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News  


 

Lightning transfer for wildlife department chief
By Gagani Weerakoon
The director-general of wildlife has been transferred with immediate effect allegedly for refusing to grant a sand-mining permit to a prominent government ministry.
Department sources said he had earlier fallen foul of many powerful politicians for submitting a report criticising and opposing the construction of the new highway through the Wilpattu national park for security needs.
“An application for a sand mining permit in Kokawillu area in Wilpatthu sanctuary came from a powerful ministry but he refused to grant permission saying it is a highly protected area. We believe this is the latest cause for the sudden transfer. He stood firm as an independent public servant as he was not a political appointee,” the sources alleged.
Environmentalists and animal right activists, meanwhile, blamed authorities for placing the Wildlife Department under various ministries saying that it put wildlife officials in a vulnerable situation.
“The classic example of this blunder is the recent tragic loss of Galgamuwa tusker. Normally, you should follow a certain criteria in relocating an elephant. More importantly you should do a proper assessment of the animal before relocating but none of these requirements were met in this particular case. You cannot blame the officials also because they were not coming under the environment ministry like earlier and had to listen to another set of top officials who have little or no idea about relocating elephants. Those officials simply being carried away about the fact that the tusker was harmful to the civilians in the area,” charged senior environmental lawyer Jagath Gunawardana.
He also said that neither the officials nor the veterinarians could be blamed as they did everything possible to save the tusker with limited resources.
“Some say that wildlife officials did not check about the quality of the floorboard of the truck but one should not forget the fact that the Department only has two such trucks. However, the fact remains that this relocation was done in an ad hoc manner,” he added while noting that the acting Wildlife Director too was not to be blamed as he had just assumed duties.
He also criticised the move to place the department under a separate ministry in the new cabinet.
“Since 2002, from minister Rukman Senanayaka to Patali Champika Ranawake the department was under the Environment Ministry where there are experts on the subject. It is a mess when it comes to tackling human-elephant conflict even as part of it comes under the Forest Department and another part of it comes under the Wildlife Department. Sadly, these two institutions now come under completely alien ministries,” he added.
It is however said that the mined sand is meant for the road construction and not for commercial purposes.