Illegal stone quarry in Andarawewa forest reserve, Sri Lanka

Corruption, clientelism and land grabbing for stone quarries in a forest reserve

Land has been grabbed for the operation of an illegal stone quarry in the Andarawewa Forest Reserve. The Andarawewa Forest Reserve is located in the Northen Central Province within the Mahaweli ‘H’ zone and has been under the the control of Mahaweli Authority since 1892, when it was declared a wildlife protection zone. As a protected zone unauthorized entrance, clearing and timber extraction were prohibited by the Mahaweli Authority. However, since 2010 Mahaweli Authority has begun dividing the area into allotments for release to the private sector. Allegedly, the Resident Project Manager of system H of Mahaweli has facilitated land allotment to private investors with political support of several Ministers. In particular, environmental activists and local villagers accuse the Agrarian Services and Wildlife Deputy Minister S. M. Chandrasena and Irrigation and Water Management Deputy Minister W. B. Ekanayake for grabbing the reserve lands distributing it amongst their cohorts and relatives without considering the environment impact and the biodiversity of the forest. Following a report by Friends of the Earth International [1], a 20 acre (8ha) plot has been given to the company ‘Access Engineering’ for the operation of a stone quarry. The land was acquired by a local councilor for the Madyama Nuwara Palatha Pradeshiya Sabha and by Rasika Ekanayake, the son of Deputy Minister W. B. Ekanayake. This land has been leased to the above mentioned company and the necessary equipment is currently being installed on the land. In spite of being located in a Forest Reserve, according to Geological Survey and Mines Bureau (GSMB), three Industrial Mining licenses have been granted for the quarry to Rasika Ekanayake, his wife and W. P. Wickremasinghe, on the recommendation of the Mahaweli Authority and the Central Environmental Authority. In 2013, Arunashantha, a representative of a farmer organization opposing to the project declared to The Sunday Leader that the land given to Ekanayake for the quarry has an archaeological value. Moreover he stated that the granite is removed with the help of backhoes and other heavy machinery working round the clock. The noises have forced wild animals away from the Andarawewa Forest Reserve and their lives are at stake. In addition to this extractive project, further tourism projects, such as the Palm Garden Hotel (see below, related conflicts), have been implemented within the forest reserve, increasing the pressure on the forest ecosystem. All these activities have been implemented ignoring the regulations of the National Environmental Act. Following the mentioned article by The Sunday Leader, in order to build the road, many trees have been cut and security check points were established within the forest to check who entered the forest reserve. Despite the strong opposition carried out by villagers and local EJO's, the project have been implemented causing severe damages to the forest environment and to the residents in the area [1][2].
Basic Data
NameIllegal stone quarry in Andarawewa forest reserve, Sri Lanka
CountrySri Lanka
Province Anuradhapura District, North Central Province
Accuracy of LocationHIGH local level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Mineral Ores and Building Materials Extraction
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Building materials extraction (quarries, sand, gravel)
Specific CommoditiesSand, gravel
Project Details and Actors
Project Details
In spite of being located in a Forest Reserve, three Industrial Mining licenses have been granted for the operation of the quarry to Rasika Ekanayake, his wife and W. P. Wickremasinghe. The quarry is operated by the Sri Lankan company Access International and covers and area of 20 acre (8ha).
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Project Area (in hectares)8
Level of Investment (in USD)unknown
Type of PopulationRural
Potential Affected Populationabout 40,000
Start Date2010
Company Names or State EnterprisesAccess engineering from Sri Lanka - owner of one of the three stone quarries
Relevant government actorsAgrarian Services and Wildlife Deputy Minister S. M. Chandrasena

Irrigation and Water Management Deputy Minister W. B. Ekanayake

Mahaweli Authority

Resident Project Manager of system H of Mahaweli

Madyama Nuwara Palatha Pradeshiya Sabha

Central Environmental Authority

Director Environment Conservation Trust
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersCentre for Environmental Justice (CEJ) Sri Lanka

Environment Conservation Trust (ECT) Sri Lanka

People’s Alliance for Right to Land - PARL

Sri Lanka Nature Group
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)MEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
When did the mobilization beginPREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups MobilizingFarmers
International ejos
Local ejos
Social movements
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of MobilizationCommunity-based participative research (popular epidemiology studies, etc..)
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Arguments for the rights of mother nature
Appeals/recourse to economic valuation of the environment
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Noise pollution, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover
Potential: Air pollution, Floods (river, coastal, mudflow), Food insecurity (crop damage), Soil contamination, Soil erosion, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
OtherClearance of the forest leads to drying out of the tanks during the dry season. This deprives Elephants and other wildlife of their sources of food and water. As a result, Elephants are impelled to enter the nearby villages causing a human-elephant conflict.

Loss of medicinal plants and food crops previously offered by the forest.
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Militarization and increased police presence, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Potential: Loss of livelihood, Violations of human rights
OtherDue to the loss of their natural environment, elephants now pass through Paddy fields, affecting the agricultural activities of the local farmer communities. As a result there is a degradation of livelihood and standard of living.

The local communities have been deprived of the benefits like medicinal plants and food crops offered by the forest previously, extra expenses have now to be paid for the same commodities, leading a loss in the livelihood.
Project StatusIn operation
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCorruption
Development of AlternativesFollow and apply existing regulation regarding Forest Reserves
Do you consider this as a success?No
Why? Explain briefly.Despite the protests by local communities, the project have been implemented
Sources and Materials

National Environmental Act, No. 47 of 1980
[click to view]

Mahaweli Authority of Sri Lanka Act, No. 23 of 1979
[click to view]


[1] Uprooting people from the land. Land grabbing, current status and trends in Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka Nature Group, People’s Alliance for Right to Land - PARL. June 2012


Website of Ministry of Mahweli Development and Environment
[click to view]

[2] Newspaper article from 'the sunday leader' online (10/01/2013). Land Grab Galore In NCP Forest Reserves By Nirmala Kannangara (accessed 20/04/2015)
[click to view]

Other Documents

The metal crusher in full swing, Forest Rock Garden Hotel under construction and Rasika Ekanayake’s metal quarry filled with water
[click to view]

Meta Information
ContributorCentre for Environmental Justice (Colombo, Sri Lanka) and Paola Camisani (EJOLT team, Barcelona)
Last update17/10/2016