Manampitiya Nimal Jayaratne –
Wildlife officials and residents of the area say that a large scale sand smuggling operation is being carried out under the guise of digging trenches for wild elephants in the Manampitiya and Karapola reserves on the border of the Polonnaruwa Valley National Park which belongs to the Department of Wildlife Conservation.
The trench will be dug at a distance of 44 km from Manampitiya to Mahawewa parallel to the electric fence.
Wildlife Department officials say the site is not suitable for digging ditches because of the sandy ground and frequent erosion and subsidence.
Kumarasiri Wijekoon, Chairman of the Wildlife Department’s Site Assistant Professionals, said that the racket had been going on for several days and that the contractor was carrying out sand and soil smuggling contrary to the guidelines given by the Wildlife Department.
Kumarasiri said that his association had observed this and that the contractor had used backhoes to dig trenches without any standards and that the soil had been washed away and turned into sand and that a separate sand yard had been set up within the reserve.
Kumarasiri Wijekoon also told us that his association will inform the senior officials of the Wildlife Department as well as the Minister of Wildlife.
Farmers and environmentalists in the area say the contractor could not stop the elephant poaching by digging these trenches without any standards for the purpose of obtaining sand and soil.
He said that the Polonnaruwa Jalagalum Valley National Park is an ecologically sensitive area and the wild elephants’ routes in Somawathiya, Maduruoya and other areas have fallen through the trenches. Therefore, farmers’ organizations and environmentalists say that the existing elephant fence should be strengthened by stopping the digging of land which is not suitable for digging trenches.
In view of these circumstances, the residents of the area are requesting to stop the destruction of the environment by constructing a proper elephant fence according to a suitable methodology in this area.