Buffer zones around wildlife parks – once no-go zones to the farming and construction industries – will be opened to the tourism industry.
According to Minister of Tourism, Lakshman Yapa Abeywardena, these buffer zones will be available for tourist resorts and hotels. Following discussions with the Minister of Economic Development, Basil Rajapaksa, the government will issue a gazette on June 24 that will allow development programmes, including the building of tourist resorts and hotels, on the borders of wildlife sanctuaries.
“Buffer zones are about one kilometre wide,” the Minister of Tourism told the Sunday Times. “We hope to turn these zones into tourist attractions. Seven plots of five acres each have already been marked out for development in the Yala buffer zone. Only environment friendly hotels and resorts will be permitted.”
Dr. Chandrawansa Pathiraja, Director General of the Wildlife Department, said buffer zones were in place for the protection of wildlife parks, but environment-friendly development need not affect wild animals, fauna and flora.
“Such development will be built well away from elephant paths and spots where animals are known to gather,” he said. “And there will be waste management systems, so there won’t be any environment pollution.”