Wilpattu under threat once again

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Environmentalists are up in arms against a move to develop an illegal road across the Wilpattu National Park, from Puttalam to Mannar, on the whims and fancies of a powerful politician in the area.

According to sources, a team from the Road Development Authority (RDA) had visited Wilpattu National Park last week, after seeking permission from the Director General of Department of Wildlife Conservation (DWLC). Accordingly, permission has been granted to a team of officials from the RDA, DWLC and the Wanathavilluwa Divisional Secretary to undertake a field visit ‘only’ to observe the status quo of the prevailing road.

However, the politician in question with his team had also arrived to take part in the field visit. Officials of the DWLC and the Divisional Secretariat have expressed their displeasure as permission was only granted for government officials to visit the park and the politician had arrived without prior notice. Upon being subjected to opposition by officials he had left with only RDA officials undertaking the field visit.  The Environment Foundation Limited (EFL) and the Wildlife and Nature Protection Society (WNPS) petitioned the Supreme Court in 2010 seeking assurance that no construction within the Wilpattu National Park would be conducted till the final determination of their application.

In 2013, the Supreme Court issued a Stay Order to maintain status quo with no further development activity of the road including tarring of road be carried out other than normal repairs of the road.

Environmentalists pointed out that any development to the existing road will stand in callous disregard for the SC rule and would amount to contempt of Court.

Meanwhile, due to the pressure exerted by the said politician, another meeting had been called by Puttalam District Secretary at the District Secretariat on Thursday (21), where officials of the RDA, Irrigation Department and DWLC were present.  Wildlife officers have pointed out that doing anything against a Supreme Court order will be problematic and above all such road development activity within a National Park will disturb the wildlife and cause a major threat especially to the elephant and leopard population. 

By Gagani Weerakoon