President Mahinda Rajapaksa yesterday instructed the relevant authorities to take immediate measures to prevent deforestation of the forest sustaining natural water bodies and construct reservoirs for agriculture in the hill country.
Participating in the Badulla district development committee meeting in Badulla, the President advised the officials to take stern action against those destroy the natural forest by engaging in timber smuggling and wild animal hunting.
President was referring to the deforestation in Namunukula Mountains which feeds the natural water body of Dunhinda falls in Badulla district.
The President called on the police, Department of Forest Conservation and Department of Wild Life to act jointly to achieve the objectives of forest conservation. Preventing forest fires was another objective that needs attention, the President added.
Addressing the meeting, President Rajapaksa revealed that the government plans to allocate nearly 70 billion rupees for the development of the Badulla district within the next four years.
He has directed the District Secretary to compile a report on the water resources of the district and declare water feeding areas as environmentally sensitive zones.
The government has spent 270 million rupees for the development of irrigation projects in the district during the last two years.
Among the items discussed in the meeting were plans to build reservoirs in Thalpitiya and Moneragala to irrigate cultivation in 28,000 acres of land, expedite construction of the Uma Oya multipurpose project and reconstruction of the Willuwa Weva, and complete the upper Uva water conservation project without delay.
Measures are afoot to provide drinking water to 88 percent of the residents of Badulla district by year 2016, officials said.
Sri Lanka recently received a US$ 64.9 million loan from the Export-Import Bank of the United States to finance the design and construction of the Badulla, Hali Ela and Ella Integrated Water Supply System.
The representatives of potato farmers in the district have pointed out that the potato harvest will reach the market in the next few days and requested the President to re-impose taxes on imported potatoes.
Irrigation & Water Resources Management Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva, Foreign Employment Promotion and Welfare Minister Dilan Perera, Governor of Uva Province Nanda Mathew, Chief Minister Sashendra Rajapaksa, and senior district officials participated in the committee meeting.
The President also declared open the new District Secretariat of Badulla constructed a t a cost of 3.3 billion rupees. The seven-story building complex is equipped with all modern facilities.