Environment Minister opposes arming farmers to fight crop damage caused by wild animals

Mahinda Amaraweera

Arming farmers is not a solution to the problem of crop damage caused by various animals, Environment Minister Mahinda Amaraweera says.

Amaraweera says he strongly believes that prior to making such decisions, relevant institutions should conduct a proper study on the latest scientific and traditional methods of warding off animals that damage crops.

“It has been revealed that about 40 percent of the crops grown by farmers in our country are destroyed annually by wild animals such as monkeys, peacocks, wild boar and Rock Squirrels and porcupines.”

Answering queries, the minister said that even though farmers had requested air rifles or shotguns, he had not complied with their request.

The minister said methods that could reduce their breeding rather than killing wildlife and new technologies that could and should be used by way of a solution.

An electrical device introduced in Kahathewela, Bandarawela to chase away wild animals has been a success. The use of the machine had helped minimise crop damage. The government should provide firearms to farmers only if the relevant farmers had cultivated more than one hectare.

The issuance of firearms should be done strictly on the recommendation of the Grama Niladharis, Divisional Secretaries and District Secretaries. They should also regulate the manner in which the weapons were used. No one should be allowed to kill innocent animals just because they were given a weapon, the Minister said .

“However, I do not think this method is a solution. The extinction of predators is the reason for the increase in the population of some animals, coupled with relentless deforestation, land grabbing, and destruction of  animal habitats by humans. Therefore, the officials of the relevant institutions should try out new technologies. Then crop damage caused by animals can be minimised.

As the Minister of Environment, I see a solution only through the implementation of a balanced programme in which human beings and animals can coexist,” he said.

Conservation Organisations Against Environmental Destruction, consisting of all leading science/environmental organisations in Sri Lanka last week came together to condemn land grabbing calling it as an environmental catastrophe.

Recent proposal by Agriculture Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage to provide shotguns to farmers with more than one acre of land was a very short-sighted move, they said.

“Can Minister Mahindananda or the government guarantee that those guns will not only endanger the lives of animals but also the lives of human beings,” environmentalists queried.

The groups consist of Centre for Environmental Justice, Protect Sri Lanka, Otara Foundation, Rally for Animal Right & Environment, Federation of Environmental Organizations, Wildlife & Nature Protection Society, Research Circle, Leopocon Sri Lanka, Arunodaya Environmentalist, Movement of Land & Agriculture Reform, Sri Lanka Nature Group FIAN Sri Lanka, Lanka Nature Conservationist, Wild forum, Rain Forest Protectors and Young Zoologists Association of Sri Lanka.

(Source: The Island – By Ifham Nizam)