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Sunday, September 26, 2021

An appeal to Sri Lanka president: Ensure environmental security & the rights of future generations

“According to the Global Climate Index (2019), Sri Lanka is ranked as the sixth worst affected country. Sri Lanka committed to the UNFCCC to replant 70,000 hectares of forest as per its nationally determined contribution. However, due to the ongoing land-grabbing that is taking place, Sri Lanka will be unable to implement this commitment.” says a collective appeal to ensure the environmental security of Sri Lanka.

The appeal fellows:

His Excellency President Gotabhaya Rajapaksha,
President of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka,
Presidential Secretariat, Colombo 1.

Your Excellency,

AN APPEAL TO ENSURE ENVIRONMENTAL SECURITY AND THE RIGHTS OF FUTURE GENERATIONS OF SRI LANKANS

The undersigned are individuals, organizations and citizens of Sri Lanka who are concerned about the ongoing environmental destruction in the Country allegedly being undertaken in the name of chena cultivation, agriculture expansion and lands for housing, etc.

We fully appreciate your commitment to visit rural areas and provide solutions for unresolved issues of the past. We agree that many of the issues that are brought to your attention need urgent solutions. However, we are greatly concerned about your apparent endorsement of land grabbing, and encroachment into forests, thereby destroying precious wildlife habitats and water catchment areas.

Sri Lanka has less than 17% of true forests remaining; the rest being degraded lands or tree plantations. The remaining forest habitats are home to over 7, 500 species of flora and over 15, 000 species of fauna – much of this is endemic to Sri Lanka, meaning if they were to disappear, they would be gone forever. These forest catchments provide water for 103 rivers and over 18, 000 reservoirs, control rain patterns and absorb heat. They also control floods and droughts and make us climate resilient. Forests also provide us with many other ecosystem services which we all take for granted and often go unnoticed. Small forest corridors such as Dahaiyagala, the Flood Plains Reserve, etc., are very important for all wildlife, but especially for elephant migration.

Sri Lanka is lucky to still be known as a country that is home to wild elephants. Elephants are a huge national asset to the country; they bring in vast amounts of foreign exchange through wildlife tourism. Blocking forest corridors and encroaching into Sri Lanka’s last remaining wildlife habitats will affect livelihoods and negatively impact our tourism potential. Sadly in 2020, 320 elephants were killed, and 112 humans have also died due to the human – elephant conflict.

Unless we protect and preserve the remaining forests, we will create uncontrollable human – wild animal conflicts. Due to the loss of environmental services, border villagers will suffer from droughts, floods, loss of pollination, and loss of crop yields, etc. It will require astronomical infrastructure investments which the Government of Sri Lanka can ill afford. Regularizing these increasing illegal encroachments will be detrimental to your legacy of office, and on how future generations view it.

According to the Global Climate Index (2019), Sri Lanka is ranked as the sixth worst affected country. Sri Lanka committed to the UNFCCC to replant 70,000 hectares of forest as per its nationally determined contribution. However, due to the ongoing land-grabbing that is taking place, Sri Lanka will be unable to implement this commitment.

Land encroachment along the border villages are a common issue not necessarily because of the lack of cultivable lands, but due to the practice of unproductive agricultural methods and non-value addition to the harvests. Instead of allowing more encroachment and land grabbing for agriculture, a more scientific and effective Agriculture Department can solve the border village issues, and ensure the increased, and lasting, prosperity for these valuable citizens.

The World has already destroyed much of its ecosystems to a point beyond recovery. We, in Sri Lanka, have such a little left. Therefore, we as citizens of Sri Lanka, who believe in the rights of Nature and of the rights of our future generations, respectfully appeal to Your Excellency to listen to Nature, to listen to the true agriculture experts, and to the conservation community, and save our Mother Lanka from ecocide, and from the terrible natural disasters that that will inevitably bring.

Sincerely yours

Wildlife and Nature Protection Society (WNPS)
Centre for Environmental Justice (CEJ)
Federation of Environmental Organizations (FEO)
Movement for National Land and Agriculture Reform (MONLAR)
Protect Wilpattu
Wildlife Conservation Forum (WCF)
Rainforest Protectors of Sri Lanka
Future in Our Hands (FIOH) Badulla
Sri Lanka Climate and Forest Action Network (SLCFAN)
Wildlife Conservation Society of Galle
Center for Conservation and Research (CCR)
Biodiversity and Elephant Conservation Trust (BECT)
Biodiversity Conservation and Research Circle (BCRC)
Friends of Wilpattu (FOW)
Elephant Forest and Environment Conservation Trust (EFECT)
Young Zoologist Association (YZA)
Rally for Animal Rights and Environment (RARE)
Sri Lanka Nature Group (SLNG)
Tendril Foundation, Baddegama
Pahiyangala Ananda Sagara Thero
Hemantha Withanage
Jagath Gunawardena, Attorney-at-law
Ravindranath Dabare Attorney -at -Law
Jehan CanagaRetna
Rohan Wijesinghe
Dr. Ananda Mallawathanthri
Dr. Deepani Jayantha, Veterinarian and Conservationist
Nayanake Ranwella
Supun Lahiru Prakash
Samantha Gunasekera
Sajeewa Chamikara
Dr. GGT Chandrathilake, Senior Lecturer, University of Sri Jayawardenapura
Manoja Weerakkody
Thilak Kariyawasam

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