08 May 2015

Wilpattu: urgent action needed

Are there buffaloes other than this, bold and brash unlike this wary and threatened creature?  Pic: www.themudhouse.lk
There's a lot of noise over Wilpattu these days.  There are allegations that Rishard Bathiudeen is facilitating the clearing of forests to resettle not just the displaced but political supporters.  Indeed some allege that refugees from Pakistan are among those who have been given plots of land.  

Bathiudeen has called for an investigation, a Presidential Commission no less.  This is a good move.  He claims that he has done nothing illegal and is confident that any inquiry will clear him of wrongdoing.  

Environmentalists and others however argue that while state land is being encroached on, out of the public eye there's a lot of tree-felling going on that Bathiudeen as well as relevant officials are either unaware or pretending to be ignorant of.  It is not unnatural for people to be concerned because Bathiudeen has a dubious history in 'settlement' operations.  

Given these concerns it is imperative that any investigation should be comprehensive, taking into account all elements of the problem.  For example, it is alleged that there were projects sanctioned by the previous regime that violated established procedure with respect to alienating state land.  Then there is also the question of whether places of archaeological importance being earmarked (knowingly or unknowingly) for settlement.  

Some have pointed out that the objections have been prompted by anti-Muslim sentiment.  Since the Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) is one of the objecting parties and since the BBS has a history of taking issue with the Muslim community, the 'communalist' charge is certainly not out of place. 

On the other hand, it has to be noted that people of all communities have been displaced and that landlessness is not a preserve of a single community.  If, as alleged, the entire (re)settlement process has a communalist flavor then the communalist card cannot be used to object to the objectors.  Moreover, it cannot be an excuse to demand a 'hands-off' approach.  

The state has to be community-blind when it comes to the protection of forests.  If the legislation is inadequate it has to be strengthened.  If enforcement is tough, measures have to be put in place to make it possible.  Forests belong to everyone.  They impact, positively or negatively, everyone.  They are part of our natural heritage.  Politics, communal or otherwise, should not be allowed to facilitate the razing of forests.   


Wilpattu is precious.  More precious than politicians and officials.  Actions is required.  And until action is taken all settlement operations, especially the felling of trees, must be put on hold. 


Reactions:

3 comments:

sbarrkum said...

Malinda,
There is a lot of stuff being yelled about Wilpattu. But somehow facts and clear references are always missing.

So point form.
a) Marichchikatti/Marichchukkaddi settlement. There is a satellite map floating around. But no link to a google maps location.
Here is a link to Marichchikatti/Marichchukkaddi on Google maps. There is no evidence of settlements within the Park borders (south of Modaragam Aru)
https://goo.gl/maps/eTtPb

b) There are two existing settlements (Sinhalese/Tamil and have electoral lists) within the Park. Palugasthurai and Pookulam. Here is a link to Palugasthurai. You can see the coast that was to be created.
https://goo.gl/maps/0zkZw

c) There was a big article on many acres being grabbed by the Navy: False
False: Illegal Land Grabs By Sri Lanka Navy Destroys Wilpattu National Park

Other info links.
Trip to Palugasturai (in Wilpattu) Wadiya Church

Anonymous said...

cheers ! for the article and especially for the last para. Right voice in right time.

sbarrkum said...

False: Wilpattu National Park Deforestation in Marichchikatti/Marichchukkaddi

Update: Daily Mirror says that Maitripala Sirisena orders immediate halt of Deforestation in Wilpattu National Park.

Hmm, there is no deforestation in Wilpattu National Park. If MS had said halted deforestation in Wilpattu Park Buffer Zone,
That would have been great but political suicide.