Nature takes its course
After the deluge earlier this week, tourists both local and foreign began flocking to Yala National Park in the south. Three cheers to the Prime Minister who had to step in -- and put his foot down, on the vehicular traffic that was detrimental to the wildlife in the park.
Like almost everywhere else, a ‘mafia’ with political patronage has taken control of the safari tours inside the park which at times looks like the Dehiwela or Rajagiriya junctions at peak hour.
The country’s next best Wilpattu National Park which re-opened after the decades long northern insurgency is facing a human invasion of a different kind, also related to politics. There, it is a case of human habitation encroaching on what was once the domain of wildlife. Deforestation is going on at rapid pace in the area despite a Presidential decree to halt it.
This felling of trees is not only happening inside the park boundaries, but to the north of it. Resettlements, new roads, places of worship are all taking shape with appeals not only to the President as Minister of Environment, but even to the Vatican to safeguard ‘God’s creation’. The Department of Wildlife is besieged by political pressure.
Floods and droughts -- and landslides -- throughout Sri Lanka as we witnessed this week are partly due to the island’s forest cover being down to 22 per cent. With a growing population of both humans and animals, and fixed land mass, the delicate balance between nature and the human-animal conflict -- environmental circles call it the Balance of Power -- requires a high degree of political astuteness, and firmness.
The PM’s intervention at Yala, and the President’s at Wilpattu, are a sine quo non for the Government’s economic plan for the future, Vision 2025, and beyond. Climate change and global warming are bad enough phenomena; the ice glaciers in Greenland are melting faster than thought and they say raising sea levels alarmingly. Man-made crises must not aggravate a bad enough situation.
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