18th January 1998


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Colombo's Lakes.....
Baffled botanists battle a blunder


Alone in the wilderness

Exclusive to The Sunday Times
A new series on the environment by Nihal Fernando and Studio Times.

The declaration and exercise of wildlife parks provides no benefits to the impov erished chena cultivators who live outside their boundaries.

"He was caught with wild venison on the boundaries of the national park. He was a wiry man, thin and prematurely aged. He begged to be taken to his hut and on reaching it we entered together. Inside, lay a young woman on a mat; hot with fever and a just-born infant huddled against her for warmth. A container of cold tea stood on the floor beside them, together with a teaspoon of sugar, that crawled with ants.Alone in the wilderness

"The hut was bare of both furniture and decoration. Only a few broken clay pots lay strewn on the ground. His plight was only too evident. I released him, and left the family in their tiny home, alone in the wide wilderness." -An experience related by a tracker at Yala National Park.

Here lay traditional homelands, where mangrove forests once flourished for thousands of years. Then outsiders arrived and plundered this natural wealth. They promised him employment and a better life. The sacred groves; home to his gods and source of his medicines, have been levelled by the axeman's blade. Even the open passage to the shorelines has been obstructed. He receives no benefits from the tourist-packed, duty-free luxury vehicles that speed by him. Only the dust, thrown up in their wake.

His resilience has worn thin. He would seek revenge for their betrayal; follow the example of his childhood hero, Dionis (or "Hondapapuwa"), who vented his anger by setting fire to an entire village. He would gladly spill blood to placate his rage- but, for his child. The child who keeps him hanging onto his desolate existence.

(Dionis lived on the fringes of Bundala National Park some 30 years ago. His life depended on the bounties of the Bundala wilderness.

Unable to bear the continuous harassment by authorities he retaliated by burning down a village. Dionis was sentenced to life)

Continue to Plus page 2   *  Those pangs of birth and teething problems!

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