New land powers for Def. Min.

Statutory body must approve any filling or development in Western Province

Developing or filling land in the districts of Colombo, Kalutara and Gampaha will henceforth require approval from a statutory body coming under the Ministry of Defence. New regulations to compel landowners to obtain the approval of the Sri Lanka Land Reclamation and Development Corporation (SLRDC) were gazetted last week.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa, in his capacity as Minister of Defence, promulgated them. They have come in the form of a “Correction Paper” to regulations gazetted earlier by Dinesh Gunawardena, Minister of Urban Development and Sacred Areas Development.

A Planning Committee, subject to strict terms and conditions, will grant approval for development or filling of land in the three districts. The Committee will comprise officers of the Urban Development Authority, the Central Environmental Authority (CEA) and the Department of Agrarian Services. In addition, it will also comprise senior officers of the Sri Lanka Land Reclamation and Development Corporation (SLRDC).

Both the Sri Lanka Land Development and Construction Corporation (SLLRDC) and the Urban Development Authority come under the purview of the Ministry of Defence. If the land proposed to be developed is a paddy field, the new regulations stipulate that the approval of the Commissioner of Agrarian Services is sought on the basis of recommendations made by the SLLRDC.

Any individual authorised by the Chief Executive Officer of the SLLRDC shall have the power to access the declared area. Anyone who disturbs such access could be convicted under the provisions of the SLLRDC Act.

Those who fail to adhere to the new terms and conditions, the Gazette notification states, also "could be convicted guilty under the provisions" of the SLLRDC Act.

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