|Karagan sanctuary de-gazetted
The Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources says the declaration as a sanctuary was a mistake or oversight supposedly because it is needed for the Hambantota port development project feasibility study. The Southern Region Development Ministry claims it is needed as a dry-dock for the port, sources say.
Environmentalists have pointed out that the sanctuary declaration was not an ad hoc decision and that the Southern Development Authoritys plans for a port in Hambantota did not include the saltern which lies to the north and west of Hambantota town. As it is also not necessary to de-gazette the area for a feasibility study it is believed that the target is the valuable bed of shells on which the saltern rests.
Development as a dry-dock has been identified as potentially dangerous for the area, which is below sea level. Prominent politicians in the south have also pointed out that harbours are built in the sea and not inside the country, sources say.
An important wetland, the Karagan saltern was listed in the Wetland Site Report made in 1994 under the Central Environmental Authoritys (CEA) Wetland Conservation Project, following which the CEA member on the Fauna and Flora Advisory Committee made a proposal to the ministry to declare the site as a sanctuary in November 1998. The CEA proposal was seconded by the Society for Environmental Education (SEE), a non-governmental organisation.
Previous reports indicate that even the Director of the Department of Wildlife Conservation was not aware of the de-gazette, who stated that it would take about a months time.
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