Wannila Aththo files petition challenging clearing of lands at Pollebedda | Daily News

Wannila Aththo files petition challenging clearing of lands at Pollebedda

Uruwarige Wannila Aththo, leader of the indigenous population known as ‘Veddhas’ in Sri Lanka filed a writ petition in the Court of Appeal challenging the clearing of lands at Pollebedda-Rambakan Oya.

Uruwarige Wannila Aththo and the Centre for Environmental Justice filed this   petition seeking an interim order staying the validity of approvals granted to the Mahaweli Authority for the proposed Agriculture and Livestock Development Project. The petitioners are further seeking an order to halt the clearing of the lands at Pollebedda-Rambakan Oya, one of the traditional homelands of the indigenous population.

Filing this petition through counsel Ravindranath Dabare, the petitioners have named Central Environmental Authority, Mahaweli Development Authority, Department of Forests, Department of Wild Life Conservation, Minister of Wildlife and Forest Conservation, RAN Plantations (Pvt) Ltd and several others as respondents.

The petitioners are also seeking an order in the nature of a Writ of Mandamus directing Central Environmental Authority to take actions in terms of the National Environmental Act for the illegal clearing of the lands without conducting an Environmental Assessment.

The Petitioners state that Pollebedda is a remote village in the dry zone situated at Mahaoya and is found on the way to the Rambakan Oya Reservoir. Pollebedda is one of the traditional homelands of indigenous population known as Veddhas of Sri Lanka. The petitioners said that deforestation and development have greatly contributed to the shrinking of their traditional lands. This has caused a progressive decline in their number, and the community is at risk of losing its ancient traditions, which have been handed down from generation to generation. The Petitioners state that an area of approximately 500 ha had already been cleared for the Proposed Agricultural and Livestock Development Project at Pollebedda-Rambakan Oya according to the site inspection carried out by the petitioners.

The petitioner states the Central Environmental Authority is the apex body for the protection of the Environment in Sri Lanka and they have failed in their statutory duties to take cognizance of the clearing taking place in the said area and had permitted to proceed with the proposed project without an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) instead of taking action against the relevant parties for clearing 500 acres of forest cover in a water catchment area without obtaining approval in terms of the National Environmental Act.