UDA to not touch Muthurajawela’s houses or residential lands

  • Environment Minister assures on behalf of UDA

BY Pamodi Waravita

Minister of Environment Mahinda Amaraweera assured on Wednesday (17) that the Urban Development Authority (UDA) will only take over swamps in the Muthurajawela Conservation Zone, and that no houses or private residential lands will be affected by the UDA.

“We have held four rounds of discussions in Parliament in this regard, under my patronage. Only the surrounding swamps will be taken over by the UDA. Apart from that, I assure the people of the Muthurajawela suburbs that no houses or lands will be taken over by anyone living in the area. Therefore, there should be no further protests, agitations, or demonstrations about it,” Amaraweera said, speaking at a media briefing held on Wednesday.

He added that the swamps will not be handed over to the private sector for the development of helicopter yards, golf courses, or hotels.

However, on 8 November, the UDA said that it seeks to find “suitable solutions” to the families living within the Muthurajawela Sanctuary area that the UDA hopes to conserve, solutions which could be similar to the development process that families living in impoverished settlements (slums) in Colombo experienced and continue to experience.

“Our final master plan will seek suitable answers for the families living there. In Colombo, for example, there were those who lived in slums spanning 10 to 12 acres in areas such as Maligawatta, Henamulla, and Mattakuliya. We moved them into flats spanning about three acres with proper facilities. We are going for a similar development process here. We will properly analyse the area and then give a decision for the families. If we can keep them there, we will decide how to protect them and also address their sanitation and health needs,” said UDA Director General N.P.K. Ranaweera at a press conference.

He noted that about 1,050 families, spanning a population of about 5,000 people, dwell in the 1,500 hectare (ha) conservation area determined by the Department of Wildlife Conservation (DWC) within the 5,000 ha Muthurajawela Wetland area.

“All of them dump their sewage and waste into the currently protected area as well,” added Ranaweera, also highlighting that the UDA’s ultimate aim is to develop the area as a wetland and to have it declared under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands.

The Extraordinary Gazette released on 7 October 2021 allowed the UDA to acquire the Muthurajawela marshland from Peliyagoda to Negombo in the Gampaha District. A number of protests led by the Samagi Jana Balawegeya (SJB) and the Catholic clergy have been held this month against this matter. The two parties have also filed writ petitions at the Supreme Court in this regard.