Why UDA Should Get Involved In Muthurajewela When It Has No Conservation History: Environmentalists | Print edition
By Tharushi Weerasinghe
- The Society for the Protection of the Sanctuary files a request against the takeover of the UDA and wants the complete revocation of the gazette
- Company president says racketeering at sanctuary must end, but questions UDA’s ability to do what 11 other institutions combined have failed to do
- UDA says long-term plans aim to improve the lives of people in the area while preserving wetland ecosystems
- The Minister of the Environment says that no commercial activity will be allowed within the boundaries of the sanctuary; says UDA is more powerful and all illegal trade encroachments could be recaptured
The Society for the Protection of the Muthurajawela Sanctuary (SPMS) filed a fundamental rights petition against the gazette to acquire the Muthurajawela wetlands from the portfolio of the Urban Development Authority (UDA).
The decision, although published on October 7 of this year, was not revealed until October 21. a fundamental rights claim against the Supreme Court ruling, ”said SPMS President Anil Jayamaha.
“We want the gazette to be completely revoked,” he said. Environmentalists were of the view that the involvement of the UDA was not necessary when the Department of Wildlife Conservation (WCD), the Ministry of Agriculture and the Land Reform Commission all had the appropriate mechanisms to ensure conservation. “The laws regulated by these institutions are what the police must enforce!” ” he insisted. UDA does not have a history of conservation, Jayamaha noted, adding that this was what Muthurajawela needed at the moment.
According to Jayamaha, the WCD failed to comply with a 2017 court ruling ordering them to demarcate the area belonging to the shrine. Sunday Times contacted the WCD for their reasons but received no response. While poles had been installed around the perimeters when the area was declared a sanctuary in 1996, these were removed in subsequent years by unidentified parties.
Muthurajawela had unfortunately become the dumping ground for construction debris – a racketeering involving contractors bringing in broken construction waste and dumping it into the sanctuary’s swamp lands, causing irreparable damage and obstructing natural waterways, exacerbating the risks. flood.
Mr. Jayamaha also noted that the Gazette’s instructions to pay compensation to landowners whose land is acquired will only benefit illegal commercial encroachers who bought the land for a “cheap” price through affiliations. political and counterfeit. “This in itself is another deal these people are making.”
He insisted on ending the multiple rackets taking place in the sanctuary, but questioned the ability of the UDA to do what 11 other institutions combined could not. The 11 institutions that previously oversaw the area include the Central Environment Authority, WCD, LRC, local government authorities and other government institutions – all of which are respondents to the SPMS FR petition.
The UDA, however, has drawn a provisional map of approximately 6,000 hectares using GPS mapping systems and is currently visiting Grama Niladhari Divisions of the region to present their plans. “We told them that we were completely against it and that we only wanted the relevant laws that were already in place to be enacted. Jayamaha believes that the authorities must demarcate borders, facilitate agriculture on the affected lands within the sanctuary and teach residents how to live in harmony with the ecosystem. “There is an environmental unit in the Pamunugama police with its own officer in charge; all these resources are therefore in place and need only be deployed, ”he noted.
Residents of the region also fear that the acquisition of the UDA will cost them their housing. “There are 72 churches and 10,000 families living in the area, except for the precious wetland which is in danger of being destroyed,” Jayamaha continued. “Proposals like the Bopitiya Disneyland and the golf green that a businessman tried to build will not improve the lives of the poor who actually live here – we owe children better than concrete jungles,” a- he declared.
However, Environment Minister Mahinda Amaraweera reiterated the Sunday Times that absolutely no commercial activity will be permitted within the confines of the sanctuary. He clarified that the only reason behind the gazette was that the UDA law was more powerful and therefore would ensure a smoother acquisition process through which all illegal trade encroachments could be recovered. “The UDA also has finances that other institutions do not have, so this will provide the sanctuary with invaluable resources that will accelerate its conservation,” the minister insisted adding that no “golf course” will be allowed to be. built on the land. .
The Minister noted that the UDA will carry out conservation activities such as the construction of irrigation canals and the restoration of plots of land dumped by debris. Ownership of the sanctuary will then revert to the CMB to declare the Ramsar wetland.
UDA Director General Prasad Ranaweera confirmed that the long-term goal is wetland conservation. “This is a multi-step process of which we are only at the beginning,” he noted, adding that the first objective was to put an end to the illegal encroachments which were increasing daily. The UDA started the demarcation with the acquisition boundary through the surveyor general.
He noted that the UDA had tried to leave homes outside the boundaries as much as possible, but clarified that residents will not be asked to leave their homes. The UDA plans to reconstruct the drainage systems in the perimeters of the sanctuary and to modernize the sanitation facilities available to residents. The area is under constant threat of flooding due to poorly maintained drainage systems. However, that is as far as developments in the region will go as Mr Ranaweera reiterated that no commercial buildings or construction will be allowed in the shrine. The regimes will also be increased but will in no case be extended. While owners will receive legal deeds for their properties, land that has been illegally occupied will not receive deeds. Only the houses will be preserved and developed.
He added that empowering agriculture in the region was also a priority. “At the moment, the land available for agriculture is totally unusable because of the debris that has been dumped there, so we will remove it and make the land suitable for agricultural activities. “
Once the preliminary studies of the UDA are completed, the activities permitted in the wildlife areas and the lagoon area will also be prescribed, as the UDA hopes that this decision will revive the currently dormant fishing industry in the region.
“Our plans are to improve the lives of people in the region while preserving the wetland ecosystems,” he confirmed.
While the UDA had a tentative schedule and deadlines for the relevant stages of the project, Mr. Ranaweera noted that things were currently at a standstill due to the opposition raised.
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