The petitioners stated that the President acting arbitrarily by an Order published in the Gazette No.2248/44 dated 07.10.2021 declared that the Muthurajawela marshy lands are urgently required for the purpose of conservation and sustainable use of the Muthurajawela Environment Sensitive Zone and to develop it as a ‘Ramsar Wetland’ by preventing unauthorized filling and encroachments of its land plots.
The Petitioners states that the Gazette notification would have detrimental effects on the rights of the Petitioners and those residing in the areas covering fifteen Grama Niladhari Divisions in the Divisional Secretariat of Negombo in the District of Gampaha.
The Petitioners state that as a result of the Gazette by the President there will be a restriction on the day-to-day activities of the residents of the area as well as the religious activities in the area as well as a restriction on the livelihoods of the people of the area which is mostly based upon fishing activities.
The Petitioners further believe that the order of the President poses an imminent threat to the ecology of the Muthurajawela Wetlands in that it would allow the UDA to acquire most, if not all the wetland areas belonging to the Muthurajawela marsh in the guise of conservation and development as a Ramsar site, to carry out development activities and urban development projects that would cause lasting and irreversible destruction to the ecological value of the Muthurajawela wetlands.
The Petitioners state that according to a 2002 Report of the IUCN, the Muthurajawela Marsh is an Urban Wetland Ecosystem and is regarded as the largest coastal wetland in Sri Lanka. It is located on the western coastal belt of Sri Lanka between the North of Colombo and the Negombo Lagoon, extending to an area of 3,068ha. It is also identified as one of the 12 priority wetlands in Sri Lanka. The landscape of the area encompasses lagoons, marshes and mangrove areas as well as moderate and highly urbanized lands.
The Ramsar Mission is “the conservation and wise use of all wetlands through local and national actions and international cooperation, as a contribution towards achieving sustainable development throughout the world.”
The petitioners had named Minister of Urban Development & Housing Mahinda Rajapaksa, State Minister of Urban Development Nalaka Godahewa, Urban Development Authority and several others as respondents.
This petition is to be supported by President’s Counsel Farman Cassim. (Lakmal Sooriyagoda)