Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, archbishop of Colombo, reiterated his earlier warning against the Sri Lankan government’s plan to develop the country’s Muthurajawela wetlands.
“Why are you trying to destroy 100 acres of this protected area?” said the cardinal, adding that he already wrote a letter to the government’s Central Environmental Authority but authorities seemed no to listen.
The Catholic Church leader said the Muthurajawela wetlands “is a beautiful natural area that has already been ruined” by the construction of some establishments for tourism.
Muthurajawela is a marsh in Sri Lanka in the southern region of the Negombo lagoon, 30 km north of Colombo. It is notable for its unique and highly diverse ecosystem and is listed as one of 12 priority wetlands in Sri Lanka.
In 1996, a total of 1,777 hectares of the northern part of the Muthurajawela marsh was declared a wetland sanctuary by the government, under the Flora and Fauna Protection Act.
The region supports 192 distinct species of flora and 209 distinct species of fauna, including Slender Loris, as well as another 102 species of birds.
Some of the identified species have been shown to be indigenous to the marsh.
“The entire Catholic community and I are opposed to the works that are about to be carried out in this area,” said Cardinal Ranjith during a media briefing early this week.
In his letter to the Central Environmental Authority, the archbishop said “no study has been conducted on the social and environmental impact of the project.”
The project reportedly involves the extraction of sand that will be used to cover almost 120 acres in Muthurajawela where a power plant is supposed to be built.
“This government must keep in mind that the country does not belong to the president or to the ministers, but to the citizens, who have not allowed to carry out projects in an arbitrary way,” he said.
He said wetlands has been “violated by successive governments which have given hundreds of acres to big time businessmen from time to time.”
“How is it possible that a protected area becomes someone’s private land?” he told the media in a January 2021 interview.