Residents fear it would soon be turned into a dumping ground
By H.M. Dharmapala and Kusal Chamath
Environmental lovers and residents of the area who expressed concern about the ongoing wanton destruction caused to the only bird sanctuary and the protected wetland environmental zone in the western province said that it would soon be a dumping ground and a bare land. They pointed out that the authorities had failed to provide adequate protection to the bird sanctuary which had been a tourist attraction.
Residents of the area pointed out that organized groups of individuals receiving political patronage, had cleared and filled vast stretches of marshes in the environmental zone that served as the abode of endemic and migratory birds and other creatures including mongoose, giant squirrels and antelopes creating a tourist attraction. Added to it are the unauthorized erections that turned the bird sanctuary into an eyesore and not a tourist attraction.
A resident of the area and an environmental lover K.D.Saman Priyantha (47) of Maharagama Road, Bellanwila said that in the past the marshy land had been covered with a thick jungle rich in bio-diversity and provided a breeding ground for a vast range of bird and animal species.
“A vast tract of paddy fields on either side of the road abandoned by the farmers for want of irrigation facilities were caught in the jungle tide widening the bird sanctuary. However, unscrupulous individuals without least concern about this natural asset have been clearing the jungle for business purposes. Our representations in this regard to the relevant authorities have fallen on deaf ear. This is a wet land protected under the Ramsa Convention, but the authorities have allowed the wanton destruction to go on unchecked. Meanwhile dumping of tractor loads of garbage has further aggravated the environmental damage. Today the bird sanctuary is the dumping ground of debris removed from construction sites,” he said.
A resident of Attidiya, H.M. Jayasinghe said the attractive Bellanwila-Attidiya environmental zone would soon be a thing of the past which we would talk about with our children, arousing our nostalgic memories. He said the thousands of people who provided services to the tourists who visited the bird sanctuary had lost their livelihood.
“Singing of birds is not heard now. Prominent personalities receiving political patronage have cleared the bird sanctuary and built multi storied houses. They have obtained water and electricity supplies on forged documents while the relevant authorities are moribund inactive,” he said.
Residents of the area requested the Wildlife Conservation Department to focus attention on the sad state of the Bellanwila-Attidiya environmental zone and the bird sanctuary and to provide protection to what has been left of it. The warning boards to prevent dumping of garbage has not served any purpose and large collections of garbage have been left in the bird sanctuary. Residents of the area pointed out that the heaps of garbage lying near the water service main and near the bridge on Kahawita Mawatha had polluted the canal.
An environmental lover and a tour guide Sumedha Sirimanna (35) said in the past hundreds of tourists visited the bird sanctuary bringing them an income, but many species of birds that created a tourist attraction were now extinct.