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10 complaints daily to environmental hotline

The Special Investigation Unit of the Police Special Task Force (STF), which is tasked with assisting Wildlife and Forest Conservation officers to take immediate action against deforestation, receives around 10 complaints on a daily basis, The Morning learnt.

Speaking to The Morning, Police Spokesman Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIG) Ajith Rohana said that the unit has so far been able to conduct 20 raids regarding deforestation issues.

“We receive more than 10 complaints daily regarding deforestation. But we cannot determine if all of them have legitimacy,” said DIG Rohana.

According to Rohana, most of the complaints they receive are from the Northern, Eastern, North Western, and North Central Provinces.

“Once we receive information regarding deforestation, we conduct the operations through the Police. If the incident was reported concerning the inside of a forest area, the STF would also join our operations,” added DIG Rohana.

According to Rohana, the STF patrolling would also take place in certain areas where they have information about deforestation.

The public has been urged to come forward with information regarding environmental pollution or deforestation and to report such to the 1997 hotline.

“According to the doctrine of public trust, the existing generation should protect the environment as a trust and it should be handed over to the future generations. Therefore, protecting the environment is everyone’s responsibility,” Rohana said.

This unit was set up as a rapid action committee on deforestation and the unit would be divided into two sections, where one would be handled by the Minister of Public Security, Rear Admiral (Retd.) Dr. Sarath Weerasekera, and the other section would be under the Inspector General of Police (IGP) and headed by DIG Rohana. The main responsibility of this unit is to take strict action against those who destroy forests and harm the environment.

With deforestation and environmental destruction taking place across the country on an increased scale, Ministry of Defence Secretary General (Retd.) Kamal Gunaratne recently told the media that the matter was taken up for discussion during a recent meeting of the Security Council.

“We are looking at implementing a task force with the assistance of the Police, the Army, and the Air Force to monitor the situation. While measures are in place to arrest the culprits, the clearing of vast areas continues to take place. We have received leads that some state officials have also been aiding these entities to carry out such exercises,” said Gunaratne.