The Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau (SLTPB) and the Tourism Ministry, today denied providing approval for the staging of the Deep Jungle festival on the outskirts of Habarana from Feb.17 to Feb.20 which was advertised as a ‘major tourism festival’ by its organizers.

K.P.P. Siriwardana, Managing Director of SLTPB in a letter to the Conservator General of Forest of the Department of Forest said Sri Lanka Tourism and the Ministry of Tourism categorically denied having provided any form of approval for the event but based on clearances obtained from other line agencies to stage this event and on submission, the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau had provided endorsement from a Tourism perspective.

However this too will be withdrawn unless necessary environmental clearance is obtained, Siriwardana said.

“Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau strongly recommends the canceling of the planned event if the organizers have not obtained the necessary environmental, Wild Life, Forest, and other related agency clearances/approval.
It is important that we develop a mechanism for all related organizations to work in consultation with an understanding and a good working arrangement, to avoid similar occurrences in the future,” Siriwardana said in his letter.

Organizers of the Deep Jungle Festival said this event will be Sri Lanka’s biggest cross-cultural music festival to introduce an optimal framework for contemporary music festival culture, not only to attract tourists to Sri Lanka but also to cement Sri Lanka as the trua wonder of Asia.

However, the event has raised concern from animal rights activists saying that the area will inflict harm on the wildlife, local communities, and tourist industry in the region. 

Executive Director/Senior Environmental Scientist of the Center for Environmental Justice, Hemantha Withanage told Daily Mirror that a music festival of this nature to be staged in an elephant corridor in Habarana was not suitable as it would disturb the wildlife.

“The elephants will panic due to the massive sounds from the festival and since there is a railway track nearby, the elephants may tend to cross the railway crossing in fear leading to possible accidents,” Withanage said.

He further said that the approved land extent for the Festival was one acre but the organizers had taken up nearly three acres.

“The Presidential Secretariat last year in September instructed officials to give this event priority. Subsequently, the Wildlife Department in Habarana and the Tourist Board granted approval,” the Center for Environmental Justice said.

However, they maintained that music festivals of this nature in an environmentally sensitive area would cause disturbance to the wildlife and should be avoided. 

Attempts to contact Wildlife Minister Pavithra Wanniarachchi and Tourism Minister Harin Fernando failed. 

Source – Daily Mirror