Dole Food Company Encroachment of Somawathiya National Park
Somawathiya National Park
In early June 2011 the Environmental Foundation Limited (EFL) was reliably informed of large scale land clearing carried out inside one of Sri Lanka’s National Parks, well known for being a prime habitat for elephants. The land clearance which was situated within the Somawathiya National Park (SNP) was investigated by EFL towards the end of June 2011. In order to verify the on-the-ground findings, EFL was supported by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) to obtain past and current satellite images of the locality to identify the changes to the landscape and analysed them to confirm that the clearings were located within the SNP boundary. The foundations investigations also revealed that no permission or approval was granted for this activity from the relevant mandatory authority which, in this instance, was the Department of Wildlife Conservation (DWC). Any type of development activity inside a national park is prohibited under the provisions of the Fauna and Flora Protection Ordinance (FFPO) and the mandatory authority. The DWC as well as the Subject Ministers had not allowed any development activity inside the SNP.
Therefore EFL concluded that;
- Illegal large scale land clearing had taken or was taking place within the boundaries of the SNP.
- The illegal cultivation of banana was taking place within the boundaries of the national park.
- Water was being drawn illegally from the Mahaweli River for illegal agriculture activities.
Further investigations revealed that the agriculture expansions within the SNP was driven by the Dole Food Company who had funded its local agent Letsgrow (Pvt) Ltd. to clear large extents of land inside the SNP for cultivation of banana.
The clearing of land for cultivation projects cannot be carried out within a national park under Sections 5 and 6 of the amended Fauna and Flora Protection Ordinance No. 22 of 2009. Furthermore, clearing of land for cultivation projects cannot be conducted within a Forest Reserve under the section 7 (K) of the Forest Conservation Ordinance No 16 of 1907 (as amended), which prohibits the clearing or breaking up of soil for cultivation of any land already cleared in a Forest Reserve.