- Warning issued that 4-day 'Deep Jungle Musical and Cultural Festival 2023' could have disastrous effects on wildlife, ecosystem in Habarana
- 12 Government organisations approve over 100-musical-hour event close to an area dense with wild elephants
- Says total environmental footprint of this event could be disastrous to wildlife, ecosystems, humans, economy
- Wildlife Conservation Director General Chandana Sooriyabandara says concerns have been conveyed via regional office
- SLTDA Chairman Priyantha Fernando opines event goes against sustainable tourism
- Wildlife Nature Protection Society, Centre for Environmental Justice and Habarana Tourist Hotel Association to hold a joint media briefing today calling organisers to move event to another place
By Charumini de Silva
Irked environmentalists and tourism stakeholders yesterday raised concerns about the four-day 'Deep Jungle Musical and Cultural Festival 2023' scheduled to kick-off this Friday (17), with many highlighting the event could have disastrous effects on the wildlife and delicate ecosystem within the Habarana forest.
Environmentalists are baffled by the Government for allowing a concert being planned close to an area dense with wild elephants the Hurulu Eco and Minneriya National Parks so near to a sensitive elephant corridor and grazing ground that is frequented by herds of elephants from multiple parts in the North Central and North Eastern regions of Habarana.
Environmentalists and conservationists emphasised that the total environmental footprint of this event, in a forest where many animals and birds live in a delicate eco-balance, could be disastrous and chase away the area's last remaining elephants for good.
According to the official Facebook page of the organising company — Deep Jungle Entertainment Ltd., as of 16 January, 12 Government organisations have approved this 100-musical-hour concert near an important elephant habitat and feeding ground in the Habarana forest. These include; the Presidential Secretariat, Prime Minister’s Office, Defence Ministry, Public Security Ministry, Tourism Ministry, Environment Ministry, Wildlife and Forest Conservation State Ministry, Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority, Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau, Wildlife Conservation Department, Forest Department and Sri Lanka Police.
The Daily FT also learns that the concert is backed by a powerful Minister and that the firm organising the event is freely using the Sri Lanka Tourism logo and taglines ‘So Sri Lanka’ and ‘Visit Sri Lanka’ to promote the event on social media.
Despite the public posts that the event is being supported by the State agencies, when contacted by the Daily FT the Department of Wildlife Conservation Director General Chandana Sooriyabandara said that they had not approved the event.
“We have our concerns and those have been conveyed to the regional office in the area to be communicated to the event hosts. We have categorically mentioned in our concerns that they should not perform anything that violates the Act,” he added.
SLTDA Chairman Priyantha Fernando told the Daily FT that the authority is totally against it and has not approved the event.
“We talk of sustainable tourism and certainly this event goes against it,” he stressed.
The two leading industry bodies — Tourist Hotels Association of Sri Lanka (THASL) and Sri Lanka Association of Inbound Tour Operators (SLAITO) in a joint statement said that there is no benefit whatsoever to tourism from such an event.
“SLAITO and THASL have been made aware of the proposed event to be held in Habarana. We were not involved or consulted about this event at the planning stages and have not endorsed it. The event will not attract any additional tourists to visit the island. It is imperative to preserve the pristine nature of the environment and the wildlife in the area, which are after all the key tourist attractions in the region. In this respect, we feel the concerns of the conservation community are justified," the statement added.
The conservationists pointed out that elephants do their level best to avoid humans and this could mean that the animals will take a diversion, possibly through villages which would be life-threatening for the people living in those areas.
“The use of loud thumping music speakers, flashlights, use of fire in the middle of the jungle would cause uneasiness for animals and may cause herds of elephants to scatter or become disoriented. This could lead not only to harm the people but their cultivated lands, crops and other assets,” they warned.
Conservationists also questioned the safety of elephants and concertgoers alike, adding that who knows
Separately, the Wildlife Nature Protection Society, Centre for Environmental Justice and Habarana Tourist Hotel Association will hold a joint-special media briefing today to highlight the environmental impact due to the selection of the venue and to urge the organisers to move the event to another location where the sanctity of the natural environment and animals could be kept intact.
As per the website of the organisers, a ticket for this concert is sold for $ 70. The attempts to contact Wildlife and Forest Resources Conservation Minister Pavithra Wanniarachchi, and Deep Jungle Entertainment Ltd., failed.