A Fundamental Rights petition was yesterday filed in the Supreme Court seeking an order to quash the gazette notification issued on October 7 regarding the designation of the Muthurajawela Wetland as an Ecologically Sensitive Zone and developing it as a “Ramsar” Wetland.
Samagi Jana Balawegaya Gampaha district MP Kavinda Heshan Jayawardena and a fisherman in the area filed this petition.
The petition states that the development of the area as a Ramsar wetland will result in the loss of resident’s livelihoods as well as their homes and places of worship.
The Urban Development and Housing Minister, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, State Minister Nalaka Godahewa, Secretary to the Ministry, Director General of Wildlife Chandana Sooriyabandara, Divisional Secretaries of Wattala, Negombo, Ja-Ela and the Attorney General and 14 others are named as the respondents in the case. The petition was filed through Attorney Dimuthu Kuruppu Arachchi.
The petition states that the Muthurajawela wetland consists of 1,926 hectares. The petitioners point out that there are about 300,000 people living in the area around the Muthurajawela Negombo Lagoon and about 5,000 of them are engaged in fishing, cultivation and other activities related to the wetland.
According to the petitioners, several Catholic churches are located in the area. The President issued a Gazette Notification No. 2248/44 dated October 7 regarding the development of this area as a Ramsar Wetland. The development work has been handed over to the Urban Development Authority.
The petition stated that the development of the Ramsar wetland is the responsibility of the Department of Wildlife Conservation and that it is illegal to hand it over to the Urban Development Authority.
Residents of the area may have to leave the area as no one can enter the Ramsar wetland, the petitioner said.The petitioners also point out that the gazette notification is illegal.
The petitioners request the court to make a statement that this incident violates the fundamental rights of themselves and the people of this country guaranteed by Articles 12 (1), 14 (1) g and 14 (1)h of the Constitution.
They also request the court to issue an injunction restraining the respondents or their representatives from complying with the relevant gazette notification and taking further action.
They are also asking the court to pay them appropriate compensation.