clearing at Uda Walawe
An ambitious week long shramadana campaign involving possibly thousands of volunteers to eradicate the lantana invasive plant from the Uda Walawe national park will get underway on August 5.
Lantana first introduced to this country in 1926 through the Botanical Gardens at Peradeniya has spread so widely in Udawalawe that it has smothered much of the grass and other flora needed for the very survival of wildlife and particularly the elephant.
Several official campaigns launched, including an ADB funded project to eradicate the menace have so far failed, with the latter project even ending with widespread allegations of corruption. The last Wildlife Director Dayananda Kariyawasam had to go into retirement under a cloud as a result. Ministry sources said several foreign funded NGOs which have been shedding lot of tears in public about the fate of elephants have been silent to written requests made to them in this regard.
The Ministry had invited voluntary organizations, environmentalists, animal lovers, the private sector, social service organizations, universities, schools and even inmates of prisons to take part in this mass eradication campaign. Those who have applied to give their services by the deadline July 27 are now being allocated different sectors of the park to carry out their task. Those still wanting to join the campaign should contact either Wasantha Ratnayake, Deputy Director, Department of Wild Life, Tel: 2560380 / 2560375 or Asanka Wijayawardena, Project Assistant, Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, Tel: 2863652.
Though children from various parts of the country are enthusiastic in taking part in this campaign, organizers are in a predicament as overnight stays in this remote region by children are not encouraged.