The Coalition against Corruption claims that in the name of development, the Government has given away 91,527.5 acres (760,611 hectares) of land in Colombo and other parts of the country to nationals and non-nationals for numerous projects ignoring the provisions of legislation related to the issue of lands.
The Coalition accuses the Government that these lands have been given in violation of prevailing rules and regulations relating to the release of land. While reiterating that the Coalition does not object to development, it categorically states that it certainly does not tolerate the distribution of land to certain individuals and companies for paltry sums quoting development as an excuse.
The Coalition against Corruption revealed facts and figures at a recent media conference held at the National library Services Board.
Addressing the media conference, Sri Lanka Nature Group’s Thilak Kariyawasam said that it is clearly seen that in allocating land to start 25 projects under eight categories has been done in a corrupt manner. The hotel complex at Kalpitiya, Sampur coal power project, HVA farm at Wanathavillu, hotel projects in Colombo, Anadawewa hotel in Anuradhapura and several quarries were identified by him as some of these projects.
Such land has been given ignoring current land policies for projects covering agriculture, aquatic projects, colonisation, tourism, multi-purpose activities, industries and construction.
Among projects planned under these categories are an aquatic project at Vakarai, colonisation schemes in Vishwamadu, production of salt in Trincomalee and Puttalam, agricultural, power and drinking water projects in Uma Oya.
He claimed that 14 islets out of 17 in Kalpitiya have been given for a hotel complex chasing away their inhabitants. A land area of around 1100 hectares has been taken over for this project. The inhabitants in the other islands have to suffer from sea erosion and lack of water as a result of excavations done in the area for infrastructure work. Although the people have been given land elsewhere, they find it difficult to continue with the work they were traditionally used to in the islands.
Another example is the 250-acre expanse of land given to HVA Farms from the protected areas adjoining the Wilpattu National Park and Tabbowa nature preserve. The start of infrastructure work has already led to clashes between elephant and man which never happened earlier. A large number of valuable historical objects have been unearthed in these areas while the land was being prepared. This is a total violation of the provisions in the Wayamba Environmental Convention.
Referring to the Sampur project, it was pointed out that this is an area where 5000 hectares has been earmarked as a Hugh Security Zone. The people cannot approach this area. The setting up of a coal power plant and an industrial zone is envisaged. 1631 families inhabited this area. 7201 members of these families earned their living through crops and fishing. All have been lost.
As for the plundering of land in Colombo, it was stated that in areas where the value of the land is extremely high, most of the land has been given for much less than the market price. Land for several projects including the Sheraton and Shangrila has been given on this basis. They have got the added benefit of a 100% tax concession.
The future of the people who have been evicted from these lands is another issue that has to be handled.
The Coalition against Corruption highlighted the need to examine closely the benefits that the country would accrue by the release of land in this manner, states a release issued by Saman Ratnapriya (phone 0777268850), Co-Convenor of the Coalition.
16 February 2013