Archbishop of Colombo C Malcolm CardinalRanjith has filed a writ petition in the Supreme Court seeking an order quashing the recommendation made by the Prime Minister to the President to issue gazette notification allowing the Urban Development Authority (UDA) to acquire the Muthurajawela marshy lands.

The Archbishop cited Urban Development Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, State Minister of Urban Development Nalaka Godahewa, Urban Development Authority, Minister of Environment Mahinda Amaraweera, Central Environmental Authority and several others as respondents.

The Petitioner states that an Extraordinary Gazette dated 7th October 2021 had been published under Section 2 of the Urban Development Projects (Special Provisions) Act No. 2 of 1980 which contains an Order made by the President upon the recommendation of the Prime Minister being of the opinion that the Muthurajawela marshy land are urgently required for the purpose of conservation and sustainable use of the Muthurajawelaenvironmental sensitive zone and develop as a Ramsar Wetland by preventing unauthorized filling and encroachments of its land plots, declaring that the given lands are required for such purpose.

The Petitioner states that the area of Negombo in the District of Gampaha has been both traditionally and historically occupied by a majority of Catholic Faithfuls for over 200 years, it is popularly known as “Little Rome” and comprises of a Catholic Community of over 90,000 citizens.

The petitioner said following this gazette notification, there is an imminent danger that a avery significant number of the population from the 15 Grama Niladhari Divisions from Negombo being forcibly evicted, deprived from their lands and are likely to be permanently displaced from their homes and lands.

The Petitioner states that Article 27 (14) of the Constitution sets out the Public Trust Doctrine  upon the State and provides that “The State shall protect preserve and improve the environment for the benefit of the community”.

The Petitioner states that accordingly it has been established that the Public Trust is more than an affirmation of State power to use public property for public purposes, but It is an affirmation of the duty of the State to protect the peoples common heritage of streams, lakes, Marshlands and tidelands, surrendering the right only in those rare cases when the abandonment of the right is consistent with the purposes of the trust.

Accordingly, the Petitioner states that the Respondents in this case should not be permitted to indulge in any activity in the performance of their functions which would be detrimental for the protection, conservation and the quality of the environment of the Muthurajawela Sanctuary, MuthurajawelaEnvironmental Protection Area and the entirety of the Muthurajawela Wetlands.

The Muthurajawela Wetland was named one of the 41 internationally important wetlands in the country by the Asian Wetland Inventory of 1989 prepared by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

According to a study conducted by the IUCN, the Muthurajawela Wetland is home to 209 species of animals along with 194 species of trees, 40 species of fish, 31 species of reptiles, 102 species of birds and 48 species of butterflies. There are 18 out of 22 mangrove species in Muthurajawela wetland.

The maximum water storage capacity of the Muturajawela Wetland marsh has been estimated at 11 million cubic meters, with a maximum discharge of 12.5 cubic meters per second and a retention period of more than 10 days.




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