
“The related authorities should take immediate measures to take over the private forest lands which belong to the Knuckles Conservation Forest to the Wildlife Conservation Department. The politicians do not have any authority to give away those lands despite these lands being protected under a special legal frame,” he added.
He said the government was in an attempt to establish a completely open economy by implementing new liberal economics by following the conditions of the International Monetary Fund and added that immediate steps should be taken to defeat these moves.
Meanwhile, Forest Conservation Department’s Conservator General Anura Sathurusinghe told the Daily Mirror that the alleged lands were not included within the areas of the Knuckles Mountain range and added that those lands did not belong to the department accordingly.
Mr. Sathurusinghe said they had not yet been reported of such an incident as of now from the related authorities.
“However, the department is going to take over several lands in the boundary of the Knuckles Mountain in the coming days. Therefore, we will check on these allegations in order to clarify whether those lands belonged to such lands which we would acquire,” he said. (Kalathma Jayawardhane)