Courts orders investigation into “wilful destruction” in Anawilundawa sanctuary
ECONOMYNEXT – The Chilaw courts have ordered the Department of Wildlife Conservation to investigate, identify and charge those involved in the clearing of the Anawilundawa Sanctuary in Puttalam.
Director-General of Wildlife Conservation, M G C Sooriyabandara told EconomyNext that the court order from the District Court followed a complaint made by the Department against the wilful destruction of a portion of the sanctuary, on the night of August 25th.
Sooriyabandara said charges will be filed against those responsible under the Fauna and Flora Protection Ordinance. The destruction is being considered a criminal act against the many species of birds, reptiles and fish etc. that inhabit these wetlands.
Initial investigations reveal that the wetland has been cleared to make room for prawn farms.
President of the Lanka Nature Conservationists, a former Deputy Director of Customs, Samantha Gunasekera told EconomyNext that the destruction is believed to have taken place under cover of night and involves about 2 acres of the Wetland. Those responsible have dug up the area and prepared it for two prawn farms, he said.
While mangroves have been destroyed on previous occasions, of late, a lot of work has been put in, even with international assistance to protect these wetlands. Villages have claimed that destruction of the wetlands comes with the blessings of a politician in the area, he added.
Declared a Wetland under the Ramsar Convention, Anawilunduwa Sanctuary is one of six recognised sites in Sri Lanka. Apart from the various bird and fish species and amphibians living in the Wetlands, Anawilunduwa also attract many migratory birds.
Anawilunduwa is believed to date back to the 12th century and is a human-made cascading water system, which stores water for irrigation purposes.
It also plays an important role in flood control, retention of sediments and pollutants and also acts as an aquifer recharge. While local residents have, over the years practiced fishing and traditional farming, the introduction of prawn farms around the area has destroyed the mangroves, EconomyNext learns.
According to a report published on Seacology, a not for profit organisation involved in environmental conservation helping mangrove preservation in this country, Sri Lanka is the first county to pledge to ‘preserve and replant all of its mangrove forests.’
A unique feature of Anawilundawa is that it is very close to three extremely different ecosystems; mangroves, the coast and freshwater tanks. (Colombo, August 28, 2020)