ELAW partners are celebrating a big victory for an enormous forest complex which includes Sri Lanka’s largest national park – Wilpatthu National Park – and contiguous forests that are home to many threatened species, including leopards, elephants, sloth bears, and migratory birds.
Following the Sri Lankan Civil War, thousands of hectares of Wilpatthu’s Kallaru Forest Reserve were razed and 1,500 families were illegally settled in the cleared area. Last week, Sri Lanka’s Court of Appeal ordered the Forest Department to replant an area equivalent to the area destroyed, and that former Minister Rishad Bathiudeen pay the costs, based on the “polluter pays” principle.
“This case sets an important precedent, that government officials cannot release forest lands, even under pressure from politicians,” says Hemantha Withanage, Executive Director of the Centre for Environmental Justice.
CEJ took the lead on the case and received critical legal information from the ELAW legal team and also from ELAW partners in Bangladesh, India, and Canada.
Sri Lanka’s Colombo Gazette reports “Bathiudeen is currently imprisoned on charges of violating the Presidential Elections Act by misappropriating public funds to the tune of Rs. 9.5 million when he was the Minister of Industry and Commerce.”
Congratulations Hemantha and the CEJ team!
For more information, see:
Court orders Rishad to reforest area in Wilpattu Colombo Gazette. November 16, 2020
Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide