The UNP is to hold a dialogue with international and local bodies including UNESCO that are concerned about preserving nature, to safeguard the Sinharaja rain forest, party Deputy Leader Ruwan Wijewardene said yesterday.
Mr. Wijewardene told a media conference that the focus of its party was to prevent the water project which is said to be set up within the forest.
“We will start up a dialogue with local and international bodies which are concerned with preserving nature and wildlife in order to save Sri Lanka’s only rain forest. However our exercise will not be a politically motivated one,” Mr. Wijewardene said.
He said the UNP will make a written request from UNESCO to help safeguard the rainforest.
“Trees in the Sinharaja forest were felled by the State Timber Corporation in the 1970s. Following the lobbying by environmentalists, then-President J R. Jayewardene stopped that exercise. This was followed by the introduction of the National Heritage Wilderness Areas Act of 1988 under which all activities done within the forest are prohibited. No person can cut, mark, plot, girdle or convert, collect or remove any plant or tree from the forest area, wilfully strip off a bark or engage in other form of damage or interfere with any tree, cut grass under section 4 of the Act. No one could lay his or her hands on any tree or plant under this legislation. No person can make any fresh clearing as well,” he said.
“Legal action could be taken against anyone who violates this Act. We presume that Minister Chamal Rajapaksa who said a water project will be implemented within the Sinharaja forest is aware of this,” he said.
He said the project should be stopped forthwith and the water project should be located somewhere else.
“There were 6,782 hectares in the Sinharaja Forest when Late President Jayewardene gazetted it as a reserved forest. The forest was extended to 11, 992 hectares in 1992.
On a different note, the UNP Deputy Leader said the government should carry out an independent investigation to determine as to who was behind the importation of contaminated coconut oil.
Environmentalist and former member of the Food Control Board Dr. Ajantha Perera who also participated in the conference said aflatoxin which is found to be a substance that spreads cancer is usually formed in Copra. “Refining of contaminated oil will not serve any purpose as a result,” she said. (Yohan Perera)