Great damage to Sinharaja due to road construction, environmentalists say

The Sinharaja rainforest reserve has sustained “great damage” due to the construction of a concrete-laden road, environmentalists said.

The Centre for Environment and Nature Studies (CENS) told reporters today that construction of the Kudawa access road to Sinharaja has destroyed the natural habitat of the Bulath Hapaya, a species of freshwater fish endemic to Sri Lanka.

CENS Convener Dr Ravindra Kariyawasam said the ongoing construction has destroyed some plant species as well.

The road in question is being constructed under the Ecosystem Conservation & Management Project (ESCAMP) in collaboration with the Forest Department utilising funds provided by the World Bank for environmental protection endeavours in Sri Lanka.

“Over 60 percent of plant life in Sinharaja is endemic to Sri Lanka. Many plant species including Ma Wewal have been destroyed due to the construction,” Kariyawasam said.

Construction has been completed of a 1.5km stretch of the 32km road so far, and according to Kariyawasam, though the width of the road was supposed to be eight feet, in places it is as wide as 20 feet.

Sinharajaya Surakina Janatha Pawra (Peoples’ Wall to Protect Sinharaja), an organisation committed to the protection of the reserve, has complained to the World Bank in this regard, said Kariyawasam, adding that that an inspection panel from Washington DC has visited the construction site to record their observations.

CENS member Vekandawala Rahula Thera told EconomyNext that a “natural method” (ස්වභාවික ක්‍රමවේදයක්) has to be followed when constructing roads in a forest area instead of using concrete.

“Government officials say they are just renovating a road that was already there. If that is the case, why are they widening it?” he said.

Edited by Himal Kotelawala

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