Cannabis trade flourishing in the south


Cab caught while transporting cannabis 

A vehicle has been caught while transporting 50 kilograms of cannabis at Sella Kataragama by the Special Task Force (STF) last week. The cab had a fake name board indicating it belongs to the Secretary of the Ministry of Rehabilitation and Prison Reforms to avert security checks. It is also reported that the vehicle belongs to a local politician in Embilipitiya and this highlights the local politician’s involvement in this illegal cannabis industry.

Cannabis (Ganja) has become a lucrative business and Embilipitiya/Thanamalwila has been the famous hub for the illegal
trade. Large areas of forests in these areas are cleared for cannabis chenas and it is a well-known secret that they have the local politicians’ blessings. This makes it more complex and though few raids occur once in a while, the illegal cannabis trade continues unabaited in these areas as per the local sources.

These cannabis chenas are usually located in the thick jungles. Forests in Udawalawa area and less visited areas in Yala National Parks are said to be in the clutches of the cannabis mafia. The Department of Wildlife Conservation too has been involved in raiding these illegal cultivations and lately STF too has joined this fight. Experts also pointed out the possibilities of using technology to spot the cannabis chena using satellite maps. Even the freely available Google Earth can be used in this purpose as it indicates the cleared areas where tree cover is removed.

So if there is a real willingness, the cannabis fight can be won – but the involvement of local politicians are making it hard. Last week in Deniyaya, a local politician has also initiated constructing a road adjoining the Morning Side of Sinharaja, indicating they do not respect the environment – but encourage clearing the forests for short term gains.

Published on TimesOnline

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