Smugglers & Businessmen Destroy Neem Reserve

By Eunice Ruth and Sajith Gayan | Published: 2:00 AM Oct 26 2021
Focus Smugglers & Businessmen Destroy Neem Reserve

By Eunice Ruth and Sajith Gayan 

Medawachchiya has witnessed several illegal forest clearings and smugglings and once again encounters another case of illegal smuggling. A Neem (kohomba) reserve in the Medawachchiya District, which is more than 40 years old has been destroyed by smugglers and businessmen, said the locals. The Neem tree is valued for its healing properties and is used for many medicinal purposes from ancient times. This Neem reserve is part of the Medawachchiya Walpola reserve and it is located in the village of Konakumbugollewa, Katuwewa, and Dambuwa. 

Residents noted that these illegal smugglings and clearings were happening in this reserve from time to time for several years and every time when something happens like this, the locals stand against it, and we prevent it from happening and we try our maximum to stop the clearing and smuggling. Even though we have reported it to Government Officials and other responsible authorities several times, till today, no actions was taken against the suspects. 

The locals have also claimed that, last year, some suspects who had the support of political leaders and some Government officials have tried to clear the whole Neem reserve area. Also, the residents alleged that another Pradeshiya Sabha candidate, who was defeated in the last election, was also engaged in this illegal clearing. In addition, due to the support of all these people, authorities have not paid any attention to this issue and it is still being dragged without a proper solution, said the locals. 

Accordingly, in Sri Lankan history, many deforestation incidents were recorded and still many are taking place without the knowledge of responsible officials. Especially in Medawachchiya, a huge amount of deforestation is taking place and unfortunately, residents were unable to stop everything and officials are not taking the necessary actions. This Kohomba Reserve in Medawachchiya District has been established in over 100 acres of land by an environmentally-friendly Grama Niladhari who was on duty in the village of Katuwewa and Dambuwa about 40 years ago. 

All Neem trees in the reserve were well grown and at present, due to the unresponsiveness of the officials, 17 well-grown Neem trees have been cut down and killed by these illegal smugglers. The residents also said that, recently, a group of Sri Lankan intelligence officers had visited and taken action to stop this deforestation. Speaking to the Forest officer of Medawachchiya Forest Office, Pradeep Chandrakumara, noted that, he got transferred to this office recently and the previous officer was transferred after encountering his involvement in illegal smuggling activities. 

After referring to the complaints of the village people, we have inspected the place and arrested several suspects along with the defeated Pradeshiya Sabha candidate, and filed a case against them for clearing 0.3 hectares in the Neem reserve. Also, an order was obtained to stop the suspect from entering the reserve and conducting any clearings within the reserve, he added. He also said that, a sum of Rs. 38,000 was imposed on the suspect as the fine for the illegal activity. 

Also, the forest officer noted that the suspect had done similar deforestation activities before also. Meanwhile, further investigations in this regard are being carried out and soon the actions will be taken against the suspects. In addition, he said that the persons who are engaged in illegal activities will be punished by the law of the country and no one has the authority over Government properties and no one can take decisions regarding any destruction activities. 

Meanwhile, speaking to the Divisional Secretary of Medawachchiya Divisional Secretariat, M. C. Malaviarachchi noted that, currently investigations in this regard are being carried out and soon we will take action against it. This Neem reserve area is part of the Medawachchiya Forest Office and it is also the closest part of the land which belongs to the Divisional Secretariat division. Also, she said that they will strictly enforce laws related to illegal forest clearings and smuggling activities.

By Eunice Ruth and Sajith Gayan | Published: 2:00 AM Oct 26 2021

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