Sri Lanka’s second International Airport at Mattala/Hambanthota opens today. The airport has been shifted from Weerawila to Mattala due to protests by farmers and environmentalists. But the new location is further into the heart of Elephant Territory, alleges Environmentalist.
The Researchers has radio-collared elephants from selected herds roaming in the area and the satellite based data shows the kind of movements of elephants in the area. It proves Mattala has a dense Elephant population with about 200 elephants. So it is clear that unplanned development will create another war front of Human Elephant Conflict (HEC) in Mattala. There are plans to expand the airport and perhaps the elephants that will be displaced will move further toward human habitations intensifying the HEC. So will the innocent villagers in vicinitybecome the unintentional victims of development..?
It is also reported a worker traveling to airport has been killed by elephants last week. Conservationists worry whether there could be another Elephant Drive which is proven to be disastrous to elephants. Several Elephant drives were conducted earlier in Sri Lanka, but this doesn’t work for elephants as researches highlighted.
But there was a strategic plan for Greater Hambanthota Development Plan drafted in 2011 consulting experts in town development and elephant conservationists. Based on satellite collared data on elephant movements, the areas were demarcated as Managed Elephant Ranges (MER) that should be kept reserved for elephants as those areas are heavily used by the wildlife. The report marks other areas for developments, so this is a Win-Win situation for both humans and elephants. As we also need ‘development’; the best available option would be to implement this ambitious new strategies achieve Human Elephant co-existence in Hambantota points out experts.
Sri Lanka needs development – no doubt about that. Let’s all hope atleast the future developments will not be done in haphazard way.
Read more about this Strategic Plan done for Greater Hambanthota development plan here : ‘Don’t stump the ‘Stumpies’ of Hambantota ‘: http://sundaytimes.lk/110227/Plus/plus_06.html