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Wattegama-Kebiliththa Forest Reserve facing deforestation

  • MONLAR alleges businessmen/lawyers involved in acquisition

By Dinitha Rathnayake

 

Lands belonging to the Wattegama-Kebiliththa Forest Reserve in the Siyambalanduwa Divisional Secretariat (DS) Division in the Monaragala District are being acquired in an organised manner by several businessmen and lawyers, and are being cleared and prepared for the expansion of the cultivation of maise as a monoculture, the Movement for Land and Agricultural Reform (MONLAR) alleged.

The current Government’s land policies are being utilised for this purpose, according to MONLAR Member Sajeewa Chamikara.

This forest reserve is a major catchment area for many water sources including the Vila Oya, the Kumbukkan Oya, the Ethimale Wewa, and Mayila Wewa, and has an inter-monsoonal rainforest cover that provides a habitat for a large wildlife community including elephants. This forest, which connects the Yala National Park and the Kumbukkana Forest Reserve, is a State-owned forest that has been under the control of the Forest Department since the enactment of the Forest Conservation Ordinance, noted Chamikara. He added that this forest has been declared as a Forest Reserve by the Gazette Notification Number 1789/9 dated 12 November 2012 in terms of Section 3 of the Forest Conservation Ordinance as amended by Act No. 65 of 2009, which declared a forest area of 28,926 hectares/71,537 acres as a reserve.

“Therefore, this Forest Reserve is directly related to the water security of agricultural lands spread over a large area. This forest system and certain lakes are very useful in restricting the access of wild animals into villages and farmlands,” Chamikara added.

Attempts to contact the Siyambalanduwa DS to inquire about this matter, proved futile.