Sri Lanka’s forest reserves are now being destroyed rampantly under the cover of infrastructure development without conducting proper environmental assessments by political cronies with the assistance of provincial politicians.

A massive forest area in Wanathawilluwa has been devastated by these political stooges who were aided and abetted by a provincial politician in the area, residents complained.

The convener of ‘Wayamba Handa’ environmental conservation association, Ajith Gohan revealed that around 100 acres of forest cover in Wanathawilluwa forest has been devastated by cutting valuable trees using automatic power hacksaws.

Two hundred year old huge Palu trees old along with valuable other trees like Sandalwood (Burutha) that are hundreds of years old had been cut into logs and removed from the area after setting fire to the forest area located in Kuratiyamohotte village at Eluwankulama in Wanathawilluwa, he said.

This forest is located in close proximity to Wilpattu national park and its destruction will greatly affect the wildlife and elephant habitat, he revealed adding that it will also result in the invasion of elephants into villages.

Environmentalists said that the plan of the intruders is to sell the forest land allotments to buyers to carry our real estate projects.

This latest forest devastation came to light in the wake of the issue of construction of a road from Lankagama to Neluwa located on the border of the Sinharaja forest reserve which has threatened the environment of a UNESCO world heritage site.  

Meanwhile, former minister Mangala Samaraweera has written to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) alerting them over the danger faced by the Sinharaja forest reserve.

In his letter to Audrey Azoulay, Director General of UNESCO, he brings up the issue of construction of a road from Lankagama to Neluwa located on the border of Sinharaja.

He stated that building the road would lead to hotels and shops being constructed along the way, and the forest reserve being encroached upon further including for cultivation purposes, and result in the increase of vehicular traffic including at night time, increase in illegal activities including bio-piracy, and pollution of the river (Ginganga).

Samaraweera urged UNESCO to call upon the Sri Lankan government to halt construction of this road with immediate effect and to provide to them with the expertise to study the current status of Sinharaja and the possible short and long-term impacts of the current road construction project.