The environmental website mongabay.com (http://news.mongabay.com/2011/1121-hance_dole_abandons.html) reports that Dole who along with a Sri Lankan company Letsgrow Ltd cleared 12,0000 acres of dense forest bordering the Somawathiya National Park, has now abandoned the project. That is all very well, and the Environmental Foundation Ltd, takes credit for this pointing out using Google Earth, coordinates, and park boundaries that there was incursion into the Park. However Letsgrow Ltd has still not abandoned the project and continues to operate. Do not forget that Letsgrow made a fortune by felling valuable trees when it cleared the 12,000 acres. These trees don’t look like growing there anymore or any time soon!!
Who is Letsgrow? Who are the principals? For want of second guessing in the Banana Republic, the fingers MUST point to high level individuals in the govt. as no one else would have been given permission in the first place to carve up so much land, when already, arable land exists in Sri Lanka for such a purpose. This whole project was notified to me over 6 months ago by a conservation oriented farmer in Polonnaruwa who was horrified that this was happening, and all the laws relating to encroachment into National Parks had been ignored.
I am very saddened that the Sri Lanka Press has not taken up this cause, performed further investigation, and highlight the wrongs, so that the public can take a stand on the merits of the investigation, so that if any laws have been broken, the perpetrators, be they Government high ups or ruling families, brought to book immediately and prosecuted for their actions.
It is important that NO MORE forest is cut. Already the Human Elephant conflict is causing the death of too many Humans and Elephants. So in a clear case of the potential to worsen this; the National Park contains 500 elephants who roam into the park to partake of its seclusion and security, we must try and return this land back to the wild. Common sense would dictate that if there is no elephant electric fence, this project cannot succeed as elephants love a Banana Plantation, as they can feed off every part of the Banana tree not to mention their love for the fruit. So what is the planned solution if an elephant fence was not part of the project?
I firmly believe we must set up a ‘Conservation Corps’ equipped with resources from the forces, to protect from the encroachment into all reserves. Encroachment is a daily occurrence courtesy of the government politicians both national and provincial with the collusion of the police! This Corps has to be independent of the State as otherwise its functioning will be compromised. It must also have teeth in order to swoop and enforce the law and not leave it to the slow courts system.