Case over Illegal Eco Tourism Project in Sallitivu, Vakarai concluded – Press Release

Kirillapone, Colombo – 05, March 11, 2020: Environmental Foundation (Guarantee) Limited (EFL), is one of the oldest public interest litigation firms in Sri Lanka. Established in 1981 as a non-profit Public Interest Litigation group with a mission to act on environmental injustices and help conserve the natural environment in Sri Lanka. In 2018, EFL filed a Writ action in the Court of Appeal against an illegal eco-tourism project under the name “Leisure and Pleasure Pristine Eco Culture”.

Sallitivu, a pristine Islet on the Eastern Coast

Sallitivu Islet, significant for rich biodiversity, is located in the Batticaloa district in the Eastern Province of Sri Lanka. It is connected to the mainland through a sand bar. The islet is abundant with native plants. With a total number of 50 plant species, there are four near threatened plant species, two nationally vulnerable and one nationally endangered plant species. The natural habitats observed in the island supports a very rich biodiversity such as Mangroves, Coastal Scrub, Beach and Beach associated vegetation.

In 2017, an eco-tourism project was implemented by the District Secretariat of Batticaloa. By the implementation of the project, the authorities have disregarded section 14(1) and 14(2) of the Coast Conservation and Coastal Resource Management Act No. 57 of 1981 (as amended), which specified the requirement to obtain a permit from the Coast Conservation Department (CCD) prior to conducting any development activity within the coastal zone. According to The Coastal Zone Management Plan 2004 (CZMP), an Environmental Impact Assessment/ Initial Environmental Examination (EIA)/ IEE) needs to be conducted prior to a permit being issued for tourism structures.

Despite lacking land clearance by the Divisional Land Use Committee, and approval by the Central Environmental Authority for the project waste management plan, the project was taken forward by the District Secretary of Batticaloa on the basis, that funding will be cut if the project was not implemented.

Due to illegal nature of this tourism project which was being carried out without the necessary EIA and IEE process, EFL filed a Writ action on 29th March 2018 (CAW 143/2018). The case was supported on the 3rd of July 2018, where notices were issued and the petitioners were granted interim relief to prevent the respondents from engaging in any further development. Mr. Viran Corea appeared for the petitioners and the case was taken for Argument on the 19th of July 2019 with the Stay Order being extended till 22nd of July 2019. The respondents informed courts that they are willing to remove the constructions and require a 05-month period to remove them. When the case was taken for Mention on the 28th of February 2020, the petitioners stated that the constructions on the Sallitivu Islet have been removed, and with the support of all parties, EFL agreed that the case can be concluded. This was an excellent example of commendable initiative by all parties involved to settle the matter in a speedy manner, adhering to the provisions of law. The courts were prompt to identify the gravity of the issue and rectify the illegality in the administrative decisions that were made with regards to impugned project. The counsel for the Attorney Generals department played a critical role in setting out terms that were in-line with the relevant laws and the government authorities including the District Secretariat of Batticaloa worked towards restoring the status quo of the pristine environment of the islet.

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