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Government plans archaeological exploration at Wilpattu

Ruins of an ancient Buddha statue in the Wilpattu sanctuary. Picture by Nimal Wijesinghe, Anuradhapura Additional District Group Corr.

The government has planned an archaeological exploration and excavation programme at the Wilpattu National Sanctuary. According to archaeologists, there are nearly 100 or more archaeological sites scattered across the sanctuary, extending to 133,000 hectares of jungle areas surrounded by the Anuradhapura, Mannar, and Puttlam districts.

“Although Wilpattu was declared a wildlife-conservation region, it has not yet been declared as a archaeological-preservation site.

There will be a preliminary combined archaeological exploration and investigation programme covering ten major archaeological sites of high-importance such as Uppane Kuweni Palace and Kudiramale. As an initiative, Archaeology Department, Wildlife Conservation Department, and Central Cultural Fund officials will be participating in the programme, if possible with foreign aid groups such as the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO),” a senior archaeological officer said.

A Wildlife Conservation Department official at Wilpattu said there were only 18 permanent wildlife officers and 23 volunteers on a Rs. 750 daily payment basis to look after the sanctuary. “We at our best, take steps to conserve the unveiled archaeological sites from destructive human activities. We do not now allow visitors to halt at such sites in order to ensure their security.

There are a large number of archaeological ruins within the close proximity of the interior road network, with no access through forest areas.

The Wilpattu sanctuary earned a record income of Rs. 80 million from tourists, recently. Meanwhile, poachers are reported to have been seen hunting wild animals and felling trees,” he added.

The Wilpattu warden said raids were executed and 25 persons engaged in hunting were taken into custody. A large-scale sand digging racket at Gange Wadiya in the south boundary area of the sanctuary.

Advanced sand-digging equipment were recovered during the raid. The offenders have been produced before courts.