Jul 09, 2020

‘Circular of forest land won’t be abolished’

Environment minister S.M. Chandrasena has said that circular 5/2001 on other forest lands would not be abolished amidst a furore from environmentalists.

“We only hope to make a few changes to it,” the minister told reporters on Tuesday.

Environmentalists have raised concerns over abolishing the circular, citing it as a move to give away lands to foreign entities.

“There are five companies mapping these 500,000 acres of lands. The ulterior motive is nothing else but to give these lands to them,” Ven. Pahiyangala Ananda Sagara Thero, an environmentalist said.

He recalled that around 15 or 20 proposals had been put forward to obtain lands from the Knuckles Mountain Range during the previous administration as well.

Basil Rajapaksa, a member of the ruling camp said the move is to support attempts to increase forest cover as pledged in President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s manifesto.

“We haven’t reached a decision on other forest lands yet,” he noted.

However, politicians in the opposition camp cited this as a plot to bring state lands under the authority of one person and to lease it out to foreign entities.

“We wish to clearly state that we will fight against these attempts to lease out our lands to foreign entities,” S.M. Marikkar, a Samagi Jana Balawegaya parliamentary election candidate stressed.