July 27, Kurunegala: Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa has instructed the authorities to immediately evict illegal settlers that have encroached forest conservation areas and other state land.
Addressing the Kurunegala District Development Committee meeting held in the Kurunegala Cooperative Building today the President said he had received complaints that certain groups have encroached about 500 acres in forest conservation areas and no one can be allowed to forcibly occupy state land.
He instructed officials to immediately take measures to also remove settlers occupying reservoir levees and catchment areas as well as routes frequented by elephants in conserved areas and provide irrigation facilities to farmers.
The President stressed that water supply schemes cannot be stopped for dry regions and state cannot allow the illegal settlers to destruct irrigation schemes.
Focusing on the human-elephant conflict in the district, the President insisted that the politicians as well as the government officials need to take measures to find a permanent solution to the issue without causing injustice to the animals as well as people.
He instructed the officials to provide alternate land to unauthorized dwellers and relocate them away from elephant paths.
The President, who was told that about 300 wild elephants are roaming within the Kurunegala and Puttalam districts, ordered the officials to set up electric fences, if necessary, to keep the animals away.
The Development Committee meeting also focused on the construction of the maternity wards complex which is being built at the Kurunegala Hospital and issues in several sectors including education, roads and transport.
President Rajapaksa also underlined the need for local government officials to ignore petty protests against urban development and work on behalf of all the people.
Ministers and parliamentarians of Kurunegala district and Secretary to the President Lalith Weeratunga also participated in the discussions.
(Photos by Chandana Perera)