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a reserved forest under the provisions of section 3 of this Ordinance, or the corresponding provisions in any enactment repealed by Ordinance No.16 of 1907, or in any enactment to be hereafter enacted for the purpose of defining reserved forest” and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

Highlights.

Latest.

KAMU.

The Delightful Indian Cuisine at Navaratna by Taj Samudra

Navaratna is an Indian Restaurant located in Taj Samudra Colombo. Taj Samudra is a 5-star

Kamu

10 Places to Get Sushi in Colombo

By Janani Vithanage A Japanese dish most often presented as vinegared sticky rice, seafood or

Highlights Kamu Yamu Guide

An ideal dinner date spot in Colombo – Ward 7

By Shamrina Carim Are you struggling to decide where you could have a decent fancy

Kamu

Reaching new heights at Virticle by Jetwing’s rooftop bar & restaurant

We were so excited to go to the highest rooftop bar & restaurant in Colombo

Highlights Kamu

Satisfy your Kottu cravings at KottuLabs

Located in Nawala down a little lane, Kottulabs is home to the widest and most

Highlights Kamu

A flavorful journey to the North East by Paadum Meen

An ecstatically beautiful place located down Frankfort place, Bambalapitiya has caught a significant eye for

Highlights Kamu

Trending.

Savor The Salt Of The Sea At Hilton Colombo

Fresh from the seafood markets to your table Colombo, Sri Lanka – 20th June 2022 – Partake

Trending

10 Types of Sri Lankans in Petrol Queues

By Janani Vithanage These days, spending time in the petrol queue is almost every Sri

Highlights Trending

Celebrating life with Perera & Sons

by Shamrina Carim Perera & Sons holds a privileged history of catering to the most

Highlights Trending

Before You Watch… Jurassic World Dominion

By Shamrina Carim The movie On a critic of honest opinions, Jurassic World Dominion is

Trending

Treats fit for a King at Ramada Colombo this Father’s Day!

Enjoy Father's Day special Grill, Lunch, Dinner, Deliveries, and Stays… This June 19th, we all

Trending

Celebrate Father’s Day with your Super Dad at Hilton Colombo!

Looking to express your gratitude for the superhero of your household this Father’s Day? Hilton

Trending

Yamu Guide.

10 Places to Get Sushi in Colombo

By Janani Vithanage A Japanese dish most often presented as vinegared sticky rice, seafood or

Highlights Kamu Yamu Guide

The ideal skin care routine with Bio Oil

By Shanali Fernando Feeling overwhelmed, confused, and/or frustrated by the multitude of competing messages about

Highlights Yamu Guide

5 common causes of Dry Skin

The general cause of itchy, dry skin might seem like a no-brainer: It's a lack

Highlights Yamu Guide

7 Places to Watch the SL Vs. AUS ODI Matches

By Janani Vithanage Sri Lankan cricket may ot have been on its best footing over

Highlights Yamu Guide

5 Cooking Tips from Knorr

By Janani Vithanage Being a mother in today’s world is no easy task. From waking

Highlights Yamu Guide

How Bio Oil reduces scars

By Shanali Fernando Still curious about this little pink bottle of magic and what it

Highlights Yamu Guide