Former President Maithripala Sirisena will speak with Minister for the Environment Mahinda Amaraweera about protecting the endangered Crudia zeylanica tree.
‘The tree was discovered when the former president was in Office and he is taking a special interest in it’, said a source from Mr Sirisena’s office. ‘When the relevant government departments held discussions about it at the time the decision was to divert the road and preserve the tree’. Both the former President and Mr Amaraweera are also from the same political party, the Sri Lanka Freedom Party.
On Sunday, Mr Sirisena visited the tree which is close to the Daraluwa railway station in Gampaha. Environmentalists who were at the location at the time handed over a brief about the tree to him. It included both historical and technical data about what would result if the tree is relocated. The tree, which is central to the surrounding eco system, is at further risk of not having sufficient water if the nearby Demala Ela runs dry due to the work on the expressway.
‘The former president’s position is that the tree should not be relocated’, said the source. It is doubtful if Sri Lanka has the technology to relocate the tree.
The tree was re- discovered in 2019 when the feasibility study for the construction of the central expressway from Colombo to Kandy was being carried out. There was no trace of it for more than 50 years after it was first recorded in 1868. The tree would have been bulldozed to make way for the expressway if not for the timely intervention of an assistant forest conservator from the Forest Department Devanee Jayathilaka. Her employer has asked her not to talk to the media after she spoke publicly about the impending fate of the tree. There has been an outpouring of support for Ms. Jayathilaka since then from enraged environmentalists and the general public who view this as another episode in a litany of environmental disasters by the current government, and public officials not being allowed to carry out work which they are legally empowered to do.