A Sri Lankan court has ordered a former cabinet minister to bear the cost of a reforestation programme after he was found guilty of clearing up a wildlife sanctuary to resettle displaced persons, officials said Tuesday.
Former minister Rishad Bathiudeen was accused of clearing 2,000 hectares of land belonging to the Wilpattu sanctuary, to resettle Muslims displaced during a 26-year conflict in the north and eastern parts of the country.
The Court of Appeal on Monday ruled that the former minister would have to bear the cost of replanting a forest area equivalent to that destroyed on the site, some 200 kilometres north of the capital.
The court said in its ruling it was recognizing the polluter pays principle, written into the Rio De Janeiro Declaration.
In his capacity as cabinet minster, Bathiudeen in 2012 moved to resettle 1,500 Muslim families who were displaced after Tamil rebels fighting for an independent homeland for minority Tamils forced out Muslims from the north.
Tamil rebels of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) were crushed by the military in 2009, bringing an end to the conflict.
Sri Lanka’s forest cover has been on the decline in recent years with the current forest cover at 29 per cent.
The Department of Forest Conservation has been ordered to estimate the cost of the reforestation programme within two months.