Sri Lanka avoided urbanisation, environmental pollution, thanks to ‘Mahinda Chinthana’: Basil
Saturday, 4 October 2014 01:15
Emphasises on importance of wildlife conservation while forging ahead with development plans
Minister of Economic Development Basil Rajapaksa stated that every country in the world which achieved rapid economic development had to face two problems, namely urbanisation and environmental pollution, but Sri Lanka was not subjected to this position, thanks to the ‘Mahinda Chinthana’ policy programs of President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
The present Government, which was conscious of the fact that even the giants in Asia such as Japan, China and India had to undergo this situation, acted in an appropriate manner which enabled us to mitigate the effects of urbanisation and environment pollution, the Minister stated, addressing a function held at the Department of Wildlife Conservation on 1 October commemorating its 65th anniversary.
A book and souvenir on ‘Top Seven Sri Lanka’ were launched on this occasion and those who were successful in essay and art competitions were presented with prizes and certificates. Minister Vijith Vijithamuni Soyza and Deputy Minister Susantha Punchinilame were also present.
Following are excerpts of Minister Rajapaksa’s address:
There are two grave situations faced by developed countries. One is urbanisation which was due to migration of villagers to urban areas. The other is the polluted environment caused by air and water contamination. However, special attention is focussed on these issues in the ‘Mahinda Chinthana’ policy framework.
This is the era in which the urbanisation is at a lower level. This was done by providing requisite facilities such as water, electricity, roads, education and health, etc., to the villages. In the same way, we have ensured protection of the environment as well, by measures such as flood control and emission control.
Our country has forged ahead in every direction. Rate of economic growth has increased along with conservation of the environment. Forest cover has increased and tree planting is carried out in home gardens as well, which has made a positive change in the lives of the people, thanks to the efforts of the Forest Conservation Department.
It is an important coincidence that the establishment of the Wildlife Department took place on Wildlife Day. I had the opportunity declare open this building when I was the Minister in charge of the Department for a short period.
We know this department was within the purview of the Ministry of Land and Land Development, but was connected with the Ministry of Tourism during the period J.R. Jayewardene was the Minister of State. Subsequently, during the period of Minister Kalugalle as the Minister of State and during the tenure of office of Ananda Tissa de Alwis, this department had been associated with the Ministry of Tourism and the tourist industry.
When the department was brought under our Ministry, some were of the opinion that the department or wildlife would be adversely affected due to tourism. Therefore, I left it with the concurrence of the President. However, we are very clearly aware that this Government will not allow tourism to have any bad influence on wildlife as well as the environment.
Actually, the tourism industry will prevail only if the environment along with wildlife is conserved. It is only then that we can forge ahead with our development plans. This means any government which intends to develop the economy based on the tourism will not harm wildlife or the environment. It is not good to do this as well. That is why this ‘Top Seven Wild Sri Lanka’ program is more important to the tourism industry than the Department of Wildlife.
However much we construct hotels and improve infrastructure facilities, tourists will not be attracted. Those engaged in the tourism industry know this better than us, because any other country could construct such buildings, hotels, etc. better than us. But only a few countries can boast of such resources which have been conserved by the department for the last 65 years. The tourism industry and my Ministry will always support the department and I take this opportunity to convey the respect and grateful thanks of all of us including the President to those in the department for the services rendered by them.
When we uplift a country, we simultaneously raise people’s hopes as well. When electricity is supplied and a road is constructed, the people expect more than that. People should be made aware of the services rendered by the department. Their participation should be encouraged. They should know and appreciate what we are doing for them. Conservation of wildlife should be made a responsibility of the people as well.
Now, if a wild elephant invades a village, the blame is thrust upon the department. The villagers should be made aware of the fact that it is the villager who forces the elephants to come to the village. The department constructed electrical fences with the funds provided by the Ministry and requested all three parties – people’s representatives, the officials and the community – to make combined efforts to address this problem. The work carried out by the department alone is now attended to by all of us in unison. We have an efficient Minister too. He will be able to educate the people.
Wildlife has to be conserved not for the tourists or Colombo 7 people to see and enjoy. The conservation was done by the villagers. They were living together and had made various reservations for the animals. It was such a society. Other than the security forces, the most number of people who laid down their lives to protect a national resource are in the department.