Army to guard environment

By Sarah Hannan 

The Ministry of Environment has sought the assistance of the Sri Lanka Army to set up a special environment protection and monitoring unit which can launch investigations, The Sunday Morning learnt. 

Speaking to The Sunday Morning, Minister of Environment Mahinda Amaraweera said that the unit will be empowered to launch investigations over the environmental destruction that is taking place, regardless of the jurisdiction it belongs to. The unit will specially focus on the illegal sand mining incidents that have been rampant in the country.

“For the moment, they will be able to investigate the incidents and immediately deploy teams to the site of destruction. With the Environment Act amendments that will come into place in the next few weeks, these teams will be given the legal authority to take necessary action against the perpetrators as well,” the Minister added. 

Moreover, taking into account media reports that more environmental damage has been reported in recent times, the Ministry of Environment has taken steps to introduce three direct telephone numbers and a mobile phone number to assist the public to immediately inform any event of environmental damage in the area. 

Accordingly, the public is requested to get in touch with the Ministry of Environment – 1991, Central Environmental Authority – 1981, Geological Survey and Mines Bureau – 1921, or to contact the Minister himself on 0707555666 by sending a WhatsApp message, text message, or video. 

The Minister said that the environmental damage highlighted by some social media outlets are untrue. He added that 10-15 acres of private land that have been left uncultivated for years are being cleared for cultivation, which these social media outlets are interpreting as deforestation. 

The Minister further emphasised that a request has been made to the Attorney General to amend the Environmental Act expeditiously to increase the existing penalties and fines for those who cause harm to the environment.