The Mahaweli Andarawewa reserve which is situated in the Mahaweli H area is separated into sections and handed over to the private sector. This has lead towards to a possibility of human elephant conflicts. In the year of 1982 when the land was given to the public the 1050 acres of Anderawewa reserve was named as a wildlife protected area and a main elephant exchange point. However today the reserve is being destroyed.
The first step of the destruction process was started when a 48-acre land was given to construct a hotel named ‘Forest rock garden’. The land belongs to the Nochiyagama divisional secretariat.
The construction was started by violating the sections of the national environmental law. With the effort of the farming societies and the environmental activists the construction was banned on the 14th October 2010. According to no 772/22 gazette which was published on the 1993 June 30 (Regarding the revised 1980 no 47 national environmental law) any forest which is more than 2.5 acres should undergo an environmental impact assessment if any development project takes place in the area. Finally, a written approval should be obtained. Unfortunately, the environmental assessment regarding this issue was a poorly prepared one. As a result, the construction has been resumed.
Also it is reported that permission has been granted for large scale stone quarrying to be carried on a 20 acres’ area. At present the without any environmental approval, machines are being placed by clearing the forest.
It should be also noted that 5 acres of the forest had been given to the Female development society at Matale. The officials are taking steps to hand over 20 acres of the forest to a monk.
It is important to note that most of the elephants travel this forest from Wilpattu mostly during the drought season. Generally, August, September and October are the months that most of the elephants gather to the Andarawewa forest. The tanks such as Andarawewa, Simbagamawewa, Pahamunegama wewa, Hambala wewa and Elandakkulama wewa which are the main source of water to the elephants are nourished by this forest. As a result of the destruction, the elephants will lose their water source as well as the food source.
Presently the villages which were free from elephants such as Andarawewa old village, Maduruwagama and New Haguranketha and New Harispattuwa are experiencing difficulties.
The Andarawewa reserve also provide shelter to a vast number of endemic as well as migratory species. Therefore, the officials should take measures in order to protect the forest.
(Main source: Sajeewa Chamikara, Translated by Sachintha Wijegunasekara)