Encroachment: The Actual Issue at Wilpattu.

Protected by the Flora and Fauna Protection Ordinance, Wilpattu is Sri Lanka's oldest National Park. It boasts of many things: being the largest park in the country, it's also home to an absolutely unique ecosystem of villus which contains both salt and freshwater, in addition to a plethora of wildlife ranging from elephants to leopards and sloth bears.

Its National Park status was obtained over a number of years from 1938 to 1973 — but is unfortunately under threat (along with three of its nine adjoining forest reserves), as an unsurprising result of human-nature conflict where the former attempts to colonize the forest.

Status Quo

As things currently stand, over 3400 acres of forestland is under destruction, environmental activist Nayanaka Ranwella from the Wildlife Conservation Forum said. He added that deforestation currently occurs in three separate areas of the forest and its adjoining reserves, mostly due to illegal resettlements. The reserves that are currently under threat are Vilaththimulam, Kallaru, and Periyamurippu, despite regulations being in place to protect them.

The red outlines in the following images highlight the extent of deforestation that's occurred since 2012 to 2015.

According to site reports, the clearing of forests began back in 2009. The main reason for this was to provide homes for people displaced during the war, and the area was penned off for housing schemes. Environmentalists note while there used to be settlements close to the reserve and that ruins of a mosque are to be found in the area, none of these were within the reserved lands.

Violated Regulations

In terms of Section 78 of the Forest Ordinance No.16 of 1907 (as amended) the definition of forest reserves in Sri Lanka are defined as
(a) “a forest and every part of a forest declared to be a reserved forest under the provisions of section 3 of this Ordinance, or the corresponding provisions in any enactment repealed by Ordinance No.16 of 1907, or in any enactment to be hereafter enacted for the purpose of defining reserved forest” and
(b) “plantation, forest depots, and chenas planted with forest trees;”

And in terms of Section 7 (1) of the Forest Ordinance;
Any person who in a Reserved Forest, inter alia;
a) trespass or causes trespass or remains therein;
c) fells a tree or cuts or drags timber, causes damage by negligence or intentionally strips off bark or leaves from any tree or girdles, lops, taps or burns a tree or does any act to damage or destroy any tree;
k) clears or breaks up soil or dig any land … prepares any land for building purposes … or erects a hut or any building whether permanent or temporary or occupies any building so erected
l) constructs any road, alter or damage any road already constructed, uses any road so constructed, damages, alters, disfigures or removes any wall, ditch embankment, fence, hurdle … name board, sign board or any other boundary mark;
shall be guilty of an offence and be liable on conviction to imprisonment or to a fine or to both such imprisonment and fine.

In terms of the provisions of Part IVC section 23AA of the National Environmental Act No. 47 of 1980 (as amended);
(1) Notwithstanding the provisions of any other written law, from and after the coming into operation of this Act, all prescribed projects that are being undertaken in Sri Lanka by any Government department, corporation, statutory board, local authority, company, firm or an individual will be required to obtain approval under this Act for the implementation of such projects” and

In terms of the provisions of National Environmental Regulations No. 772/22 of 1993 under the National Environmental Act (as amended), of prescribed activities,
Schedule Part I; the “conversion of forests covering an area exceeding 1 hectare into non-forest uses” and
Schedule Part III; that, inter alia, any area “within 100m from the boundaries of or within any area declared under the Forest Ordinance”;
must be subject to an Environmental Impact Assessment as provided for in the National Environmental Act which is the overarching applicable law for environmental protection in the country.

Source: Environmental Foundation Limited's site report.

Conclusion & Recommendations

Approximately 700 acres are already cleared out in the Vilathaimulam Forest Reserve.

Despite being such a large scale issue, the government is yet to take action against the encroachers. The Environmental Foundation Limited points out that encroachment leads to the destruction of habitat, including space for wildlife to move through freely.

Environmentalists recommend a detailed analysis of existing Gazette notifications in order to be clearer about specific boundaries and demarcations, and to consult relevant environmental and civil society stakeholders to mitigate damage.

For more information on visiting and travelling around Sri Lanka's National Parks, check our blog.

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on whatsapp




Indulge in Japanese Culinary Bliss at Minori Restaurant

By Sahasni Gamage Nestled within the luxurious Granbell Hotel, Minori Japanese Restaurant offers an unparalleled

Highlights Kamu

Experience flavorful Singaporean delights with a modern twist at Shiok!

By Sahasni Gamage We recently had the pleasure of dining at Shiok Singaporean Restaurant, which

Highlights Kamu

7 Fantastic Pizza Places to Try in Colombo

By Shamrina Carim Colombo, the vibrant capital city of Sri Lanka, is a haven for

Highlights Kamu

High Tea Guide for 2023

You and your friends decide to meet up after your last farewell, get together or

Highlights Kamu

Excel World Legacy Food Court launches Indi-Arabia Menu

By Hashini Pathirana https://www.tiktok.com/@yamusrilanka/video/7252917491427511560 Experience a culinary journey like no other at Excel World's launches


A Taste of Jaffna at Flavoured by Cinnamon Red

By Hiruni Herath Flavoured at Cinnamon Red is enclosed by stunning views of the Colombo

Highlights Kamu Uncategorized


Radisson Blu Resort Galle recently organized a delightful wine-tasting occasion

Radisson Blu Resort Galle recently hosted a delightful wine-tasting event on September 17th, showcasing an


Hilton Sri Lanka Collaborates with VOICE Area Federation to Enhance Community Resilience and Combat Hunger

For a brighter and secure Sri Lanka, fostering sustainability via community farms and kitchen programs.


Galle Face Hotel Presents ‘Yaalpana Santhai’ – A Gastronomic Journey into Jaffna Cuisine

Colombo, Sri Lanka – The Galle Face Hotel, an iconic landmark in Sri Lanka's hospitality


The Latest MSI Limited-Edition Stealth 16 Mercedes-AMG Motorsport is Available Now

MSI, the world-leading laptop brand, proudly unveiled its latest limited-edition laptop, the Stealth 16 Mercedes-AMG

Highlights Trending

Türkiye Food Festival Unveiled at Courtyard by Marriott Colombo

Colombo, September 4, 2023 - Courtyard by Marriott Colombo, an esteemed member of the Marriott


A Pho-Nomenal Vietnamese Feast at Cinnamon Grand Colombo

Vietnamese food has made its mark on the global culinary map with favourites such as


Yamu Guide.

Spotting Blue Whales in Mirissa with Chaminda Whale Watching

The whale watching tour in Mirissa Start time: 6:30am Duration: 3-5 hours depending on sightings

Highlights Yamu Guide

The Rise of Plant-Based Diets: Benefits and Challenges

By Shamrina Carim In recent years, plant-based diets have surged in popularity, drawing attention for

Highlights Yamu Guide

6 Things to Do at One Galle Face

Set against the panoramic backdrop of the Indian Ocean "Colombo’s first prestigious shopping mall is

Highlights Yamu Guide

7 Things to do at Colombo City Center

By Shanali Fernando 1. Shop till you drop A stunning integrated lifestyle destination set in

Highlights Yamu Guide

Wedding Venue List 2023

By Shanali Fernando When envisioning your wedding day, you may find yourself torn between various

Highlights Trending Yamu Guide

8 Places to get an Eid Sawan this Hajj Festival

The Muslims celebrate Hajj globally on the 29th of June, 2023. No doubt, along with

Highlights Yamu Guide