President orders halt to deforestation in Wilpattu

Sri Lanka President Maithripala Sirisena

President Maithripala Sirisena has ordered an immediate halt to deforestation and proposing land lots near the Wilpattu National Park, the Presidential Media Division said.

He has instructed relevant authorities to implement the law against any person responsible for such illegal acts while the Secretary to the Ministry of Environment has also been instructed to take necessary action in this regard.

Meanwhile all state officials in the area have also been notified on the matter, a PMD statement said.

Certain groups and media organisations had alleged that the Wilpattu sanctuary is being rapidly cleared for the construction of houses by Minister Rishad Bathiudeen and that the deforestation posed a threat to the wildlife, including animals facing extinction.

However, the Minister of Industry and Commerce had rejected the allegations leveled against him and vowed to quit if they were proven.

Addressing a press briefing on Thursday (7), he charged that an apparent vilification campaign is taking shape in certain media segments targeting him that, among others, alleged that Muslim IDP resettlements led by him are damaging the Wilpattu Forest Reserve in Northern Province.

“During the past few weeks, some television and the news media have negatively reported on continued and illegal Muslim resettlements in the Marichchikatti Grama Seva division which is outside the Wilpattu National Park.

“One privately owned media channel, during the last seven days, alleged that I have been destroying the Wilpattu jungle areas and also mentioned that I have been working to create an exclusive Zone to settle Pakistani nationalities and people from other Districts in this zone. These are campaigns of vilification,” said Bathiudeen.

The Ministry of Mahaweli Development and Environment comes under the direct purview of President Maithripala Sirisena.

Meanwhile a group of representatives from the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) and environmentalist groups today visited Mannar to look into the allegations of illegal resettlements taking place near the Wilpattu National Park.

(Ada Derana)