Fear For Animal Welfare By `Deep Jungle Music And Cultural Festival’ At Habarana From Feb 17

Shakila Ifham

February 14, 2023


The Centre for Environmental Justice yesterday urged the Police Department to strictly ensure no violation of the noise circular No 2031/2007 by the `Deep Jungle Music and Cultural Festival’ which will be held at Habarana from February 17 to 19.

Senior Attorney at Law Ravindranath Dabare had informed the IGP that the provisions of the Environment impact assessment, when conducting any project in the buffer zone of any Forest reserve and of any National reserve.

“Any failure to monitor and maintain the law of this country will be strictly dealt and legal action will be taken against those who are responsible for such violations and failures,” he added.

Senior Environmental Scientist Hemantha Withanage said that they had been informed
that an entity called Deep Jungle Entertainment (PVT) Ltd has organized the “deep Jungle Music and Cultural Festival” under the patronage of some Governmental authorities next to the “Galoya forest Reserve ” a well-known elephant corridor in Habarana (which connect the Hurulu Eco Park to Kaudulla and Minneriya national parks).
The organizers have obtained support and permission from the President’s office, Prime Minister’s office, Ministry of Public Security, and others. However, final conditional approval has been issued by the Department of Forest Conservation and the approval highlights the fact that the said location is adjacent to a Reserve Forest.

“We have learned 150- 200 elephants cross this elephant corridor daily. Yet, the Department of Wildlife Conservation has given a letter stating this land does not come under the purview of the DWLC. Meanwhile, we have learned that the Ministry of Forest and the Department of Wildlife are not even aware about the event,” he added.
He said that considering the fact that the area is a very active elephant habitat, Forest Department has requested the organizers to maintain low noise levels. The Forest Department has warned about elephant movements on the bund of the Karandagaswewa reservoir and advised against staying on the bund of the tank especially during the nighttime.
The CEJ legal team said that the animal kingdom responds to noise very differently. Hearing ranges from very high frequency ultrasound (>20,000 Hz) echolocation in bats to very low frequency infrasound (<20 Hz) in elephants. In addition to that the forest is considered as a silent zone as any noise can disturb the wild animals.
The team also pointed out that the Police circular No. 2031\2007, issued by the Inspector General of Police fully prohibits the use of sound producing equipment from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. The recent judgment in the MC 64172/6 case against Uduwe Dhammaloka Thera on the use of loudspeakers at Alan Matiniyaramaya was based on this police circular.
In the Supreme Court case bearing no. SCFR 38/2005, Al Haj M.T.M. Ashik and four others, Trustees of Kapuwatta Mohideen Jumma Mosque, Denipitiya, Weligama v. R.P.S. Bandula, O.I.C Weligama and nine others, the Court made directions restricting the use of loudspeakers in a manner that impact adversely on the general public. According to the aforementioned judgement, the emission of noise by the use of amplifiers, loudspeakers or other equipment which causes annoyance to the public or the people in general who dwell or occupy property in the vicinity, be considered a public nuisance. It directs the police to entertain complaints and take appropriate action for the abatement of such public nuisance.

It states the procedure of issuing all permits issued by the police under section 80 (1) of the Police Ordinance. That no permits will be issued for the use of loudspeakers and other instruments for the amplification of noise, during the period of 10.00pm to 06.00am. Such permits may be issued for special religious functions and other special events only after ascertaining the views of persons who occupy land premises in the vicinity, and issuing any such permit shall be done only with the prior approval of the nearest Magistrate’s Court.
It states that during hours between 10.00pm-06.00am noises emitted from amplifying instruments should not extend the precincts of the particular premises. Where a permit is issued, a police officer should be designated and posted to ensure that the above mentioned conditions are adhered.

“We believe the proposed activities during the music festival such as electronic music and busy human gathering will exceed the noise level way above the permissible levels and the agencies which granted the permission are not in a position to neutralize the discomfort on wild animals including elephants. Bright lighting will be harmful to wild animals and also chase including elephants. This area is known for elephant train accidents. There is a possibility of disturbed elephants being hit by trains or entering into the residential areas and damaging the properties of the local people.

We already know that a carnival held in Galgamuwa caused property damage as it blocked an elephant corridor,” Withanage added.
Elephants in Minneriya already have lost their habitats due to the increased water level of the tank after releasing water from Moragahakanda reservoir. It destroyed the most famous Asia elephant herd which approximately contained 350 elephants. Those elephants are now scattered in the area, and some are living in the forest area adjacent to the said festival ground. Hurulu Eco Park and this corridor are the only locations which provide a chance for tourists to see elephants in Habarana. According to some experts each elephant from Minneriya can bring up to 19 million Sri Lankan Rupees annually.