Silawathurei Large-scale Cashew Plantations

The Civil Security Force has appropriated land for cashew plantations at the boundary of Wilpattu National Park, affecting local environment, already under pressure by human settlements of returnees from the civil war.

The Civil Security Force of Kondachchi appropriated 6,000 acres (2428ha) of land to establish a cashew plantation, states a report released in 2012 by PARL Sri Lanka, a local EJO [1]. The area is near the Civil Security Force Camp in Kondachchi and includes a 100 meter stretch of forest on both sides of the Silawathurei-Wilachchi Road up to Kalaaru, the boundary of Wilpattu National Park. Following the report [1] and sources by the Ministry of Defence (Sri Lanka) [9], cashew has been planted in an area of 1,000 acres. However, other more recent data sources (specifically, a report of a Select Committee of Parliament drafted in 2014)[8] states that the area of cashew plantation cultivated by the Civil Security Force in Kondachchi now covers 2,000 acres (809ha).
According to PARL [1], the whole area has been cleared by heavy machinery, removing trees to be replaced by cashew plants. In addition, the Civil Security Force has taken over the land without obtaining any prior approval from the competent institutions, as required by Law (Land Development Ordinance [2]). Hence, this project has been implemented without the required authorizations. More specifically, according to the Fauna and Flora Protection Ordnance [3], the mandatory prior written approval from the Wildlife Director General for any redevelopment within an area of one mile from the boundary of a National Park is subject to an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). Although this project has been implemented by clearing forestland in the margin of Wilpattu National Park, such approval has not been obtained. Lastly, the National Environmental Act [4] prescribes that if any forestland exceeding the surface of one hectare is cleared for development, a prior written Environmental Recommendation should be obtained, based on an EIA process.

In this specific case, the clearing of forestlands and the establishment of agricultural activities have been conducted violating the above legal provisions.

Besides being carried out without following the mandatory legal procedures, the project adversely impacts both the environment and the local communities [1][5]. The forest system of the area connected to the Wilpattu National Park has been fragmented due to clearing of a massive forest area, causing the loss of habitat for many species of animals. Furthermore, the lifestyle and subsistence of local residents are affected by the project. The forest is located in a semi-arid region and the clearing of the land causes localized changes in water and climate patterns. Deforestation modifies the water retention mechanism affecting groundwater levels. Since residents in and around Kondachchi depend mainly on well-water, drinking water and irrigation problems will arise. Local environmentalists state that since land acquisition and project implementation have been carried out violating the civil laws, no compensation measures have been taken to avoid harming land productivity in the area.

Moreover, during the last years, Mannar district and the areas surrounding Wilpattu National Park are affected by a strong competition for land. Families displaced during the civil war are returning and the demand of land for cultivation and settlement porpoises is increasing. Local communities complain that military forces are clearing land to carry out their own cultivations and farming activities, detracting land to locals who have been denied access to their cultivation lands [6]. On the other hand the State is appropriating land to resettle people returning from Menik Farm [7] to their place of origins [8][6]. But at the same time many of the returnees complain that there has been little done by the State in terms of “resettling” them. Many of the returnees have no housing and livelihoods.

The Civil Security Force (CSF) cultivated over 10,500 acres since the end of the humanitarian operation. 1,000 of this 10,500 acres are used for cashew plantation in Kondachchi [9].
According to other sources the area of the Cashew plantation controlled by Civil Security Department is of 2,000 acres. Specifically, latest governmental sources (2014) state that out of 25,000 acres of cashew plantation in Kondachchi, 19,000 acres have been acquired by the government, another 2,000 acres are cultivated by the Civil Security Department, and action has been taken to cultivate the remaining 4,000 acres by the Cashew Corporation [8]

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