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Minister, Dr. Bandula Gunawardhana appreciates stakeholders input for first ever wildlife tunnel

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The contribution of all environmental organizations to begin the construction of Sri Lanka’s first ever wildlife tunnel under the rail track should be greatly appreciated, said Transport, Highways and Mass Media Minister, Dr. Bandula Gunawardhana.

Construction work on the first ever wildlife tunnel under the rail track commenced under the patronage of Minister Dr. Bandula Gunawardhana at Galgamuwa, Gatadivula, Kasikote, as the first step in the national operation to minimise the number of train accidents involving wild elephants. Following several discussions with institutions, including the Ministry of Transport and Highways, the Sri Lanka Railways Department, the Surakimu Lanka National Movement and according to Minister Dr. Bandula Gunawardhana’s instructions, these special measures have been taken to prevent elephants from getting into danger while crossing the railway line.

The Minister speaking at the event went on to say, “Several rounds of discussions were held with officials from all parties, including the Minister in charge, the General Manager of Railways, for about six months, to prevent wild elephants colliding with the trains. There, many long-term, medium-term and short-term solutions related to solving this problem were presented. The President of Surakimu Lanka National Movement Ven.Pahiyangala Ananda Sagara Thera and representatives of environmental organizations pointed out that the construction of a wildlife tunnel in the Galgamuwa area, which has been identified as an area where a large number of elephants cross the railway line daily and where many accidents occur, is a very practical course of action.

Ircon, a 100% Indian government owned company, has come forward to build this tunnel at an additional cost of Rs 65.8 million, under the project of upgrading the railway from Mahawa to Anuradhapura. The Central Engineering Bureau (cecb) has contributed free of cost to the planning and preparation of the work. Also, due to the fact that the newly appointed Secretary of the Ministry of Transport and Highways is an Engineer with good experience in the field, this project has been able to be implemented quickly in a very short period of time.

Accordingly, this project has garnered a lot of attention from local and foreign environmentalists. Even now, a large number of people are accustomed to visit the area to watch the elephants crossing the railway line every day from that place. Considering all these facts, we hope to create sustainable development that can raise the quality of life for the local people by earning a lot of income by developing Galgamuwa not as an area where the people are harassed by the elephants, but as an eco-friendly tourist area. For that, we invite environmentalists from home and abroad and eco-tourism promoters to join hands with us.

Just as Ella was developed as a tourist area centering on Ella railway station, and Sitawaka as a tourist area centering on Waga railway station, we are taking immediate steps to bring to the attention of the President and the Ministry of Tourism Development and the Ministry of Wildlife, the importance of developing this region as a tourist area centering on Galgamuwa railway station. The contribution of environmentalists is highly appreciated to implement and make all these activities successful”.

A large number of people including the Secretary of the National Sangha Council, Ven. Kattakaduwe Sumanarathana Thera and the President of the Surakimu Sri Lanka Foundation Ven. Pahiyangala Ananda Sagara Thera were also present.

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