Kumana Park Regains Lost Splendour
The Kumana National Park, only place in Sri Lanka
where avi fauna diversity abounds in plenty,
is back on track. Re-opened to the public on January 30 this year, Kumana is steadily regaining its lost splendour.
Kumana had to be shut down some time back due to LTTE activities in the Eastern Province. Today wildlife enthusiasts are able to meet their bird friends which they missed for the past few years. According to park officials the earnings of the park have exceeded Rs.1.2 million, in the past six months.
Under a directive from the Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa development projects have been launched islandwide giving a facelift to our national parks. The Wilpattu projects will be completed by mid August and the ongoing ones in Kumana and Lahugala will be accelerated. The National Development plan does not mean to confine the nature- loving Sri Lankans within concrete jungles. It is expected to work like a corridor that connects human beings with the wilderness.
According to the Park Warden, Ajith Wasantha around 285 bird species, both local and migrant, have been recorded in the Kumana National Park. “In the near future we plan to conduct a research and a survey on bird species in Kumana with the help of diplomates of the Wild Life Training School, Giritale,” said Wasantha.
Migratory birds are in plenty from September to April. Specially mangroves and the villu and the areas in the vicinity are the most decorated with these peaceful invaders. Kumana provides a safe breeding ground for birds with best conditions. Today it has spread across to over 35,660 hectares, expanded under Gazette Number 1461/7 dated September 5, 2006. Initially it was over 18,180 hectares and was known as Yala East Sanctuary. The sea is the Eastern border. Bangura, Andarakala, Yakala, Itikala lagoons are located along this coastal stretch.
The road network needs to be improved within the park to facilitate enthusiasts to explore the beauty of the Park. A 100 kilometre stretch of road network is being drafted by the WildLife authorities,said M.C.G. Rupasinghe, Assistant Director, (Eastern Sector) of the Wild Life Department. The road network will also focus on developing access roads to prominent archaeological sites in the park. “We have seen number of places with archaeological ruins across the entire area. Nearly 40 acres of land in the park is covered with such ruins,” said D.P. Siyasinghe, a veteran Wild Life Ranger of Ampara guiding us in this splendour world. Of the most prominent archaeological sites Budu Bawa, Kiripokuna rock pool, Nelumpath thalawa and Bambaragasthalawa tops the list.
At Bambaragasthalawa a 36 feet long Buddha statue, stone inscriptions are to be seen. In another area called Bowattegala ruins of a rock temple exist.
“At the moment the park does not have circuit bungalows and to facilitate the increasing number of visitors, the plans are under way to build bungalows in Thummulla, Kirigalebe, Okanda. Earlier we did have circuit bungalows in these places,” Rupasinghe said.
Five camping sites have been set up along the Kumbukkan Oya at the Kumana Delta – where the Kumbukkan Oya joins the sea, Madamethota, Heraligas Ara, Eda Kumbuka and Mahagalamuna. According to the Park Warden, Wasantha ten people will be allowed inside the camp at one time for maximum period of three days. Mahagalamuna (great stone anicut) is a natural anicut (amuna). As Wasantha explained during the ancient times human settlements existed in Kumana, the villagers have developed this amuna and diverted to fill the Aluthgam wewa, Eraminiyan wewa and Kumana wewa in the park. Madamethota is used more like a day camp site where visitors can enjoy only during the day time.
The officials also plan a special tourist centre at the entrance to the park at Okanda.
“There are several tanks existing in the park that were built during the times of the kings. As a solution to the water scarcity we plan to develop these tanks within this year, with immediate plans to start on the Divulpallama tank,” Rupasinghe said. Several water pools exist in the park at Kudawila, Thummulla wewa and Kotalinda wewa, which are favourite spots for the animals.
Spread across over 200 acres the Kumana villu is the most famous place for bird watching. Located at the delta of the Kumbukkan Oya (River), the villu creates an exquisite safe breeding ground for birds to raise their chicks. Kumana villu is the low land where the sea water that flows inland is collected when the natural sand dunes break during high tide season. One may never miss the beauty of the Painted Stalk with its beautiful colours. The spoonbill searching for its food dipped in the waters.
The smallest National park of the country, the Lahugala-Kithulana National Park, now expanded to 5,131 hectares, is getting a facelift. Gazetted in 1980 as a National Park it had only 616 acres at that time with one access road that stretched 2.5 kilometres, obviously attracting few visitors. With the new development plan a road network is developed at present up to Karanda Oya which is approximately 30 kilometers long. Close to the anicut of the Maha wewa a special platform will be built for the elephant lovers to enjoy a better view of elephants coming to the tank. Lahugala wewa and Kithulana wewa are habitual feeding grounds of the wild elephants. According to wild life officials number of elephants these tanks attract is over 150. ‘Beru’ (Sacciopelsis interrupta) is a weed which is the favourite food of the elephants that was abundant in these tanks. During the severe drought season the Lahugala Park had to face last year, ‘beru’ plants were destroyed. Wild Life officers’ efforts to grow this plant at Yala was unsuccessful as the favourable conditions for the growth of this plant only exist in Lahugala. Today it’s slowly but steadily growing back in the maha wewa and kithulana wewa bringing a feast to the elephants.
In addition along Karanda Oya five camp sites will be set up in this park providing more space for the wild life enthusiasts to enjoy the natural surroundings.
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