Sri Lanka Navy has forcefully acquired close to 900 acres of forestry located within the perimeters of the Wilpattu National Park to carry out constructions of a mega tourism project.
According to information revealed by the officials of the Environment Conservation Trust, the land grab has been carried out by the SLN in the area located along the Northern border of the park, in the vicinity of the Mollikulam area. Presently, a large wall that is about nine inches in height is being built around the forcefully acquired land and its constructions have been completed so far for about 2 km along the Eluwankulama – Silwathura road that was also constructed by the SLN illegally.
What is even more damaging is that, 50 more acres of land in the national park have been impacted due to being cleared to obtain soil to build the massive nine inch rampart that is being built around the 900 acre land.
“These actions are indications to prove that there is no civil administration in these areas,” environmentalists point out.
When inquired, SLN had justified the illegal constructions and land grabs stating it is for security reasons as the LTTE threat still exists. But deeper probing into the constructions have revealed that the land has been acquired to construct a mega tourism project.
Similar land grabs have been carried out in Paanama, Ampara where residents of two villages had been ousted from their homes and farming lands spanning over 1220 acres forcefully to construct tourism projects.
Despite environmental laws clearly stating that prior approval should be obtained following an environmental impact assessment report test, before commencing the constructions of any development project within one mile radius of a national park, no such permission has been sought for this SLN led project so far.
As a result of these illegal constructions, the environment has come under heavy threats including its eco system, habitats of animals such as elephants and the area has become more prone to soil erosion and the archaeological sites in the vicinity are also on the verge of being destroyed.
Wilpattu National Park is home to a total of 328 species out of which 21 are indigenous.