The Court of Appeal has ordered former Minister Rishad Bathiudeen to reforest a large area cleared for unauthorized construction in the Maraichukkaddi-Karadikkuli (Kallaru) Forest Reserve in Wilpattu.
Delivering its verdict on the case filed against MP Bathiudeen, the Court today declared that the clearing of a portion of the Kallaru Forest Reserve was illegal.
The Court further ordered the former Minister, who is the seventh respondent in the case, to reforest the cleared area in the Kallaru Forest Reserve under his own expense.
The Appeal Court has also instructed MP Bathiudeen to pay the cost of the petitioners involved in filing a case against him in this regard.
The verdict comes, after the Centre for Environmental Justice (CEJ) filed a writ petition seeking an order to quash the clearing of the Wilpattu National Park forest reserve and construction of a housing project adjoining the National Park.
The petition was filed on the alleged deforestation and illegal construction of a housing project in the Northern Sanctuary of Wilpattu National Park as well as forest complex of Madu, Periyamadu and Sannara areas.
The CEJ says around 2,000 hectares in the forest complex adjoining Wilpattu National Park and 1,000 hectares in Madu, Periyamadu and Sannara area have been cleared making irreparable damage to the whole environment and wildlife habitats.
It further states 1,500 families have been illegally settled in the cleared area, adding that former Minister of Industry and Commerce Rishad Bathiudeen has been involved in mobilising deforestation and establishing settlement under the pretext of resettlement of internally displaced people (IDP).
Bathiudeen is currently imprisoned on charges of violating the Presidential Elections Act by misappropriating public funds to the tune of Rs. 9.5 million when he was the Minister of Industry and Commerce. (Colombo Gazette)