PS Candidate Suspected of Deforestation for Granite Quarries
By Eunice Ruth
Nearly 10 acres of Government forest reserve in Nawakkulam, Medawachchiya Division, Anuradhapura District has been illegally cleared by a group of people for the sake of constructing two large black stone quarries, said the residents of Nawakkulam.
They also claimed that this large scale deforestation has been caused by a resident of Nawakkulam who has already contested as a candidate for the Medawachchiya Pradeshiya Sabha Election. Even though he contested, he was defeated in the Election.
This Nawakkulam Government Forest is a large forest with 525 hectares and it is located in Medawachchiya Divisional Secretariat Division. This forest is rich in biodiversity and many animals including elephants, deer, rabbits, frogs and other rare species are found here.
Because of encroachment the forest area has been gradually reduced. Unfortunately, for the country neither the Government Officials nor any other responsible authority has been able to notice the illegal activities taking place here.
Due to the carelessness of the responsible authorities and the Government even though the law was enforced after our earlier disclosure about deforestation in the Medawachchiya District, the criminals were not properly punished accordingly, the residents complained.
The devastation of the Nawakkulam forest started some time ago and illegal activities like the cutting and selling of valuable trees and the killing of animals are disregarded by the relevant authorities. The residents also said the forest destruction is perceptible to their eyes but the Government Officials are unable notice it. The villagers also stated about the new plan where a group of people have decided to build two black stone quarries.
The residents urged the Government to instruct the responsible authorities to take immediate measures to end illegal forest clearing and encroachment. Meanwhile, speaking to the Divisional Secretary Medawachchiya, M.C. Malaviarachchi, regarding the illegal forest clearing and destruction, she noted that she was aware and she has received information about this large scale deforestation. “Immediately, I advised and sent the Grama Niladhari and an official from the Forest Department to the location to find the illegal clearing and to conduct an investigation in this regard.
“After the inspection, the Grama Niladhari revealed that the illegal forest clearing was taken in a place which did not belong to the Divisional Secretariat area. Also, accordingly, the land belongs to the Department of Forest Conservation. Therefore, I have informed the responsible forest officer of Medawachchiya Forest Office, regarding the issue”, she added.
Also, she stated “the person who has illegally cleared the forest has sent a permission letter to me regarding the construction of black stone quarries. However, I have not accepted it and not allowed them to start the construction works of the quarry”.
“The residents have been informed and updated regarding the ongoing deforestation and we have witnessed it with our own eyes. All other institutions related to the construction of quarries have already given permission to them. However, I will not allow them to destroy a forest for the sake of their business activities.
Currently, I have informed the District Secretary in this regard. I will never allow people to illegally conduct business activities within a Government forest reserve and I will help the officials of the Forest Department to take necessary legal actions against the suspects and to end this forest destruction,” said Malaviarachchi.
On the other hand, speaking to an official of Medawachchiya Forest Office, Pradeep Chandra Kumara noted that he has been transferred to this area recently, as the former officer was transferred due to his involvement in some illegal forest clearings. “The forest area which was cleared belongs to our Department. However, this is not a reserve, but a Government forest.
Trees have been cut off, and several large pits have been dug inside the forest area”. He also said “the person who has illegally cleared the forest area has been working on a black stone project which was approved by the Forest Department in 2008. This person has also presented us with an old deed from 1967 regarding the land ownership and we have forwarded it to the Divisional Secretariat for recommendation and later we were informed that this person has given 0.35 hectares for the ammunition depot in the forest”.
Meanwhile, while inquiring about approval regarding the new stone quarry and the improper approval regarding the construction of the quarry, he refused to answer and said that they will not be able to share important information to the media.