CA (Writ) 143/2018
Sallitivu Islet, significant for rich biodiversity, is located in the Batticaloa district in the Eastern province of Sri Lanka. It is approximately 275 meters in length and 155 meters wide and is seasonally connected to the mainland through a sand bar or sand bridge that is about 250 meters in length.
All plant species observed in the island are native to Sri Lanka with a total number of 50 plant species, comprising one nationally endangered, two nationally vulnerable and four nationally near threatened plant species. The natural habitats observed in the island support a very rich biodiversity (Ex: mangroves, coastal scrub, beach and beach associated vegetation).
Around March 2017, EFL learnt that, a tourism project has been planned and carried out on Sallitivu islet in /Vvakarai under the name “Leisure and Pleasure Pristine Eco Culture.” Due to the high ecological sensitivity of the area, EFL contacted the Batticaloa representative of the Coast Conservation and Coastal Resource Management Department regarding the project and it was informed that the project was yet to be approved. However, the then District Secretary of Batticaloa stated later on that, the first stage of the project was almost completed and the approvals were already granted in June 2016 to continue the project.
It is important to note that the government authorities responsible for the project have disregarded section 14(1) and 14(2) of the Coast Conservation and Coastal Resource Management Act no.57 of 1981 (amended) which specifies the requirement to obtain a permit from the Coast Conservation Department (CCD) prior to conducting any development activity within the coastal zone. This is the main tool used by CCD to manage and mitigate negative impacts of development activities within the coastal zone.
EFL continued correspondence with the District Secretary of Batticaloa, requesting to provide documents to confirm the approvals for the project. The District Secretary delivered the consent documents from some of the stake holders as well as the documents pertaining to the revised budget, approved by the Ministry of Tourism Development and Christian Religious Affairs. However, the land clearance wasn’t approved by the Divisional Land Use Committee. Due to the issue of funding being cut off if the project was not implemented, which would otherwise render a re-application of the project, the District Secretariat of Batticaloa has gone ahead with the project without a permit by the Coast Conservation and an environmental clearance as required by law.
For the Coastal Zone Management Plan (CZMP), it is important to carry out an Environmental Impact Assessment / Initial Environmental Examination (EIA/IEE) (at page 74A of CZMP), which is an integral part of regulatory mechanism pertaining to any coastal zone, since Sallitivu Islet is an ecologically sensitive area. Thus, any development activities must be carefully monitored. Also, the waste management plan prepared by the District Secretariat was not approved by the Central Environmental Authority (CEA) since, the specifications are neither for the soakage pit for waste water, nor for its location on the islet disclosed.
Notwithstanding, it was quite alarming to know that significant progress has been made on the project in question. EFL was quite disturbed by the conduct of the District Secretary of Batticaloa to continue with construction disregarding the EIA and the IEE process.
After observing all these serious implications on the environment, EFL expressed its commitment to extend support to the District Secretary of Batticaloa, Coast Conservation and Coastal Resource Management Department and share expertise and recommendations to cease any environmental and social impacts taking place because of the project, whilst pledging our fullest support towards sustainable tourism to be beneficial to the entire country.
Despite, upon failure of the government bodies to take action against the illegal construction, EFL filed a public interest litigation in the Court of Appeal on the 29th of March 2018 (CAW 143/2018) against the alleged eco-tourism project carried out by the District Secretariat of Batticaloa without the requisite permits and approval by the Coast Conservation and Coastal Resource Management Department.
The case was supported on the 3rd of May 2018. It is re-fixed for support on the 03rd of July 2018.