Presidential Secretariat of Sri Lanka

Fake news campaign alleging environmental destruction exposed …

A fake news campaign that alleges unprecedented environmental destruction is taking place since the present government came into power has now been identified.

These false reports highlight that forest reserves are being burnt down and trees in natural forests are being cut down.  People, who create such fabricated news, are attempting to convince the public that an environmental destruction of this scale has never happened before and that the government remains tight lipped in the face of this kind of illegal activities.  It has been observed that such reports contain both absolute untruth and distorted information.

Fake news about environmental destruction being disseminated especially on social media platforms and in some print, television and radio media. Once the news published in this manner proved to be untrue, they are removed from social media. Subsequently, yet another false report is created and published. Opposition forces and their supporters are giving a wide publicity for such fake news. Fabricated news is being exaggerated during their meetings, news briefings and interviews.

The report included in its news bulletin telecast by a private TV channel on September 15 alleging that massive deforestation was taking place during the reconstruction of the Ihalathalawa tank in Anuradhapura of the Mahaweli H Zone, is a good example for “operation fake news” now underway.  In addition to deforestation, there were allegations of serious corrupt activities.

On September 17, Mr. Ubhaya Kalyana Kumara, Resident Project Manager – Mahaweli H Zone, Mahaweli Authority of Sri Lanka, informed the Director General of the Mahaweli Authority, with clear evidence, that the said news report aired by the private television channel was complete fiction.  According to him, the Ihalathalawa tank bund was on the brink of collapsing due to heavy rains in 2016. With the assistance of the Army and the residents, sandbags were placed to temporarily protect the bund. If the bund breaches, the Thalawa Town and the ancient villages will be completely submerged. The Colombo-Jaffna railway line and the Anuradhapura-Padeniya highway will be severely damaged.

Subsequently, for the purpose of restoring the tank under the Climate Resilience Improvement Project (CRIP) of the Ministry of Agriculture, the World Bank donated a sum of Rs 38.9 million. Restoration works commenced under the in July 2019 and its progress is constantly monitored by the World Bank.

Under the project, it was decided to remove 80 trees grown in the tank and on the bund and most of them are Mara trees. The approval of the Geological Survey & Mines Bureau as well as the Certificate of Environmental Impact Assessment had been granted for the project. The approval letters were signed by the Director-General of the Geological Survey and Mines Bureau Dr. C.H.E.R. Siriwardena and Director of the Climate Resilience Improvement Project (CRIP) Engineer D.C.S. Alakanda. Trees which had been cut down at the tank site are being cleared away by the State Timber Corporation.

The private news network which made allegations of massive forest-destruction has failed to look at these verifiable facts. The government has decided to take stern legal action against the parties or individuals who intentionally feed misinformation and mislead the public abusing various forms of media.