Bellanwila Protected Environmental Zone A once beautiful tourist attraction

Published : 12:03 am  January 22, 2019 | No comments so far |  | 


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now an eyesore and an environmental hazard





By H.M. Dharmapala and Kusal Chamath   

Residents and environmentalists accused Government Officials of allowing unauthorized constructions and haphazard dumping of garbage in the Bellanwila Protected Environmental Zone and the bird sanctuary.   
They said the nauseating stench from garbage has caused annoyance and created a serious threat to the public health and that a vast area of the sensitive environmental zone had now been covered with solid waste, garbage from hotels and offal from meat stalls.   

A resident of Kahawita Mawatha D.M. Leelawathie, who makes a living by selling trays of offerings and flowers to the pilgrims attending Poojas in the nearby temples, said she was very particularly concerned about safe removal of garbage and that she never resorted to haphazard dumping of garbage in the environmental zone, which was close by.   

She said individuals from other areas including businessmen were responsible for vandalizing the sanctuary.   

“The individuals concerned transport large stocks of garbage in vehicles at the dead of night and dump them in the sanctuary avoiding the security posts,” she said.   

Meanwhile squatters, who illegally filled the marshes that had been the abode of exotic birds, have constructed shanties.   

DM-4-7They also worsen the environmental damage by haphazard disposal of garbage in the surroundings.   

The bird sanctuary has turned into a dumping ground and a safe haven of gangs engaging in nefarious activities including drug addicts, twilight women and robbers, a resident said.  

“If we questioned it we face death threats. Environmental damage caused to the sanctuary is going on unchecked due to the lethargic attitude of the police environmental unit and the wildlife conservation department,” a resident said.   

A trishaw driver at Boralesgamuwa Suranga Aponso said he was an environmental lover who had a keen interest in enjoying the natural surroundings of the Bellanwila-Attidiya Sanctuary. 

But now he would close his nose and stop breathing for a while to avoid the nauseating smell from garbage when passing the sanctuary.   

“I often transport passengers from Attidiya, through Abeyratne Mawatha to the `120 route in Boralesgamuwa and feel sorry about the sad state of the sanctuary.

“Individuals travelling by luxury vehicles and businessmen use the sanctuary as a dumping ground.  The local authorities have requested the public to refrain from haphazard disposal of garbage and provided facilities to collect them at the door step. Lorry loads of debris of demolished buildings have been dumped in the environmental zone,” he said.   

Environmentalists said that Sri Lanka was one of the signatories to the International “Ramsa” Convention of 1987 for the protection of wetlands all over the world, but the authorities had failed to provide protection to the Bellanwila environmental zone which had been identified as a wetland in the country and a highly sensitive environmental zone.   

The warning boards to prevent dumping of garbage has not served any purpose and large collections of garbage have been left in the bird sanctuary causing extensive environmental damage. Residents of the area pointed out that the heaps of garbage lying near the water service main and near the bridge on Kahawita Mawatha had polluted the canal. They said hundreds of unauthorised structures had been erected in the protected environmental zone and the bird sanctuary by clearing the jungle which had been the abode of exotic and endemic bird species. They warned that the bird sanctuary had been left to the mercy of the squatters and the gangs who were responsible for haphazard 
garbage dumping.   

Residents of the area who depended on tourism in the past said that hundreds of tourists visited the bird sanctuary bringing them an income, but many species of birds that created a tourist attraction were now extinct.   

“The Bird Sanctuary has been left to the mercy of the squatters and it is now used as a dumping ground. Unauthorized structures in the environmental zone have created an eyesore. The bird sanctuary teeming with migratory birds from August every year are now extinct. We have complained to the relevant authorities including the police environmental unit, the Wildlife Conservation Department, and the local authority in this regard, but to no avail,” they said.   
They requested the Police to operate a night patrol to arrest individuals responsible for vandalizing the sanctuary which had once been a tourist attraction. They further requested the Wildlife Conservation Department to clear the sanctuary of unauthorized erections.     



Residents accuse government officials of allowing unauthorized constructions and haphazard dumping of garbage