Ejustice

Environmental Law in Astray-Minister defends illegal Aloe Vera Cultivation

JANAKA WITHANAGE

Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) procedure has been introduced by the National Environment Act no 47 of 1980 in Sri Lanka with the objective of addressing environmental, social and economical and any other impact arising due to a development activity. Type of the activity, scale of the activity and sensitivity of the location and many other factors decide the fact that whether an Initial Environmental Examination (IEE) is sufficient or should go through the EIA. The Central Environmental Authority takes this decision. 

However, we question the effectiveness of this law as project proponent evades this law using their political influence. Large scale Alovera cultivation project is progressing in the buffer zone of Wilpattu National Park in Yaya 18, Rajanganaya. It is a 370 USD million investment by Aura Lanka Herbals Pvt LTD initiated with the blessing of the new government.

“It is just an Aloevera cultivation. That’s what everybody keeps saying even the government officers. But when we dig deeper it is not only Alovera cultivation, but it include a 1500 acre nursery, Factory, Research lab, Water supply project, indoor stadium, research school and a model town” 

While they have plans to cultivate 100000 acres of aloevera, they have requested permission from Central Environmental Authority, North Central province office for just the nursery of 100 acre. This is clearly withholding information and misleading the officials of the government. Current minister of environment is very interested about this project as it is his electorate. The project proponent does not have the proper cabinet approval to use the government land which has been given to the farmers under a permit scheme.

Project area is very close to the Wilpattu National Park. According to the Fauna and Flora Ordinance of 1937, any project implemented within a 1 mile radius of the buffer zone of a national park should have the written approval of the director general of the department of Wildlife conservation. In addition, a project of this scale should undergo EIA procedure and it is a must. EIA report should be subjected to a 30 day commenting period.

Project proponent has cleared a large area and constructing drainage canals and a small tank to get the required water using a natural stream. 

Responsible government agencies are mute. Is it due to the influence by the minister of environment? He participated the project inauguration as the chief guest? As the minister in charge of the environment subject, is it worthy him to support this project? This questions the credibility of the minister as well as the law. 

Responsible agencies have failed to enforce the law. Nobody knows about this, unless CEJ raised voice. This should not be a bad example in future for bypassing the environmental law in the country. [END]

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