May 11, 2015 (LBO) – Sri Lanka’s President Maithripala Sirisena has issued a special decree prohibiting allocation of lands and clearing the surrounding areas of the Wilpattu national park, a statement said.
The decree comes into force with immediate effect and are applicable to the districts of Mannar and Vavuniya.
The statement says that the President ordered the Secretary, Ministry of Environment to take necessary steps regarding this matter immediately and has informed all state officials.
The President also has instructed the relevant authorities to strictly enforce the law with regard to deforestation, illegal land allocation and transfers in those areas.
The Presidents statement comes following allegations that the Wilpattu sanctuary is currently being rapidly cleared for the construction of houses by Minister of Industry and Commerce, Rishad Bathiudeen.
However, addressing a press briefing, Thursday (7),the Minister rejected the allegations leveled against him and vowed to quit if they are proven.
He charged that a criticism campaign is taking shape against him.
“During the past few weeks, some have negatively reported on continued and illegal Muslim re-settlements in the Marichchikatti Grama Seva division which is outside the Wilpattu National Park,” the Minister said.
“There have been claims that I have been destroying the Wilpattu jungle areas and also mentioned that I have been working to create an exclusive zone to settle Pakistani nationalities and people from other districts in this zone. These are campaigns of vilification.”
The Wilpattu park is located north of the country’s capital and houses nearly sixty lakes and tanks and also many varieties of wildlife including animals facing extinction.
The park is the largest and one of the oldest national parks in the Island and is among the top national parks world renowned for its Leopard population.
Wilpattu comes under the direct purview the Ministry of Mahaweli Development and Environment which is a ministry that falls under President Sirisena.