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Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Measures to convert the Muthurajawela Sanctuary to a National Park

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The Secretary of Environment Dr. Anil Jasinghe stated that a Cabinet paper has already been drafted to convert the Muthurajawela Sanctuary to a National Park.

The Secretary of Environment stated the above at the Committee on Public Accounts (COPA) chaired by Prof. Tissa Vitharana which was held in Parliament.

Dr. Anil Jasinghe also said that a joint committee has been appointed inclusive of all parties responsible for the conservation of the Muthurajawela Sanctuary as recommended by the previous meeting of the Copa Committee. Furthermore, it was mentioned that the committee will be co-chaired by the Secretaries of the Ministry of Urban Development, Ministry of Wildlife and Forest Conservation.

It was emphasized at the committee that discussions have been carried out for the purpose of empowering the committee and a Cabinet paper has already been drafted. It was also emphasized that post receiving approval it can be executed that it is essential to appoint an action committee consisting of representatives of all relevant institutions and environmental organizations to assist the committee.

The COPA Committee drew its attention to the fact that the Governor of the Western Province had passed a resolution in the Gampaha District Development Committee on
January 27, 2021 stating that over 600 acres of all private lands in Muthurajawela Eco- Sensitive Zone by the Government. Accordingly, its legitimacy was discussed at the committee.

The Committee on Public Accounts also drew its attention towards the complaints received by the Sri Lanka Land Development Corporation, the Central Environmental Authority, the Urban Development Authority and the Department of Agrarian Development pertaining to the unauthorized filling of lands in Muthurajawela Eco-Sensitive Zone and its failure to take formal action on a number of such complaints pertaining to the said concern.

While the Auditor General directed his attention towards the complaints received regarding unauthorized constructions taking place in the Muthurajawela Wetland Zone were not properly investigated by the relevant government agencies, he also stated that an audit inquiry is already underway regarding the recent reclamation of 06 hectares. It was also emphasized that in the absence of proper intervention by government institutions, unauthorized landfills and constructions are thus being encouraged.

Attention was drawn towards the process of making Colombo the world’s first wetland capital in 2018 and the presentation of data related to the survey conducted by the Urban Development Authority on the current situation in the Muthurajawela wetland and the surrounding area on the instructions of the Prime Minister also took place at the committee.

It was emphasized that 15% of the Muthurajawela Wetland Zone and Muthurajawela Sanctuary have been destroyed due to various reasons and the remaining areas are also at risk of being destroyed and therefore the conservation process should be initiated with immediate effect.

The Committee focused on the importance of protecting the Muthurajawela Wetland Zone as a Ramsar Wetland and its conversion into a National Park in accordance with the Ramsar Convention reached by Sri Lanka on 15 October 1990 whilst officials pointed out the feasibility and plan of action of the Urban Development Authority, the Sri Lanka Land Development Corporation and the Department of Wildlife Conservation in working together for this purpose.

According to the Gazette Notification of Muthurajawela Sanctuary No. 947/13 of 1996, the Committee was informed by the officials that the identification and demarcation of the boundaries of the Sanctuary has already commenced. The feasibility of using the Urban Development Act to strengthen the acquisition of illegal constructions and landfills in the Muthurajawela Sanctuary was also discussed.

Chairman of the Committee Prof. Tissa Vitharana, State Minister Dayasiri Jayasekara, Members of Parliament Tissa Attanayake, Niroshan Perera, S. Shritharan, B.Y.G Ratnasekera, (Dr.) Upul Galappaththi, Harini Amarasuriya and Secretary of Environment Dr. Anil Jasinghe and other official marked their presence for the committee meeting held.

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