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A case for Sri Lankan forestry standard


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Author Topic: A case for Sri Lankan forestry standard  (Read 353 times)
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« on: July 07, 2011, 04:49:16 pm »

We celebrated the World Environment Day three weeks ago. The event included a tree-planting campaign and an exhibition at raising awareness of forest resources, to balance with the theme 'Forests: Nature at Your Service'.

This year has also been named the International Year of Forests and our Forest Conservation Department is planning a number of programmes to increase our Forest cover. The Forest Department Hill Top Reforestation is the main project this year.

According to Department sources, the initial study for the suitable sites in the hills in Central Highlands has been completed, and the replanting will start with the next rainy season commencing in October.

When the British took over the island in the early 19th century, Sri Lanka's forest cover probably was said to be around 90%. The British cleared large tracts of forest mostly in the hilly central region forest for cinchona and coffee and later for tea and rubber plantations. After the British had spent fifty years clearing jungle for plantations the forest cover dropped down to 80%. By the time the British left the island in 1948 the forest cover was down to about 54%.

For a variety of reasons that range from pressure of population growth that more than tripled from about 7.0m at Independence in 1948 to over 20.0m in 2010 to indiscriminate cutting of forest for agriculture and human settlement and exploitation of forest resources for short term gain, Sri Lanka's forest cover continued to decline over the past sixty years.

The estimates of forest cover that currently exists is around 22%

It is a sad but solemn fact. Sadder still is that despite increased awareness of the importance of our forests, deforestation rates have not slowed.

With overarching Forest Conservation policies in place, it is time we initiate a Sri Lankan Forestry Standard based on the international standards. This will provide industry, consumers and investors with an independent, third-party assessment of forest management practices against agreed economic, social, environmental and cultural requirements.

It will also support a continued improvement toward sustainable forest management and will reassure consumers that they are supporting some of the world's best forest management.

The Standard should be based on a set of recognized criteria and indicators for sustainable forest management, and developed so that it can be applied to any defined forest area being managed for wood production regardless whether it is a native forest or plantation.

Specifically, such a standard will help (1) To manage forests in a systematic manner that addresses laws, policy requirements, accepted best practices and forest management plans, (2) To provide for public participation by developing relationships with all stakeholders, (3) To protect and maintain the biological diversity of the forest, (4) To maintain the productive capacity of the forest, (5) To maintain healthy forest ecosystems, (6) To protect waterways and soil qualities and (7) To protect and maintain the natural, cultural, social, religious and spiritual heritage values of all forest users.

A properly standardized Forest management programme will conserve biological diversity and its associated values, water resources, soils, and unique and fragile ecosystems and landscapes, and, by so doing, maintain the ecological functions and the integrity of the forest. Safeguards will exist which protect rare, threatened and endangered species and their habitats (e.g. nesting and feeding areas).

Conservation zones and protection areas could be established, appropriate to the scale and intensity of forest management and the uniqueness of the affected resources.

Inappropriate hunting, fishing, trapping and collecting can be controlled.

Lionel WIJESIRI  - Sunday Observer
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