During the war, Wilpattu National Park ceased to function, as the area was a battleground between the Sri Lankan Security Forces and the LTTE.
After the war ended, the Environmental Foundation Limited (EFL) together with 3 other NGOs noted that two roads within the Wilpattu National Park were being open to the public. One of the roads follows the coastline leading up to Kudiramalai Point while the other bisects the park.
The two roads had been used by the armed forces during the war, and present a threat to the surrounding National Park. As the park reverts to its protected status under the Fauna and Flora Protection Ordinance (FFPO), the Director General of the Department of Wildlife Conservation is the administering authority and is required to administer the Park in conformity with the provisions of the FFPO as amended.
It was further noted that the Commander of the Navy stated in his affidavit of objections, that the purported opening of the park road for the general public was not done by the Sri Lankan Navy, nor was it a decision of the Navy.
As of the 17th September 2013 the status quo remains that no further development activity of the road would take place eg- tarring of road, but normal repairs of the road could be maintained. EFL also made an application to submit a report to assist the courts with the prevailing ground situation regarding the road. Permission was granted by the courts and such report should be prepared within 3 weeks of this day and a copy to be submitted to the Attorney General as well as the intervenient respondents.
A discussion was held with the Attorney Generals Department on the 2nd of April 2013. The following are some of the key points discussed.
- Allowing trucks with goods except for commercial purposes to use the roads.
- The maximum speed limit was decided as 25kmph (till 4.00pm).
- A plan was set into action to reduce the amount of buses travelling along the road.
- A Road Development Authority (RDA) member was warned that any distractions were not to take place here, from here on.
The Deputy Solicitor General appearing for the first 8th respondent stated that the respondents were unable to accept the proposal, especially the one proposing to permanently close down the road. The Court then noticed the Mannar, Puttalam and Anuradhapura Superintendents, that there had been allegations of illegal sand mining and illegal felling of trees taking place within the Wilpattu National Park. They were asked to conduct a joint inspection and submit a tender report to the Court.
EFL and 3 other petitioners filed an application in the Supreme Court, regarding the encroachment into National Park areas. Ananda Wijesooriya the Director of Conservation along with six others acted as the respondents. The petitioner proceeded to seek out assurance from the Deputy Solicitor General that no construction within the Wilpattu National Park would be carried out till the final determination of the application.
When EFL conducted a site visit on the 22nd of January 2018, it was observed that the road was used by public buses as a bus route. There were RDA sign posts by the side of the road which indicated that the road will be developed further.
The case was taken up before the Supreme Court on 25. 03.2019 and the State Counsel appearing for the Respondents tendered their Proposed Terms of Settlement. The submitted Proposed Terms of Settlement are to be Reviewed by the Petitioners and the Court fixed the Case for Mention on 15.05.2019 to consider the Proposed Settlement.
This case is now fixed for argument on 13.03.2020