Bathiudeen re-settling people in forest reserves: environmentalists

sri lanka Four leading environmental associations today charged that Industry and Commerce Minister Rishad Bathiudeen had illegally cleared 18,000 acres of forest land belonging to leading wildlife parks in three districts.

The Center for Environmental justice, the Environment Conservation Trust, the Sri Lanka Environment Congress and the Buddhist Collective for Nature said the Minister had cut down trees in forest reserves at 14 locations in the districts of Mannar, Vavuniya and Mullaitivu.

Center for Environmental Justice Executive Director Hemantha Vithanage said the forests have been cleared violating the Environmental Act. He charged that the Minister is currently inflicting undue influence on the authorities to release some more land in the Madhu area for the resettlement of people.

Mr. Vithnage said the resettlement of internally displaced persons was completed in 2012 but the forests were being cleared under the guise of making room for re-settling people.  

Environment Conservation Trust Director Sanjeewa Chamikara said lands have been cleared in Periya Madhu, Kalaru, Karunkalipurum.  In addition he said a 100km road had been constructed along the Wilpathu wildlife Park while the same thing had been done in Mankuluma area where roads have been constructed towards the forests.