(July 22, 2009 - Lanka Polity) A mass scale land encroaching is reported from areas like Welioya (Manalaru), Kokkuthudai, Kokilai etc. in the northeastern terrain of Sri Lanka. Civilian activities were restricted in these areas for a long period of time due to the fighting between the Army and the Tamil Tiger rebels that claimed for a Tamil homeland in the Northern and Eastern Provinces of Sri Lanka. However, following the Army’s victory over the Tamil Tigers, demining and rapid development is taking place in the area and ambitious and mostly well-to-do Sinhala people in Welioya and Padaviya colonies are reportedly grabbing land.
When we asked about this from the Residential Project Manager of Welioya Mahaweli zone P. G. Dayananda, he rejected that encroaching is taking place. He said that the residents of the area are given permission to cultivate in state land. The residents of Welioya pay Rs. 750 per acre and the other persons pay Rs. 1000 per acre to state as tax. Permission is limited to five acres and only for the coming Maha season, he said. He said that the expected outcome would be paddy harvest worth of Rs. 30 to50 million in the coming season. He emphasized that this permission would not be material for any future claim to land according to the agreement.
However, our observations pointed to the fact that new use of state land has not limited to the system declared by the Mahaweli Authority and encroaching that is taking place is not in full control of the authorities. There are reports that some individuals are grabbing huge lands of the size of ten to twenty acres and even bulldozers are used in clearing jungles.
(map courtesy of Sri Lanka Mahaweli Authority)