Vedda Chief, CEJ seeak stay order

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Vedda Chief Uruwarige Wannila Aththo and the Centre for Environmental Justice (CEJ) yesterday (7), requested the Court of Appeal to issue a stay order to maintain the status quo of the Pollebedda-Mahaoya-Galwalayaya area stating that any further development in the area will severely affect the rights of the Vedda community and the residents in the area.

This was when the Writ Application, filed by the said parties, against mass deforestation in the area, was taken up before the Court yesterday (7).

The Court thereby, directed the Petitioners to file a motion, along with affidavits, if any such incident takes place in the area in a manner that violates the rights of the Vedda community or in any manner that destructs the environment.

The Petitioners, through the Petition,  requested Court to issue an interim order suspending the validity of approvals granted by Mahaweli Authority for the proposed Agriculture and Livestock Development Project and to halt the clearing of the lands at Pollebedda-Rambakan Oya, which is legally protected under Section 20 of the Forest Ordinance and the erection of an elephant fence in the area by anybody other than authorised parties by the Department of Wildlife Conservation.

Also, the Petitioners requested for a Writ of Mandamus demanding an Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) be conducted, prior to approval being granted to clear forest areas located in the Mahaweli areas for the said project, to take actions in terms of the National Environmental Act for the illegal clearing of the lands without conducting an EIA, to compensate for the environmental damage which has already been caused and will be caused to the environment due to the illegal activities done by them, in terms of the Polluters Pay Principle, to perform their statutory duties in conserving the fauna and flora in the area which is affected by the illegal clearing, to prepare a National Plan to identify the areas where elephant fences should be erected. 

When the Petition was taken up for argument yesterday (7), the Attorney General informed Court that the Attorney General’s Department is no longer appearing for the Mahaweli Authority and thereby the Authority has retained a private counsel and moved for further time to file objections and written submissions.

The matter was thereby re-fixed for argument on 31 January 2023.

BY FaadhilaThassim