The recent controversy on deforestation of the Wilpattu National Park created a huge buzz in Social Media. At social media.lk we decided to analyze online activities recorded with the trending hashtag #SaveWilpattu with our Social Media Analysis: #SaveWilpattu.
The deforestation was first surfaced through a local program called CIA (Catch In Action) in Hirutv, which is renowned for exposing illegal activities happening all around the island. The following clip was aired on Hiru News on 22nd April 2015.
An extended version of the story was aired on Hiru News on 23rd April 2015 containing exclusive interviews with the people in those areas.
It was revealed that a Minister in the previous and current government had given these people lands on permit with Rs. 50,000 per person/family to build a house on the given land. After Hiru CIA revelation, a huge buzz was recorded in Social Media. Many local social media advocates joined the cause to create awareness, which motivated other people to follow the trend.
— Milindu S. Kumarage (@AgentMilindu) May 7, 2015
People used Instagram used to creatively support the cause #SaveWilpattu
Madu Deforestation was also resurfaced thanks to the influential tweeters.
— Trip talkers (@Triptalkers) May 7, 2015
Dinamina.lk posted a detailed report on the situation in Wilpattu.
විල්පත්තුවට මොකද වෙන්නෙ? (දිනමිණ කතුවැකිය – 2015.05. 12.) #SaveWilpattu #ProtectWilpattu #lka #SriLanka #Dinamina…
Neminda Kasthurirathna took the fight to a more solution oriented level by creating an online petition against Wilpattu Deforestation in thepetitionsite.com. This particular petition has gotten over 43,000 signatures with 13,971 Facebook shares and 456 tweets. This petition played a major role in making the message viral which encouraged the local online population to take an action that will make a change.
The tweets and Facebook posts on this topic increased when the said Minister rejected all allegations against him and stated that he’ll resign from his Minister post if these allegations are being proved.
The snowball effect took its turn on this issue and raised enough awareness to get the attention of the first citizen, Hon. Maithripala Sirisena- the President of Sri Lanka. On 9th May, the President made an official order to halt deforestation and proposing land lots, near the Wilpattu National Park.
He has also instructed relevant authorities to implement the law against any person responsible for such illegal acts while the Secretary to the Ministry of Environment has also been instructed to take necessary action in this regard.
However, yesterday 12th May 2015, WCD (Wildlife Conservation Department) announced that there had been no resettlement of people inside the Wilpattu National Park. FCD Director General Anura Sathurusinghe stated that under the previous government, a sum of around 2,500 plots of land which belongs to the FCD have been allocated for resettlement of Muslims in the Mannar District without any proper Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA).
The trees there which should be given to Sri Lanka Timber Corporation (SLTC) had not been given due to the pressure from the previous government at the time of land distribution.
The same announcement was made by Champika Ranawaka Minister of Power and Energy which was tweeted by Minister Rishad Bathiyutheen from his official twitter page;
— Rishad Bathiudeen (@rbathiudeen) May 12, 2015
However, environmentalists have stressed that due to the deforestation of Wilpattu sanctuary and the surrounding reserve, 200 wild elephants will lose their habitats. Therefore, elephant – human clashes may aggravate. The post/tweet rates were lower after the President’s announcement on 9th May to halt the resettlements, but after the 12th May WCD announcement; there was a significant increase in the trend #SaveWilpattu.
— Hashtag Sri Lanka (@HashtagSriLanka) May 12, 2015