government has decided to resettle people who will be displaced
by the proposed Kalu Ganga reservoir project in Pallegama in the
Matale district, in the Wasgomuwa National Park. The Kalu Ganga
is a main branch of the Amban Ganga and the reservoir will be
one of the main reservoirs of the proposed Moragahakanda
reservoir project. Around 2500 acres of the Wasgomuwa National
Park will be acquired for the resettlement. Environmentalists
oppose this massive environmental devastation and expect the
Minister of Environment’s immediate involvement to stop it.
"Around 500 families will be displaced by the
proposed reservoir. They are currently living in
Karandagahamulla, Gonawala, Pallegama, Miniranketiya, Halmilla
and Gangahenwala of the Laggala divisional secretariat.
Government officials are already engaged in surveying the land
plot of the Wasgomuwa National Park. This is a severe
environmental problem and bad example for society. A powerful
politician in the ruling party representing the area is behind
this environmental devastation," an officer of the Wildlife
Trust, Sajeewa Chamikara said.
The national parks, he pointed out, were
established for the protection of wild animals. "The are not for
"The Wasgomuwa National Park is unusual in its
virtual lack of contemporary human disturbance and
infrastructure and its importance as a centre of ancient Sri
Lankan culture. Being isolated by large rivers on all but its
southern side is a major advantage for management. The park
probably contains more wildlife in terms of both diversity of
wild fauna and flora. All fauna and flora of the park is under
threat due to this land acquisition," he said.
There are 23 species of mammals, 143 species of
birds of which five are endemic to Sri Lanka, 35 reptile species
of which seven are endemic, 15 species of amphibians, 17 species
of fish and 52 species of butterflies that have been recorded in
the Wasgomuwa National Park. A population of around 150
elephants, leopard, sloth bear, golden jackal, water buffalo,
slender loris, wild boar, spotted deer, sambar and fishing cat
can be found in the park. Noteworthy birds include Sri Lanka
trogon, racquet tailed drongo, endemic tallow fronted barbet,
endemic Sri Lanka jungle fowl and Sri Lanka spur fowl. White
necked stork and lesser adjutant stork occur in the plains. The
common monitor mugger crocodile, estuarine crocodile and python
are some of reptiles reported in the park. Among endemic
reptiles, skink, lizards like the red lipped lizard and Earles’s
lizard are also found in the park.
The Wasgomuwa National Park is also important as
a cultural heritage site. The most important cultural site is
Buduruwayaya in the southwest of the park near the Amban and
Kalu rivers. These ruins, estimated to be 1800 years old,
feature a statue of the Buddha reclining and stone pillars.
Another reclining Buddha statue is found immediately across the
Amban ganga, outside the western boundary. Remains of an ancient
irrigation system provide evidence of early human occupation
beside the Mahaweli Ganga and Amban Ganga. The canal known as
Kalinga Yoda Ela was constructed by King Parakrama in the 12th
century. A ruined palace with stone pillars located on an island
in the Kalinga River is a particularly important cultural site.
Among the fish species found in reservoirs in
the park the stone sucker and combtail are endemic. However,
when outsiders enter the park they fish in the reservoir, posing
a threat to endemic fish species.
Chamikara says that human settlement in a large
land area would cause extinction of animals and damage the
"This is not the first attempt to resettle
villagers in a national park. The government has decided to
resettle villagers who will be displaced by the proposed
Weerawila International Airport in the Bundala-Wilmenna
Sanctuary. This has been stalled due to protests from concerned
parties," he said.
Environment Lawyer Jagath Gunawardane said that
the proposed area for resettlement has been a part of the
Wasgomuwa National Park. Therefore it is illegal to give away
land to people and for anyone to stay in such land, clear such
land, erect any temporary or permanent building, and make any
clearing to plant a crop or other purpose.
He said that even if the proposed resettlement
was within one mile of the boundary outside the park it should
have been done only in accordance with the approved procedure,
i.e. preceded by an Environmental Impact Assessment. "Therefore
it is sad to note that an activity that is totally illegal in
terms of the Fauna and Flora Protection Ordinance is being
carried out by state (departments and authority) in total
disregard of the law," he added.
Former Director General of Wildlife Conservation
Dayananda Kariyawasam, who was retired recently, before his
retirement told The Island that the government has still
not informed the department about the purported land
Environment Minister Champika Ranawaka said that
this land is in the buffer zone in the park. But, there is a
problem of ownership of the land.
"There is some private land in the buffer zone
of the Wasgomuwa National Park. Recently, the Department of
Wildlife Conservation has declared more lands under the buffer
zone. This land was owned by the Mahaweli Authority of Sri
Lanka. But, the authority states that the land is still owned by
them. As a result they are going to resettle people who will be
displaced by the proposed reservoir in that land," Ranawaka
He further said that the Ministry of Environment
discussed the issue and informed the Mahaweli Authority that if
the resettlement of people in the land is harmful to the fauna
and flora of the park in any way, this responsibility should be
take by the Moragahakanda reservoir project.