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Sinharaja Elephant Corridor: Destruction continues nonstop


28 January 2021 02:41 am - 32     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}


A part of the Manikkawatte-Bowitiyatenna elephant corridor in the Sinharaja Forest Reserve has been cleared for construction of two hotels.
Source: Suranga Buddhika Kumara


An elephant corridor running from Morning Side to Dellawa, Walankanda forest area through the Handapan Ella has been cleared to construct two hotels 

Activists are now questioning as to how permissions were obtained for these extensive construction plans


Two powerful businessmen have combined forces to block the main elephant corridor within the Sinharaja Forest Reserve. An elephant corridor running from Morning Side to the Dellawa, Walankanda forest through the Handapan Ella has been cleared to construct two hotels by a couple of businessmen. 

One such construction is reportedly underway in the Dolakanda GN Division in Kalawana, Ratnapura by a leading gem merchant’s family. Sources reveal that the Kalawana Pradeshiya Sabha has granted clearance, violating laws and regulations, which are in place to protect the reserve. The project, which runs across some seven acres of land, has already been bulldozed and cleared to make way for the construction. 

The other commercial project is reportedly underway across the Bowitiyathenna elephant corridor on land under the purview of the Godakawela Pradeshiya Sabha. The land extent of eight acres is being cleared by a businessman who goes by the name of Rajapaksha. 

The 11,187 hectare Sinharaja forest was declared a Man and Biosphere Reserve (MBR) in 1978 and it became a National Heritage Wilderness Area under the National Heritage Wilderness Area Act in 1988 

Sajeewa Chamikara of the Movement for Land and Agriculture Reform (MONLAR) said these construction works, have caused disturbances to the migration patterns of the two wild elephants residing in the Sinharaja Forest Reserve. Therefore, villagers in Rambuka, Thanawela, Ellagama, Handiyaade, Kajugaswatte, Pothupitiya, Kopikele and Cypresswatte areas have been facing increasing threats of wild elephants encroaching into the villages in search of food. Not only lives but also livelihoods of these villagers, who are mostly farmers have been threatened because of these ill-thoughtout construction attempts. 

“A vast area of land legally protected as a forest reserve in Sinharaja  is currently being exploited in this manner to construct hotels. This is through the misuse of political and commercial power,” he said. 

The 11,187 hectare Sinharaja Forest was declared a Man and Biosphere Reserve (MBR) in 1978 and it became a National Heritage Wilderness Area under the National Heritage Wilderness Area Act in 1988. This virgin forest was named World Heritage site by UNESCO in 1989.

According to Gazette Notification No. 2150/31 dated November 20, 2019. In terms of Section 3 of the Forest Conservation Ordinance last amended by Act No. 65 of 2009, 36,475 hectares of Sinharaja National Heritage Forest and surrounding forests have been declared as the Sinharaja Forest Reserve.

Accordingly the areas covering these protected areas and the surrounding areas have been declared as a Soil Conservation Zone by Gazette Notification No.1550/9 of May 22, 2008 in terms of Section 3 of the Soil Conservation Act No. 25 of 1951. This was due to the fact that the area had been identified as being prone to landslides. 

Against this backdrop, activists are now questioning as to how permission was obtained for these extensive construction plans by the authorities. 

As per Gazette Notification No.772/22 dated June 24, 1993, Section 23b of the National Environmental Act No.47 of 1980 Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA) have to be obtained prior to any clearance or construction in an area of more than one hectare of forest land.  Mr. Chamikara pointed out that no such EIA had been carried out prior to obtaining these permits. 

According to the same Gazette notice, permission cannot be granted for any development project within 100 metres of a land border which has been afforded 
national protection. 

Meanwhile, an activist lobbying against the wanton destruction which is continuing in the Sinharaja during the past few months has been attacked by an unidentified mob. Lakmal Ranabahu an environmental and political activist, who has raised his voice against the illicit clearing in the Sinharaja forest reserve was reportedly attacked on January 24 in Kalawana, and later admitted to the Ratnapura General Hospital with serious injuries. When the Daily Mirror contacted the Kalawana Police Officer-in-Charge to inquire into this incident, he was unavailable for comment.

The Daily Mirror also contacted Forest Department officials who informed us that several departments had been forced into quarantine and lockdowns, including its legal department through which this case is 
being handled. 

  Comments - 32

  • M Fernando Thursday, 28 January 2021 06:13 AM

    Why are we destroying our country ??? Dont people understand this is the future we are stealing from our children ??

    Gamaya Thursday, 28 January 2021 09:20 AM

    Everything is under lock down except the deforestation increasing due to the same reason.

    C. Fernando Thursday, 28 January 2021 09:21 AM

    Sri Lanka elephant population is dwindling and the elephants try to go into villages to obtain food. I would like the Government to take a stand on companies trying to build hotels in the Sinhraja Forest. Where are the environmental activists? Where are the leaders of this government? where are the opposition members? Where are the civic leaders? Does anyone care? Please check out this news report. It is a shame!

    K.L Pathirana Thursday, 28 January 2021 04:59 PM

    You can repeatedly ask the questions Where are the environmental activists? Where are the leaders of this government? where are the opposition members? Where are the civic leaders? Does anyone care? the answer is we certainly have to leave out the opposition and the present government as they're all the same, as long as their financial cut is paid they don't care. None of the previous gov's cared for you for the past 72 years do you think they'd care for the wildlife or your unborn children ? Those other three groups are utterly busy with attending to many deforestation and wildlife issues. The environment and biodiversity destruction is continuing at an alarming rate the activist cannot keep up with it. That is the answer to your question.

    Mike Judd Friday, 29 January 2021 09:36 AM

    Its a disgrace. The obvious greed and corruption in this country is endemic. No one cares and the legal system is pathetic. The population has become so apathetic, unless it involves them directly or there is money involved.

    sam Friday, 29 January 2021 12:48 PM

    initiate a boycott of these hotels by naming them including the so call business ppl, what a shame

    Tikiri Kobbekaduwa Thursday, 28 January 2021 12:21 PM

    These are private properties in Ratnapura. property at Kalawana owned by a Gem merchant is an old tea estate and he is building 3 cottages for his daughters obtaining the required approvals. building at other private property at Godakewela has been stopped

    Kumar Sunday, 31 January 2021 11:34 PM

    I expected the rich man's daughters to live in luxury in an exclusive area. There are many illegal tea plantation along the Gin Ganga encroaching sinharaja forest, down stream of Deniyaya. I suppose those plantations too will become some gem merchant's property at the end?

    idiot Thursday, 28 January 2021 01:46 PM

    the allmighty and super brain president where are you.

    Umar Perera Thursday, 28 January 2021 04:48 PM

    Has anyone informed UNESCO and the - elephant-crisis-fund?

    Joe Silva Friday, 29 January 2021 05:54 AM

    These so called environmentalist do not know the exact boundaries of the forest reserve and the buffer zone . when development takes place they mislead the public publishing false information in order to make a living. we all know that sinharaja forest is a national heritage.

    Kumar Tuesday, 09 February 2021 08:18 AM

    Dude I am not surprised. Sinharaja forest boundary keep changing daily. Give this guys a break. They are fighting a loosing battle.

    Bandula alwis Friday, 29 January 2021 06:17 AM

    This is what happened every time Rajapakse government came into power .They don't care about law of the country nor they care about environment .utter shame .

    AMAL Friday, 29 January 2021 08:31 AM

    Why are we all getting excited for no reason, honestly, the die is cast and no amount of bickering will stop this and any future damage, et back to whatever you people are doing, nothing will change.

    sacre blieu Friday, 29 January 2021 10:51 AM

    Is this a decision that we can do without the jungles and elephants.

    Ascot Dexter Friday, 29 January 2021 10:24 PM

    Terrible situation, destruction of our world heritage sites and forests going unabated thanks to our crooked politicians doing anything and everything to make money. Now it's easy to connect the dots with the this Hotels and the rush road construction in Sinharaja amid the protest of conservationists - all for the poor people WIFI

    RP Saturday, 30 January 2021 09:09 AM

    Shame on those destroying our forests and habitat for the wildlife. First, there was a road built and now two hotels and then what to follow, shopping centre?? What are our clueless leaders are doing? Nothing, absolutely nothing except contemplating how to stay in power indefinitely!

    Buddhist Saturday, 30 January 2021 08:46 PM

    President who loves military in every action, why is he not appointing a team of military personnel to control these destruction?

    BE FAIR Saturday, 30 January 2021 11:51 PM

    Ugly as ugly can be. Let them be cursed for Generations to come

    Shawn Sunday, 31 January 2021 02:18 AM

    Where are all those Saving Wilpathu crowd? This is 10 times worse...

    kudson Monday, 01 February 2021 09:17 AM

    these criminals destroying the reserve are worse than serial killers and Drug Dealers Death sentence has to be brought back these mongrels will never stop unless they are condemned to die

    Kathir Tuesday, 02 February 2021 01:42 AM

    Sinharajah Forest was well preserved by Englishmen to receive more rain but now this is being destroyed under The present regime As CT Fernando sang to children that this Punchi Lanka is belongs to them but now this belongs to a certain Germ Merchant!!!!

    Raj Soma Wednesday, 03 February 2021 10:24 AM

    This country is been sold, forest

    Amal Gurusinghe Wednesday, 03 February 2021 12:39 PM

    Godspeed sir! Godspeed! At this rate, we will only be like Singapore. Protecting the few trees we have and sinking in concrete. Way to go!

    Kemananda de Silva Thursday, 04 February 2021 03:02 AM

    are these hotels owned by the Rajapaksa family members

    dickie bird Friday, 05 February 2021 12:44 PM

    The Gem merchants THREE daughters are going to reside in these cottages or going to rent it out? This gem merchant must be poor guy who has no other place to park his three daughter. Governor Tikiri Kobbekaduwa is a disgrace.

    WDS Nilmini Friday, 05 February 2021 05:02 PM

    are they going to live forever? why these people so greedy?

    Travis Friday, 05 February 2021 05:57 PM

    This is called a crime should punish them

    N V Jen Saturday, 06 February 2021 10:34 PM

    President is paying a lip service on protecting the environment, from election meetings to the latest independent day speech. In reality, destruction is taking place unabated. Double standards is the hall mark of our politicians.

    seetha nilmini Monday, 08 February 2021 05:09 PM

    why they cant develop tourism by protecting environment after destroying all no body wants to come and see this land please protect our jungles and environment after destroying all president or somebody will visit over there and take publicity before doing it all are dumb and blind

    Indranath Siridewa Monday, 08 February 2021 06:29 PM

    Glad to see such local developments in SL- people you protest - we work hard to develop this poor nation! We do not need jungles - we need animals for the parliament and people to protest!

    Angre Fernandez Monday, 08 February 2021 10:04 PM

    Disgraceful $$$$$$$$$$$ are more import than our natural wildlife. STOP THIS, nature first not greed.

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