Sri Lanka nature reserve threatened by politicians, business say activists

July 06, 2008 (LBO) – One of the three top nature reserves in Sri Lanka, a biodiversity hotspot, is being threatened by encroachment and commercial cultivation involving corrupt politicians, bureaucrats and business, a new report says. “Once title is given, the land soon passes to the politically powerful or their cronies,” says Environmental Foundation Ltd., which has won court rulings to prevent further encroachment and evict squatters which have not been implemented.

” . . . the profits and gains from the illegally occupied land inevitably end up with the politically powerful individuals who have been behind the land clearance from the start.

“Ownership and control of fragile State lands thus pass to a tiny (and politically powerful) percentage of the population and to outside forces.

“The end result is that land is degraded, soil eroded and polluted, ecosystem services and biodiversity are lost, and the majority of the population suffers.”

Encroachment has been both by small-scale cultivators and the former state-owned Ambewela Farm, EFL says.

The Environmental Foundation Ltd report says the combined area of encroachment by small-scale cultivators far exceeds that of the Ambewela Farm.

“Since the 1