Sinharaja road: UNESCO calls for report

16 September 2011 08:30 pm - 1     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) has called for a report from the Environment Ministry on allegations that a road is being built through the Sinharaja Forest Reserve endangering its natural habitat and eco system, a UNESCO official said yesterday.

UNESCO’s Sri Lanka National Commission Secretary General Preethi Viraj Perera told the Daily Mirror that UNESCO, which is the world body committed to protect and maintain world heritage sites, should have been informed about the plan to build the road.

He however commended Environment Minister Anura Priyadharshana Yapa’s prompt action to suspend the road construction amid protests by environmentalists and Forest Conservation Department (FCD) officials who threatened to take legal action if the road construction went ahead.

“Sri Lanka’s forest cover has dwindled sharply in the past few decades where the total land area of forests has come down to 20% from 40%, in the 1940s. Therefore, it is vitally important to protect the existing forest cover of which the Sinharaja forest reserve forms a major portion,” Mr. Perera said.

The Sinharaja Forest Reserve is a national park and a biodiversity nucleus in Sri Lanka. It is of international significance and in 1978 UNESCO designated it as a Biosphere Reserve and in 1988 a World Heritage Site.

“Sri Lanka's 26 endemic birds, the 20 species of rare and valuable plants are found here. Therefore it is extremely necessary to maintain the bio-diversity and status quo of Sinharaja,” Mr. Perera said.

However, certain groups in the area including the Imbulkanda Mihindutala Monastry Chief Incumbent the Rev. Wiharahene Dhammasiddhi Thera are of the view that the road was being built in an area which does not belong to the Forest Conservation Department.

He said there had been an old footpath from Suriyakanda via Bambumale and Baragala used by the residents to travel to and from Bambugala and Suriyakanda and that this part of the land that belongs to the Land Reforms Commission.

Meanwhile Central Environment Authority (CEA) Chairman Charitha Herath said officials from the Sabaragamuwa regional office and the Natural Resources Management Division were sent to the site of the controversial road construction their report was expected today.

“I will hand over an interim report to Minister Yapa today for further action. A full report will be submitted on Wednesday,” Dr. Herath said. (Sandun A. Jayasekera)
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  • TMA Monday, 19 September 2011 10:07 AM

    Un conspiracies.


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