The Supreme Court has issued an interim order preventing the implementation of Gazette notification issued by Wildlife Minister Pavithra Wanniarachchi, which de-gazetted a section of the Vidataltivu Nature Reserve in Wilpattu to allocate it for a prawn farm project.

In May, an extraordinary gazette had been issued de-gazetting a section of the Vidataltivu Nature Reserve to set up an aquaculture industrial park. 

The aquaculture industrial park will reportedly be used for the farming of various species including marine finfish, crabs and exotic species of shrimp in a Public Private Partnership.

The gazette issued by Minister of Wildlife and Forest Resources Conservation Pavithradevi Wanniarachchi, had noted that the area specified in the appendix of the gazette will no longer be designated as part of the Vidataltivu Nature Reserve. 

However, the Center for Environmental Justice (CEJ) had filed a petition with the Supreme Court challenging the government’s decision. 

The country’s third largest Marine Protected Area, Vidataltivu Nature Reserve, close to the Vankalai Sanctuary, was declared a Nature Reserve by Gazette 1956/13 on March 1, 2016 and covers 29,000 hectares. 

This followed the area being identified as needing protection by the Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) of the Northern Province conducted in 2012.