DS Division: Lunugamwehera
Grama Niladari Division: Demaliya
A large-scale banana plantation project has been implemented by Dole Lanka (Pvt.) Ltd. in an area of 1,000 acres in the Elephant Corridor linking Lunugamwehera to Handapanagala in the margin of the Handapanagala National Park. This forest is crown land under control of Department of Forest Conservation and is the watershed of Kirindi Oya and Lunugamwehera Reservoir.
Forest has been cleared using backhoes and heavy machinery and soil has been prepared by setting fire. A banana cultivar named ‘Cavendish’ has been planted (Fig. 13.0 a, b, c, d & e) in a portion of the cleared land. Seed beds have been made after plowing the soil. A network of roads spaced at a distance of 100 meters has been made among the seedbeds. Application of agrochemicals is carried out mechanically by driving water bowsers on the roads among seedbeds to spray the chemicals at night.
An electric fence has been installed around the area in order to prevent crop-raid by elephants obstructing movement of elephants.
Harmful effects of the project
- Operation of this project is detrimental to the water level of the Kirindi Oya and Lunugamwehera reservoir due to clearance of the watershed. Further, soil erosion will be amplified by this project resulting in siltation and increased turbidity of Kirindi Oya and Lunugamwehera reservoir. Reduction of capacity of the Lunugamwehera reservoir seriously affects the agricultural activities of the communities depending on the reservoir for irrigation of their croplands. Destruction of their croplands leads to collapse of their economy generating socioeconomic issues in addition to affecting food production of the country.
- As mentioned above the project blocks the main elephant corridor linking Handapanagala to Lunugamwehera National Park. In consequence, elephants enter the village settlements and croplands in the areas of Demaliya, Nagamalwila, and Icepeella creating a severe Human – Elephant Conflict damaging property of the local community in addition to crop-raid. This has lead to the displacement of the farmers who have now been reduced to laborers of mass scale agrarian projects.
- The excessive use of agrochemicals causes these chemicals to spreads to the Lunugamwehera National Park and the nearby settlements. This results in serious public health issues and the biodiversity of the national park will be adversely affected. Further, chemical runoff results in contamination and accumulation in the reservoir. This condition further aggravates the above issues and extends these problems to the areas irrigated by the reservoir that are located farther to the project site.
- Clearance of an expansive area of forestland will cause localized changes in weather and climate pattern. This affects the agricultural activities and lifestyle of the residents seriously.
- The local community will face lack of drinking water as a result of rapid decline of water table due to large-scale extraction of groundwater for the project, since it is located in the dry zone.
- According to the Forest Conservation Act, amended last by act 56 of 2009, it is prohibited to transfer the ownership of state forests to private owners.
- According to section 9a of Flora and Fauna Protection Ordinance (FFPO) as amended last by Act No 22 of 2009, for any developmental project carried out within an area of one mile from the border of a National Park, prior written approval should be obtained from the Director General of the Department of Wildlife Conservation subject to an EIA. However, this provision has been ignored.
- According to Gazette Notification bearing No. 772/22 of 24th June 1993, published under the provisions of the National Environmental Act no. 47 of 1980 and its amendments, if any forest land exceeding one acre in area is cleared for development, prior written Environmental Recommendation should be obtained subject to EIA process. Above forestland has been cleared and used for agriculture violating this provision.
- According to Land Development Ordinance No. 19 of 1936 and its amendments, for any large-scale agricultural project prior approval should be obtained from all the relevant state departments. However, approvals from the Department of Wildlife, Department of Archeology or Department of Agrarian Services, have not been obtained.