No resettlement of people inside Wilpattu – Wildlife Dept

By Maheesha Mudugamuwa

The Wildlife Conservation Department (WCD) yesterday said that there had been no resettlement of people inside the Wilpattu National Park.

The Forest Conservation Department (FCD) however said that around 2,500 plots of land owned by the department had been allocated for resettlement of Muslims in the Mannar District by the previous government.

Addressing a press conference held at the Environment Ministry, FCD Director General Anura Sathurusinghe said a total of 2,500 plots of land belonging to the department had been allocated for resettlement process without proper Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) and the trees there which should be given to Sri Lanka Timber Cooperation (SLTC) had not been given due to the pressure from the previous government at the time of land distribution.

He said according to a survey conducted in 2010, there had been about one million acres of forest cover in the North and East provinces.

Environment Ministry Secretary Nihal Rupasinghe said that the lands owned by FCD had been allocated for resettlement by the previous government and the new government had not allocated any lands for resettlement.

Rupasinghe noted that the President Maithripala Sirisena had ordered an immediate halt to the resettlement process and a committee had been appointed to look into the issue.

He said that the land distribution had been conducted by the Presidential Task Force under the previous government.

The Secretary also said that the committee would examine the issue thoroughly and check the possibilities of regaining the lands to the government.

Rupasinghe stressed that there were more 1,200 Sinhala families to resettle and waiting for lands.

WCD Director General H. D. Ratnayake said that there was no illegal resettlement that had taken place inside the Wilpattu National Park and the deforestation had taken place 9 km away from the park and in the lands owned by the FCD.

The controversial resettlement project adjoining the park had been launched in the proposed elephant corridor which had not yet been gazetted and therefore the government would first identify the required amount of land for the elephant corridor, he said.



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