Deforestation destroying Endemic Flora and Fauna Habitats
By Eunice Ruth and K. K. Ariyadasa
Large scale deforestation is taking place in Government reserves surrounding Kala Wewa and Balalu Wewa built by King Datusena, said the wildlife official in-charge of the reserve.
“In the last few days ancient trees including some rare trees in the reserve were destroyed using dozers. The Government lands in the Dikadiyawa and Balalu wewa which belongs to the Divisional Secretary and the Palagala Agrarian Services Department was destroyed. Important elephant corridors and elephant paths have also been destroyed in the process. All wildlife suffers because of this selfishness. A large area used by Elephants was cleared and set on fire. Valuable trees and vines were cut down.” said the officials.
“In the area surrounding the reserve, another unauthorised group is illegally undertaking construction stating the Divisional Secretariat, Palagala granted them permission. When the group was questioned they said the Divisional Secretariat had given them about an acre of land to construct a burial ground. We are not aware who these people are who carry out these illegal activities in the reserve. All the grand Neem trees in the forest reserve are cut down and the main trunk parts taken away while the remaining parts are mechanically chopped and prepared for transport to another place” the official said.
A group of journalists had already visited the site and reported the matter to the authorities but they had not responded. They informed the Divisional Secretary, the Police and the Grama Niladhari and the public health inspectors about the massive environmental destruction and that a group of people were trying to capture Government reserves.
When contacted the Palagala Divisional Secretary, Athula Bandara Senarath,noted that he will look into this issue immediately and also he said that he will never allow anyone to conduct illegal activities such as land encroachment, deforestation or other construction activities, within the Government forest reserve area.
Even though the Divisional Secretary has been appointed as the in-charge person and protector of Government lands and reserves, a huge amount of environmental destruction has taken place on Government lands.
Speaking to the Divisional Secretary of Palagala District, A.S Bandara, he said the land belongs to Divisional secretariat area of Palagala and it was given to the villagers to construct a crematorium. The land clearing was not conducted in the reserve area and it was conducted on the allocated land. The young people of the village have cleared the land in order to start the construction process and it was done without getting proper permission from the higher officials or the relevant authorities including the wildlife office and the Divisional Secretariat. Even though it is said that large number of ancient trees was destroyed, while commenting on it, he said that ancient trees were not harmed and the people who have cleaned the land, have cleared only the small bushes in the land.
“There are steps which need to be followed while constructing a burial land or crematorium and the process should be followed by everyone. No one can do things without getting proper permission from the authorities and for the individuals who fail to follow the process will be punished according to the law,” said Bandara.
He said the case discussed was reported two years ago. A case will be filed against anyone who conducts such activities without permission and he pointed the persons who violate Government rules and regulations will be punished according to the law.