The Department of Forest Conservation (DFC) and the Central Environmental Authority (CEA) are pointing fingers at each other regarding a 500-acre forest land belonging to the Nakolagane Rajamahavihara being leased to private firms without adhering to proper procedures.
When contacted Chairman of the Central Environment Authority Prof. Lal Dharmasiri claimed that permission to clear such land, despite the land belonging to a temple, should be obtained by the Department of Forest Conservation. However, Conservator General of Forests S. A. Anura Sathurusinghe refuted this saying any such permission regarding private land should be obtained by the CEA instead after presenting an Environmental Impact Assessment report (EIA) to the relevant.
Speaking to The Nation, Environmentalist and researcher at the Biodiversity Conservation and Research Circle of Sri Lanka, Supun Lahiru Prakash alleged that the required environmental impact assessment (EIA) as per the National Environment Act No.47 of 1980 has not been submitted in this instance. According to gazette no. 772/22 of June 23, 1993 clearance of over one hectare of land for development purposes should be supported by an EIA and permission from relevant authorities.
Residents of Nakolagane in the North Western province are said to be protesting against the decision made by the Chief incumbent of the Nakolagane Rajamahavihara to lease out the temple land. According to the villagers the land has been given on a 30 year lease to two private companies for the purpose of commencing mango and sandalwood plantations.
Speaking to The Nation, Environmentalist Supun Lahiru Prakash said the creation of such plantations will be detrimental to farmers while the loss of elephant habitat will aggravate the elephant human conflict.Currently a population of 300 elephants is present around Palukadawala.