Road through national reserve
By Vindya Amaranayake
A proposed road through the Strict Natural Reserve of the Yala
Wildlife Park has led to controversy with conservationists
protesting against the move by the Road Development Authority
and the Highways Ministry.
The proposed Kirinda-Panama road running through
five natural reserves including the Yala Strict Natural Reserve
(SNR) would be damaging the natural habitats of most of the
endangered species. The public is not permitted to enter the SNR
except for valid research purposes.
Environmentalist Jagath Gunawardane said it was
illegal to build new roads inside natural reserves. "Natural
reserves are protected under the Fauna and Flora Protection
Ordinance (FFPO), 1937 section 2.1. The public is not allowed
into the Natural Reserves unless they hold a permit from the
Wildlife Conservation Department ," he said.
Conservationist Sumith Pilapitiya said there
were only three strict natural reserves in Sri Lanka and they
covered only a small percentage of land in the country. Their
main purpose was to let the natural habitat remain in its
natural state without human intervention. "If it is only for
research with no public visitation permitted, how can the RDA or
the Government be considering a road through Yala SNR?",he
However, RDA Chairman M B S Fernando when
contacted by The Nation dismissed the allegations saying there
was no plan to build a highway but only to repair the existing
road going through the Yala SNR. "The road inside the reserve
belongs to the Wildlife Department and it is in a very bad
shape. We are not going to build a new road. and what we are
proposing is to repair the existing road so that local and
foreign tourists can make use of it" he said.
"We will get assistance from the Wildlife
Department and maintenance will be handled by them. There will
be no harm to any of the wildlife preserved within the reserve,"
Fernando said "the public will be allowed in
with a permit and they need to be accompanied by a Wildlife
Department guard at all times. It will still be under the strict
conditions of the Wildlife Department and the status quo will be
maintained" he said.
But according to RDA Highway Designs Division
sources there had been a proposal to build a highway through
Yala when President Mahinda Rajapake was the Prime Minister.
He was then handling the Road Development
Ministry. "There was a proposal like that long ago. I donít
think anything has materialized." he added.