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Ananda Sagara Thero calls for Environmental Impact Assessment for Sinharaja development

IN LANKAGAMA – President Rajapaksa greets villagers from Lankagama near the Sinharaja Forest/PMD handout

ECONOMYNEXT- Environmental activist Pahiyangala Ananda Sagara Thero is saying President Gotabaya Rajapaksa should provide a solution to the Lankagama-Neluwa road issue being built through Sinharaja after a wider study with experts instead of providing solutions by proposed by locals in the area.

The Thero told Media today, that the post-development that will take place after the construction of the road such as shops and house along the road will destroy the ecosystems of animals cannot be prevented by anyone.

“It is true the President as the defence secretary did a lot of service to the country but this is not the way to work as a President,” he added.

He suggested that President Rajapaksa should summon the departments which are established to look into these issues and do an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) according to the accepted law in the country and then to decide on the road bases on the report.

Further, he said that many people claimed that they were the ones who protected Sinharaja forest, however “it’s true to some extent but they are the ones who are also responsible for the destruction of that environment,” he added.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa ordered on Saturday that the road from Lankagama to Neluwa through the Sinharaja forest zone be built within 90 days without harming the environment.

After environmentalists protested President Rajapaksa has ordered road construction taking place in the buffer zone and inside the Sinharaja World Heritage Site be immediately halted on August 19.

However, President Rajapaksa has instructed the Minister of Agrarian Services & Wildlife to suspend any developments that will damage the Sinharaja protected zone.

In the statement, the RDA said no development has or will take place in the road of 1.1 kilometres inside the Sinharaja zone.

The President noted in a statement issued today August 29 that the people in Lankagama have been living there for centuries.

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He ordered that daily bus services should be started so that people from the village can travel to hospitals further south.

The President’s earlier decision was taken after the Centre for Environment and Nature Studies (CENS) in Sri Lanka, protested against the construction of a road in the buffer zone and inside the Sinharaja World Heritage Site.

CENS said the same project began in 2013 but was stopped thereafter by UNESCO.

In an earlier report, Ravindra Kariyawasam of CENS said a complaint was sent to UNESCO after the Sri Lanka Army Engineers started the constructions on August 10.

The Sinharaja Forest Reserve is a unique remaining virgin tropical rainforest in Sri Lanka.

It is of international significance and has been designated as a Biosphere Reserve and World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

The hilly virgin rainforest, part of the Sri Lanka lowland rain forests Ecoregion, was saved from the worst commercial logging by its inaccessibility and was designated as a World Biosphere Reserve in 1978 and a World Heritage Site in 1989.

The IUCN report notes that ‘The value of Sinharaja as a natural world heritage site continues to be recognized by the discovery of several endemic species of plants and animals since the declaration of this forest as a world heritage in 1988.

Environmentalists have alleged that several blocks of land in and around the Sinharaja reserve are owned by outsiders believed to be developers wanting to build eco-hotels and camps.

The President’s nephew Yoshitha Rajapaksa recently hotly denied reports that the road was being built to link a Hotel project he owned to the main road.(Colombo/Aug31/2020)

Reported by Imesh Ranasinghe