ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s Roman Catholic Church is marshalling its forces to protect the Muthurajawela wetlands from a multi-use development project planned to be built in the area, the Archbishop of Colombo Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith says.
He told reporters on Thursday that the area is “surrounded by our churches and I have told our Parish Priests not to allow anyone to lay hands on this area.”
In an unusually strong statement, the Cardinal said the county “is being turned into a garbage dump as garbage from around the world is being brought here by rich businesspeople.”
“These people are also protected by the government. How can the people in the government have any self-respect?” he asked. [In Sinhala ¬- ආණ්ඩුවේ ඉන්න අය කොහොමද රෙදි ඇඳගෙන ඉන්නේ?]
The primary purpose of these matters is to reduce poverty among the people and “I am asking the people of the area not to assist these developers.”
Ranjith who held a joint press conference with a coalition of environmental activists said that the wetlands, which is a protected area under a gazette issued in 1996, has been “violated by successive governments which have given hundreds of acres to big time businessmen from time to time.”
The Cardinal also said that Maithripala Sirisena as Environment Minister in 2006 had issued a gazette declaring that some areas of the wetlands can be used for development.
He said that the notices placed in various parts of the wetlands declaring it a protected area have been removed recently and replaced with signs barring people from entering a large portion of the region.
“How is it possible that a protected area becomes someone’s private land?” he asked.
Ranjith called on the people living in the area to rise up against the developers.
“We cannot allow these people to come here, throw their money around, bribe officials, use their political influence and destroy this area,” he said.
“This area which has a lot of natural beauty, where many birds, fish and other animals live is the natural filter for the rain that falls on to the Gampaha district,” he said.
The leader of the Environmentalist Group Surakimu Sri Lanka Pahiyangala Ananda Sagara Thero and several other activists also addressed the media. (Colombo January 8, 2021)
Reported by Arjuna Ranawana