29 July, 2021

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Save Sathurukondan Wetlands: Going once…Going twice…

By Thangamuthu Jayasingam

Dr. Thangamuthu Jayasingam

Dr. Thangamuthu Jayasingam

An elephant cannot be conserved by conserving the forest only. It needs a surrounding/within a grassland where it feeds and walks. Similarly a wetland/mangrove could not be just conserved by the tree vegetation only. The open parks with water is essential for the life of the birds that brood there or visit and enjoy.

Look at the wetland below photographed by M. A. Saleem (http:// easternsrilanka. natgeotourism.com/content/sathurukondan-wetlands-and-birds-sanctuary-batticaloa/sri2bf535d6849259911). This is SATHURUKONDAN WETLANDS. This may not be there for you to see tomorrow(pictures taken on 10th September are given below) , as it is being blocked and filled by persons who claim to be the owners of the land. The Batticaloa lagoon is meters away across the lagoon and at full capacity it fills these places photographed and in every sense is a part of the lagoon at its maximum capacity.

I am not sure whether one can claim ownership to this land and even if, to my best of knowledge they could not alter the usage significantly a) that being a wetland b) that being so close to the lagoon or part of the lagoon itself. If these fundamentals are violated then we would soon not have any NATURE but only memories of it may be a few recommendations. Too wise too late is useless.

SAVE SATHURUKONDANThis has been a thorny issue over the past few years in the district of Batticaloa. People are trying to grab all the land possible in the district by deeds of centuries old or new ones made for conveniences. We also have to remember that those who had not been in procession of these lands for decades should not and cannot now claim for the ownerships.

Sathrukondan spreads for around 75 hectares form Pillayaradi to Thannamunai. IN the early 1990s this as actually declared by the GA as a protected area. I had the opportunity to work on these amidst the conflicts. Our names were given to the security forces who had our photos posted in the sentry points for identification. I remember my friends coming and telling me that I am wanted and the forces are searching for e with photos. We are aware of plans by UDA and Wildlife department for the conservation of the wetland, a section of it. BY the time they do it would be the sticks alone that may be there, the birds would have gone far away

SAVE SATHURUKONDANWe ( Meena Dharmaratnam and Jayasingam, T) published the data on the birds making 62 in number at the Sri Lankan Association for the Advancement of Science in 1993. Subsequently there had been reports of the Birds of this area by various scientists. It had been reported in the inception report of the NECCDEP programme. The students of the Eastern University visit this for their study tours. Post graduate studies have been focused on these as an urban wetland, 5 km away from Batticaloa and on the road itself.

The filling of these wetlands would cause flooding in the other shores of the lagoon viz Eachantheevu and also cause as series of other issues as these drain the waters from the higher areas and the tank above it. These waters from the entire area of higher elevation and their drainage to the lagoon woud now be blocked. IF PEOPLE are allowed to alter the landscapes at will we would never solve the flood issues.

I have reported this matter to many agencies and they seem to be shy. I was also informed that they had legal and administrative support. I consider that the peoples forum is greater and larger than any institution in the country. It is the power of the people that is vested in the government and the interest of the people therefore comes first, beyond the ownership of any person or such excuses.

The interest of the President (also the Minister of Environment) in the natural resources of the country and utilization of our natural resources have been highlighted over the past few months in the press. It is essential that we do put a stop to alteration of landscapes, before detailed study of them, if needed for national interest only. He also heads the country as the Minister for Environment.

…If we don’t do what should be done today, tomorrow may never have a chance to even know that..today would be yesterday for them…history..

I submit to the President of Sri Lanka on behalf of people of Batticaloa and Sri Lanka, to SAVE SATHURUKONDAN, where all development activities must stop immediately before the third bell goes, or it be….. GONE FOREVER.

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Latest comments

  • 3
    0

    This and many similar activities are the public rape and murder of our national treasures. What are the public servants responsible for these areas in general and the subject in particular doing? I am sure there are polticians backing such activities from the shadows. Where are the police? Where is Yahapalanaya?

    Mr.President, would you consider imposing and sanctioning the death sentence to those engaged in and backing such activities and those who turn a blind eye out of irresponsibility or bribe induced somnolence?

    This is a much graver crime than the rape being committed on females of all ages in this country. In this instance ‘Mother Lanka’is being raped and in the other instances our dear daughters, sisters, mothers, wives, etc., are being raped and strangled.

    Mr.Thangamuthu Jayasingham, thanks for bringing what is happening in Sathyrukondan to our attention.

    Dr.Rajasingham Narendran

  • 5
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    The nature of Batticalao is in danger due the Muslims’ political domination and paramilitary cum Tamil politician. Normal political representation and civil socity organisations are so weak in Batticaloa. The GA is so corrupted so you can see this kind of rape everywhere in Batticalao. Some of other disasters are in the district,
    See Passekuda disaster
    Nawalady disaster
    I am so happy see academics taking initiatives towards this disaster.

  • 1
    0

    Jayasingham

    Thank you for highlighting this issue and I appreicate your interest in matters relating to Batticaloa.

    Did you approach the TNA MPs about this issue?

    I don’t think Muslims are involved in these encroachments. As far as I know, Sathurukondam is a pure Tamil area.

    Though I have a very dim of view of these TNA MPs since Batticaloa Tamils elect MPs in the Rajadurai tradition, why not you bring this to their notice for whatever its worth. I know that “Payati Poosari” Yogeswaran will not be of any use. Why not you try to convince the newly elected Srinesan and Vlyalendiran MPs?

    And how about contacting Thurairajasingham who is now a Provincial Minister. If am able to contact him,I will try to bring this to his notice.

    Some exposure in the Tamil newspapers will also be helpful.

    There is yet another matter that concerns me and many other Batticaloa Tamils. That is the abandoned new Library building project started by Pillaiyan. Never mind who initiated the project, but it should be completed for the benefit of the people of Batticaloa. There should be a public demand to complete this new library building which I understand was designed similar to the Jaffna library.

  • 1
    0

    Jayasingham

    After writing my previous comments, I made some inquiries from sources in Batticaloa in relation to the lands that are being filled at Sathurukondan as stated in your report.

    I understand that these are now not state lands or protected by any environmental or other legislation. These lands were previously state lands but were given as crown grants to various individuals during the British period from 1870 to 1905 and 1910. It appears that the successors of the original grantees had now partitioned these lands and sold to various people who are now putting up houses and shops.

    I also understand that government authorities took these developers to the court some time ago and the cases were dismissed because people were able to prove ownership through crown grants.

    The only option now is for the state to acquire these lands and it is for the government to take acquisition action. In that case the owners will have to be compensated. The responsible Minister for environment (President Maithri has retained this subject) may be able to initiate some action. I believe environment is also a subject matter of the Provincial Council.

    Incidentally, I understand that the Eastern University itself is now building a Medical College and hostels for Medical students filling out adjoining marshy lands at Pillayaradi. Since you are a Senior Lecturer of the very same Eastern University, did you try to prevent your Eastern University administration from destroying these marshy mangroove lands? When I mentioned about your concern about the Sathurukondan marshy lands, an important person in Batticaloa pointed this out to me.

    For whatever its worth I am going to raise the Sathurukondan issue with people who may have a say.

    Thanks again for raising issues concerning Batticaloa. As a son of the Batticaloa soil, I will try to give my two cents worth in the fight for a common cause that concerns Batticaloa.

    • 0
      0

      @Naga
      I hope you succeed. I hope the much-hyped Ministers for Environment reads these pages also. Where other countries are attempting to preserve their natural heritage, we pass resolutions claiming to ‘protect wetlands’ and publicise it in the international media as ‘the only country having passed laws to protect wetlands’… and yet go about doing exactly the opposite

  • 1
    0

    Naga.

    Why did Pillaiyan/Karuna kill the former V.C.Eastern University Prof:Raveendranath? Perhaps,as a son of Batticaloa soil,whatever that means,you could shed light on this.

  • 0
    3

    Dear Sir, thanks for the nice article.

    It is the time to highlight this issue. Not only the Sathurukondan wetland but other natural sources are depleted by heavy human activities in the name of “development”….BUT that is not the reality in the sense: dynamics of natural ecosystems.

    There are confusions that I beleive, in taking responsibility by various state agencies, E.g. Forest Department, Department of Wildlife, Municipal Council, etc.to conserve and manage these types of wetlands, particularly in this case. Sathurukondan has one of the important Mangrove stretches in the Batticaloa district. Many issues were raised by public and NGOs for more than ten years to preserve and conserve this mangroves. Time to time decisions are made by various administrators and those decisions are not in operation.

    Therefore this is the appropriate time to take firm decisions, which should be in operation..to conserve the existing natural pristine mangroves in Batticaloa as well as in Sri Lanka. Unless otherwise if we do not act on it, we will miss the bus and only pray the GOD to protect the natural ecosystems and environments….that we always did for several other incidences that already happened.

  • 0
    3

    Dear Mr Naga,

    This regarding your comment on the new building of Medical Faculty (Faculty of Health-Care Sciences) of Eastern University. I think, you received a false information about that university land.

    Actually that particular land is not marshy land. The land was allocated by Government to Eastern University to the health care sciences. The land is at highest elevation from the lagoon. It is not a marshy land. A small belt of Mangroves boarder the land but it is not belongs to the university land. Earlier nearby people encroached that land and it was utilized for sand mining too.

    With the continuous effort of Faculty staff, the land was acquired for faculty. There is no filling and no destruction of mangrove at that site.

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