Minister of Wildlife and Forest Conservation, Mahinda Amaraweera yesterday (1), instructed authorities to arrest and file legal actions against those involved in land grabbing in the Kebiliththa Forest Reserve.
According to the Ministry, a group of individuals from Moneragala had tried to forcibly clear land in the reserve on 31 Tuesday and yesterday (1) under the pretext of cultivation.
A discussion was held in this regard yesterday (1) under the patronage of Amaraweera during which officials informed him that although 25,000 acres of land has been provided around and outside the reserve, certain individuals have been grabbing land inside the reserve without cultivating the land allocated to them.
“Although Wildlife officers together with STF tried to enter the Kebiliththa Forest Reserve yesterday (1) they were obstructed by a few individuals due to which Amaraweera contacted the Moneragala DIG in this regard,” the Ministry observed.
Thereby, Amaraweera instructed the Moneragala DIG to arrest those involved in land grabbing within the forest reserve when land has been provided specifically for cultivation.
He also instructed officials to identify those who are not cultivating land as cultivation for the Maha season is only due to commence in October, and that no land grabbing should be allowed to take place within the reserve.
Meanwhile, Executive Director of the Centre for Environmental Justice (CEJ) Dilena Patharagoda in a letter to the Minister of Environment observed, “This reserve is rich in valuable biodiversity as well as an elephant habitat and is the main catchment area of the Kumbukkan Oya, Kotiyagala Wewa and Wattarama Wewa water sources. Therefore, we urge you not to allow any attempt to encroach on the Kebiliththa Reserve, despite the provision of land and to enforce the law against those who have cleared the forest.”
By Faadhila Thassim