By Sunalie Ratnayake –
(February 20, Los Angeles – Colombo Telegraph) ~ ‘Muthurajawela’, Sri Lanka’s ‘Quagmire of Regal Treasure’ is reported to be in a critical state, according to reports by Sri Lankan environmentalists who are visibly concerned over the matter, as of late. They are struggling to instigate awareness campaigns with regards to same, hoping to bring to a standstill, the current detrimental operations being conducted in the area.
Moreover, such campaigns to raise a voice against, and to bring an awareness in relation to all destruction carried out upon dear mother nature is more or less, nearly all that could be done by nature lovers at this moment, due to the fact that all related modus operandi concerning same are being carried out by teams affiliated with the government in power. The customary story in present day Sri Lanka is that, as long as any wounding calamity is blessed with government sanction, not even the all mighty Lord has authority in retreating the impairment caused by such conducts.
This is the reality in present day Sri Lanka run by the Rajapaksa brotherhood. Therefore, as in any other unconstructive circumstances that we witness on a day to day basis, the ‘Muthurajawela Catastrophe’ too is in a dodgy plight.
Illegitimate sale of Swamp Land
Sri Lanka’s Centre For Environmental Studies in Panadura has reported that the Muthurajawela Marshland has begun to be unlawfully blocked and sold by government affiliated parties, as of late. According to the said authority, an influential politically allied personality in the area have separated 800 blocks of ten perches each from the Muthurajawela Swamp, and sold each block for Rs. 35,000.00 as of now.
Those who have purchased the blocks of land in this area are reported to be already clearing the surroundings by removing all woodland shades, especially that of the Kadolana Mangroves in the Negombo area, also clearing lands belonging to Niwi Sirigama, Leenaswella, Weliketiya and Pamunugama, in order to build roads to approach the illicitly bought lands. In the process, the sanctuary is also reported to be set on fire, by and large.
The Muthurajawela quagmire, which is situated towards the southern fraction of Negombo have boundaries spanning from the Negombo lagoon and the Kelaniya river situated in the Northern tip of Colombo. The quagmire covers nearly 6000 hectares inclusive of the Negombo lagoon, which also creates a coastal ecosystem that forms numerous food webs.
The ocean’s sea water is brought into the wetland by means of the daily high tide. This natural environmental course of action have been continuously occurring for thousands of years, thus mixing two formulas of water, incorporating a biologically diverse, briny coastal ecosystem that has been swarming with life. Known to be the island’s principal saline peat bayou, Muthurajawela is believed to have originated virtually 7000 years ago, and consists of certain residuals that extend over 500 years en route toward history.
Subsistence in Muthurajawela
An enormous variety of flora including medicinal plants and mangroves are found in the swamp, not forgetting copious species of Birds (102 species), Fish (40 different species, of which 15 falls under the grouping of indigenous fauna), Butterflies (48 species that represent 20% of the total butterfly species in Sri Lanka), Dragonflies and Damselflies (22 species representing approximately 19% of the total Odonata species found in the island). Out of these, some being endemic, and some others endangered.
The fish species found in Muthurajawela also include freshwater and marine migratory species that migrate from fresh to marine habitats in terms of reproduction. These species include the Level-finned Eel, Marine species Red Snapper, Big-eye Trevally, Common Glass fish, and Tarpon and Silver Bleddy that move into the brackish water for spawning.
A proliferating population of the endangered Eurasian Crocodile (the largest reptile in Muthurajawela), the Indian Python, Spectacle Cobra, Russell’s Viper, and Monitor Lizards are also found in this area, amongst it’s priceless fauna. The Amphibians in Muthurajawela, which consists of 14 species, represents 26% of the total amphibian species in the island. The most commonly found species happen to be the Common Toad and the Six-Toed Green Frog.
Six endemic and 9 nationally endangered Reptile species are found in the swamp, which consists of a total of 31 species covering 20% of the island’s reptilian fauna. Out of same, the most widespread reptile species are the Water Monitor, Common Garden Lizard and two species of Geckos. Typically, a dry zone familiar species, which is the Star Tortoise is also seen in Muthurajawela on an irregular basis.
Apart from the bird species stated above, Muthirajawela has been supposedly consisting of 192 different categories of flora, and 209 categories of fauna also discovered in the said swamp. The endangered ‘animal of the night’, namely the ‘Grey Slender Loris’ is also to be seen sporadically in the backdrop, which is also a globally threatened attention-grabbing creature.
Furthermore, Muthurajawela consists of 22 species of Mammals, representing 25% of Sri Lanka’s Mammal species, including one endemic, and among them 4 species being nationally endangered. Apart from that, Murids, Mice and Rats are commonly seen in the hinterland.
Another eco hostile project of the government
The Centre For Environmental Studies have in the past, also exposed another ‘eco-hostile-project’ that was underway in Korali-Gula in Negombo, 37 kilometres north of Colombo. The project instigated by UPFA Minister Felix Perera was to build a hotel complex by destroying the entire flora and fauna in the area unreservedly. As per the aforesaid authority, the unreceptive Government of Sri Lanka is now being deceitful towards the citizens, and merrily carrying forward the latest Muthurajawela cataclysm.
The Muthurajawela quagmire directly operates under the Department of Wildlife Conservation, and all maneuvers concerning the area are accountable by the Sri Lanka Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (ME&NR) established in 2001, as well as the Central Environmental Authority (CEA), which was established over three decades ago in 1981.
The ME&NR has the overall responsibility in the affairs pertaining to the CEA, and the so called authorities had been established so long ago, with the objective of integrating environmental considerations in the development process of the country. Be that as it may, today the authorities are conveniently turning a blind eye to all the occurring that is unremittingly detrimental to the environment.
Concerns of Sri Lankan environmentalists
According to Centre For Environmental Studies Environmentalist Mr. Ravindra Kariyawasam’s observation, the Wetland Directory of Sri Lanka, which has been published by the CEA states that Muthurajawela consists of 2569 hectares. However, in contrary to the information in the aforesaid directory, the Department of Wildlife Conservation has published a pamphlet that states the magnitude of the Muthurajawela quagmire as ; initial segment 1028.6 hectares, and the segment that follows 256.8 hectares, respectively. This would be a total of 1285.4 hectares. That is a reduced amount of 1283.6 hectares in land, in comparison to the data in the Wetland Directory of Sri Lanka.
Based on the information in the aforesaid two tomes, in spite of shielding or not, the Muthurajawela swamp from the soiled claws of government affiliated felons, the two authorities (Central Environmental Authority and the Department of Wildlife Conservation), which are under Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources cannot even replicate acceptable fundamental data on the marsh, to begin with. Therefore, how could we expect anything more from such negligent state-operated authorities ?
Per Ravindra Kariyawasam’s scrutiny, when the authorities themselves have constantly failed to provide accurate data with regards to a ‘prominent factor’ pertaining to the swamp (in this case, the actual size of the land), it is quite obvious that the law will not be utilized to bring an end to delinquency, further allowing local crooks as well as interested foreign sources to destroy the swamp per their yearning.
In the environs of the quagmire, multiple planks and posts are submerged to the earth via poles, displaying pompous proclamations such as ; ‘This is home to wild animals’, ‘Shooting of wild animals, fishing, stealing bird eggs are acts liable by penalty’, and so on and so forth. With all that being said as mere hollow signage, in reality, the current brazen occurrences pertaining to Muthurajawela is no slighter than the mass land pillage by the British, via the 1896 Wasteland Enactment.
The Centre For Environmental Studies have further stated the enormously witnessed fact, that the city of Colombo effortlessly gets flooded as an aftermath of the slightest rainfall. This is due to the natural swamp been jam-packed with factories, hotels and houses built on an area, that otherwise should have belonged to the natural world of flora and fauna.
Moreover, during president Chandrika Kumaratunge’s regime, the planned construction of a highway caused heaps and heaps of sand (lakhs of tons) to be tossed on the Muthurajawela quagmire, leaving it in disaster with the sand mountains reflecting as ghosts. This slipshod conduct alone already destroyed a significant fragment of the marsh. Now the Rajapaksa regime has begun to eat-up the remaining balance of the marsh.
Is this the so-called development of a nation ? Killing the environment by and large, damaging all natural and gifted wherewithal in exchange of an enlargement in synthetic entities that ultimately does boomerang, causing absolute calamity to the humankind in the long run.
Declaration as a sanctuary
Due to it’s indubitable vast bio diversity, the Muthurajawela quagmire was declared a sanctuary by the then Chandrika Kumaratunge government in 1996. It is an expanse where visitors could be assisted by the Muthurajawela Marsh Centre, as means of observation, via which the general public of Sri Lanka, as well as tourists are educated about the importance of Muthurajawela.
The centre operates everyday, except Monday from 7.00 a.m. to 6.00 p.m. for the expediency of those interested in environmental concerns. A boat ride is available for visitors, to navigate through the marsh and the lagoon, along with an accurately trained guide.
Apart from steering via the marsh and lagoon, those interested could also walk on the land and view it’s chunky, sparkly, wet greenery. It’s advised that the best hours to roam in the swamp are early mornings and evenings, and the best hours to avoid due to the exposure to harsh sun rays are late mornings and afternoons.
Not a government crook’s easy means of revenue
On the whole, Muthurajawela or the ‘Quagmire of Regal Treasure’ is a rich, hale and hearty imperial treasure that mother nature over centuries of time, have prearranged for us to appreciate as human beings, as well as for it’s plants, photosynthetic organisms, their communities to amalgamate in terms of forming food webs, and survival.
It is an ecosystem, which has been a multiple functional unit for thousands and thousands of years, consisting of living beings in that given locale, non-living chemical and physical factors of it’s environment, and all the said entities blended in harmony via a nutrient cycle, and an enchanting flow of energy. On a lighter note, nothing compares to Sri Lanka’s Muthurajawela slough, a priceless gift of nature, from nature.
If this bravura web of nature cannot be appreciated by those opaque crooks affiliated with the government, as well as the government and it’s authorities that opportunely close their eyes to this transgression, is it too much of a request being made, in suggesting to at least look away, leave the quagmire alone, and stop all the sickening lawbreaking at once.