Vidataltivu Nature Reserve, in Mannar, is a national reserve in Sri Lanka. It is the third largest marine protected area in Sri Lanka. It is a critical stopover for migratory birds and home to rare species. The reserve is in danger of being degazetted for an aquaculture industrial park.
Environmental experts are concerned that the project will set a bad precedent and lead to more land being degraded in the future. They are also worried about the impact of the project on the environment, including the introduction of alien species and diseases.
The government agency NAQDA has drawn up plans to establish an aquaculture industrial park in the area. The project is expected to raise USD 1.3 billion for the government.
Environmental lawyer Ravindranath Dabare said that the Vidataltivu nature reserve is a unique and invaluable biodiversity hotspot. He said that the government cannot degazette land from a declared national reserve without the approval of parliament.
The chairman of the Center for Environmental Justice, attorney-at-law Ravindranath Dabare, said that under Section 2 (4) of the Flora and Fauna Protection Ordinance, the subject minister cannot issue an order de-gazetting land from a declared national reserve.
Conservationist Dr Sevvandi Jayakody said that similar aquaculture projects have been called socio-economically destructive and unsustainable. He said that experts are worried that the project could introduce alien species and diseases to the sensitive ecosystem.
Experts have also highlighted the negative impacts that can be caused by pesticides, antibiotics, chlorine and other chemicals, as well as faecal matter from farmed species that can be released into the ocean. They have said that industrial activities can alter the feeding and breeding patterns of species present in the reserve and that fishermen in the area will also be negatively affected in the process.
Environmental crusaders are now making preparations to fight against the destruction of Vidataltiv