Tri-forces operation to protect the environment will not be stopped

(COLOMBO, LANKAPUVATH) –The operations conducted by the three armed forces and the police to safeguard the environment from illegal activities, will not be stopped, the Geological Survey and Mines Bureau says.

The Chairman of the Geological Survey and Mines Bureau (GSMB) , Asela Iddawela said that although sand mining in the Mahaweli River in the Kinniya area has been prohibited and the area has been named as a High Security and Conservation zone, illegal excavation in the area is taking place frequently.

Therefore, frequent raids are conducted in Kinniya, Kandalkadu and Sawaru areas, the Chairman said. Since the GSMB does not have adequate field officers, the Bureau on the directions of the President is receiving the assistance of the tri-forces, the police and the Special Task Force (STF) to conduct raids, the Chairman added.

Speaking at a media briefing today at the GSMB office in colombo, the Chairman of the GSMB said the raid conducted on the information received by the Navy yesterday in Kandalkadu area in Kinniya of Trincomalee was such an operation.

Villagers of the area attacked a team of naval personnel, who conducted a raid in Kandalkadu area to prevent illegal sand mining, with clubs and stones. The attack injured 12 navy personnel, four of them seriously.

Three illegal sand miners have jumped into the river to escape the raid and two of them have been drowned while the third was rescued by the Navy personnel.

The GSMB Chairman said if further excavations are carried out the banks of the river will be eroded and there will be a risk of widening the river and flowing of seawater to the river.

If so, there will be a problem of getting water for the pumping station supplying water to Muttur, he added.

In addition, if the illegal sand mining continues, Kinniya -Muttur Road, Upparu Bridge, Keerathivu Bridge, Gonge Bridge and Vellanaval Bridge will be at risk of damage.

In addition to Trincomalee, illegal sand mining in the Mahaweli River in Mahiyanganaya and Polonnaruwa areas is being carried out rampantly, he said.

The Chairman further said that the areas where the racketeers illegally mining the sand in Kinniya are in the jungles and the GSMB field officers alone cannot conduct the raids.

The official said this illegal sand mining is a well-planned operation and when the field officers are going to conduct raids, the informants of the racketeers tip off the sand miners.

The official further said the Bureau needs at least 300 assistants to conduct raids across the island but has only 45 officers. He said steps will be taken to recruit more field agents.

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