State Minister Nimal Lanza said today that the gazette notification issued to acquire some 5800 hectares of the Muthurajawela wetlands by the Urban Development Authority (UDA) should be withdrawn without inviting further trouble.
He told Parliament that steps should be taken to conserve the 1447 hectares which had been gazetted as a wildlife and forest conservation zone in 2006 and 2008 instead of the new gazette.
Raising a question, he said according to the new gazette notification it was proposed to declare some 4,400 hectares of lands in addition to the 1447 hectares as the Muthurajawela Environment Sensitive Zone.
The Minister said there was a controversy in the society over this new gazette notification and added that the Government was inviting another trouble through this move.
“We request the Government to conserve at least the area of 1447 hectares as gazetted earlier. According to the new gazette, lands used by temples, churches and people for about 200 years will be acquired by the UDA,” he said.
SJB MP Kavinda Jayawardene said they doubt if these lands were acquired by the UDA for development purposes rather than for conservation.
Urban Development, Waste Disposal and Community Cleanliness State Minister Nalaka Godahewa admitted that there was a controversy over the lands declared in the gazette notification and said it could be rectified if there was an issue.
He said lands were identified by a committee of experts representing the three Ministries of Environment, Wildlife and land and added that it was done to map out the human settlements and forest areas.
He said lands of human settlements will not be used for any development activities or handed over to investors for development. (Ajith Siriwardana and Yohan Perera)