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Sunday, 23 May 2004  
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Waulpone: Vandals destroy rock caves

by P. D. A. S. Gunasekera, Ratnapura Group Correspondent

Waulpone, the 'legendary Rock Cave' with the unexpected archaeological evidence of a civilisation, tens of thousand years old, running back to the time of the "Balangoda Man" is again, in the grips of a new menace, the illegal gemming activities.

The ancient rock-caves with vast stretches of wilderness, set in a panoramic view, is fast losing its tourist - potentials and historical value, with the pleasing prospects of the environment, under the axe of the wood-cutter, the tools of gemmers and the dynamites of the treasure-hunters, according to reports. The stream that flows through the front entrance to the cave with the cool, silvery water providing a pleasant surprise to the way-weary visitors, has lost its charm through the indiscriminate mass gemming operations affecting the immediate environment and the bed of the stream, dug and overturned.

The 'pencil-columns' of 'stalactite' and 'stalagmite' formed by the age-old lime stones, over the years, an inch of which according to scientific calculations, would take hundred years to grow, are indeed a rare gift of nature peculiar to the cave to be saved from wanton destruction.

The glistening boulders of marble-rocks lying scattered around the back of the caves, gave it an added value which enhanced both the local and foreign tourist interest in Waulpone. 'Balangoda Man', unearthed, at the 'Batadomba Lena, at Kuruwita, in 1986 by Dr. Shiran Deraniyagala, estimated 30,000 years old, could, indeed, be traced to Waulpone, as well, a possible abode of the 'early settler' who derived his historical apalation from 'Balangoda' (or vice-versa), if excavations were undertaken according to archaeological sources.

The findings of the Batadomba Lena had conclusively proved that 'Micro-thic' stone implements had existed at Batadomba Lena, where Balangoda Man had lived, thousands of years ago, debunking the archaeological view that such implements existed only in European countries. But such evidence might also be found in Waulpone as well, if excavations were undertaken the sources held.

Netherlands, in 1986 financed a roadway to facilitate communication in the neglected village realizing the value of the ancient cave, through representations of the lovers of nature, from that country visiting the place. But the local authorities, has failed to follow up the international support due to the negligence of the forest conservation authorities in charge of the area, leaving the access road, in bad disrepair.

But now it has become imperative that the authorities call an 'immediate halt' to the mining menace and put the historical cave in good repair, to reclaim, the hitherto lost grounds in developing the place, as a tourist attraction, for saving from complete ruin, a rich heritage for the country, a fine and rare handiwork of nature, for the connoisseur of 'natural beauty' and a perennial source of income and foreign exchange for the State.

The services of both archaeologists, geologists, ecologists and environmentalists back by a research program of development under provincial authorities with the assistance of the Central Government, alone can save Waulpone for the posterity. Considering the apparent and real significance of the cave and its surroundings, 'it is remarkable', that the authorities had not even put up a decent identification board for the information of the public.

The only available board, now almost disfigured, set up at the place, is the one from the 'Parisara Mithuro' children Society of Waulpone, old and unimpressive.

Tender ANCL

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