Hiran H. Senewiratne
The Central Environmental Authority (CEA), which issues the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report on any development project in the country, is unaware that more than 60,000 acres of virgin forest land have been cleared by a US based multi- national company for banana cultivation in SriLanka.
A group of environmental activists including Piyal Parakrama of the Environmental Foundation Limited (EFL) disclosed at a press briefing in Colombo on Thursday (18) that vast stretches of virgin forest in various parts of the country would be given to Dole Food Company.
EFL Convener Ravindra Kariyawasam pointed out that the areas that had come under Dole’s banana cultivation project included 15,000 acres from Chunnakkadu Reserve in Kantale, 11,600 acres at Kandakaduwa in Somawathiya National Park, 3,000 acres at Uva-Kudaoya in Lunugamwehera and 500 acres at Wekandawewa in Buttala.
When The Island contacted Chairman of CEA Charita Herath for comment, he said that he was unaware of those projects and that only a narrow road inside the Sinharaja forest had been built with the CEA’s permission as it had zero impact on the forest.
Herath summoned one of his officials to verify whether the EIA reports had been obtained for the projects of the US company and the officer said the CEA had refused to approve several projects. But, clearing of 3,000 acres of forest land in Kandakaduwa in Somawathiya National park was on. Without any approval from the CEA, those projects were going ahead, she implied.
“In most of these forests vast stretches have been cleared and cultivation has commenced. In Wekandawewa, an ancient tank has been encroached on thus cutting off its water to the villagers,” Kariyawasam said claiming that Galle, Puttalam, Dambulla and Hingurakgoda were likely to lose forest land to Dole banana project in future.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation report, Sri Lanka has been ranked the 4th worst country in the world in terms of deforestation for the period 2000-05.
The CEA Chairman also said that Sections 5 and 6 of the Amended Fauna and Flora Protection Ordinance No. 22 of 2009, had laid down guidelines to prevent harm to the environment, therefore the environmental pressure groups were seeking legal advice on it.