Environmentalists seek meeting with wildlife chief

by Maheesha Mudugamuwa

Environmental organisations have sought a discussion with the newly appointed Wildlife Chief regarding the decisions taken by the acting wildlife director during the last few months.

Director Operations of the Department, H. D. Ratnayake was appointed Director General of the Wildlife Department recently.    

Environmental lawyer Jagath Gunawardane alleged that the acting wildlife Director General had violated many environmental laws and given approval for several illegal acts.

He said that environmentalists in the country would like to discuss all issues regarding nature and find a collective solution for those matters in collaboration with the Wildlife Department.

Secretary Agrarian Services and Wildlife Ministry Udeni Wickremasinghe has come under severe criticism for allegedly granting permission to a private party to remove sand and sediment from the Amban River without valid environmental assessments and many other illegal activities.

Responding to allegations, New Wildlife chief H. D. Ratnayake said he, too, wanted to discuss issues with environmental organizations.

"I’m ready to have a discussion at any time after two weeks," he said. 

The Collective of Environmental Organizations Director Sajeewa Chamikara told The Island yesterday (19) that the Wildlife Department legally recognized the mechanized sand mining on the banks of Amban Ganga at the Wasgamuwa National Park disregarding the opposition of environmentalists.

Currently, sand mining in Amban ganga was being carried out on a large scale, he said, adding that it should stop immediately.

"There is a plan to remove the electric fence which keeps away the elephants in the Giritale-Elahera Nature Reserve. People in the nearby villages are against this decision as the elephants could easily enter their villages. This fence is to be removed to allow the lorries and tractors to carry the sand mined in the river," Chamikara said.

He said that there was a plan to distribute 400 acres of land in the Elahera–Giritale sanctuary among people of the area and Wildlife Department had approved it during the tenure of the acting DG.

"We protested against it, but it was not withdrawn," he said.

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