Understanding the dependency of these buffer zone communities, both the departments pursued to change their policies ...
To attain a fully effective forest resources management plan, a more comprehensive and integrated planning is important
We especially focus on conserving forest resources to enhance watersheds, promote sustainable production...
Therefore, the final plan will be developed through a participatory process considering all these factors
The Dailymirror interviewed H.G. Gunawardane, Coordinator - Landscape Planning and Management Component, Ecosystem Conservation and Management Project. Funded by the World Bank, the project is executed by the Ministry of Mahaweli Development and Environment.
QHow would you describe the background of forest resources conservation in Sri Lanka and how has it progressed to-date?
Since the British governing era a number of efforts have been taken to conserve and manage forest resources. They took major intervention by enforcing Forest Ordinance in 1885; Fauna and Flora ordinance in 1937 to conserve fauna and flora as well as other natural resources in Sri Lanka. Considering and understanding the importance of Sri Lanka’s natural forests, they established the Forest Department in 1877 as a sole governing body for managing forest resources in the island.
Later in 1947, the Department of Wild Life Conservation was established to manage the forest areas significant to Wild Life conservation. To promote tourism in the country the DWLC declared some areas as national parks and some as Strict Nature Reserves (SNR), Nature Reserves (NR), Elephant Corridors (EC) and sanctuaries mainly for conservation.
Subsequently, both these departments took several steps to conserve forests resources. As the first step, they prepared management plans for each important forest such as Forest Reserves, Conservation Forests, National Heritages and National parks and implemented the activities recommended therein. However, only during the last two decades, they paid attention for buffer zone areas and local communities living in and around the protected areas, earlier the importance of buffer zone communities and their role in forest conservation and management were not given due recognition.
Understanding the social aspects and the dependency of these buffer zone communities, both the departments pursued to change their policies and forest conservation strategies and amended their predominant ordinances accordingly.
The International Natural Resources Center (INRC) has predicted that within the next 50 years the Global temperature will increase by 7.6 C which will lead to many other social issues.
QWere the changes and amendments made to the management strategies and laws effective in forest resources conservation?
Not all efforts were fully successful, but I would say these amendments have been considered helpful in conservation, because, otherwise there would not have been much forest areas left by today or may have a very small extent.
In 1881, Sri Lanka had a forest cover of 71% with a human population of 3.5 million. In 1956 the forest cover diminished to 44% and in 1992 it further reduced to about 33%. According to the last forest cover assessment carried out in 2015, it is 29.7%. Apart from the increasing human population, large-scale Agricultural Development and irrigation projects such as Gal Oya, Mahaweli, Walawe, Upper Kotmale, Kalu Ganga, and Maduru Oya; establishment of settlement schemes, conversion of forest lands in to agricultural fields and roads and town development have significantly caused the pressure and contributed to the sharp reduction of forest cover in the last 5 – 6 decades.
QWhy do you think the forest resources management planning process is not fully effective?
Forest conservation has a long history in Sri Lanka, even during the era when the Kings ruled the country they allotted the forests as Protected Areas. Subsequently, fragmented institutional responsibilities and overlapping mandates have led to the poor effectiveness of the protected area network. When the jurisdictional controls over land do not match with the natural ecological boundaries, it results in the fragmentation of natural habitats and uncoordinated interventions. Lack of integrated planning has aggravated uncontrolled development pressure, degraded ecosystem quality, and diminished the potential for environmental service provision. Therefore, to attain a fully effective forest resources management plan, a more comprehensive and integrated planning is important especially when it comes to the implementation of National development projects/activities in the areas where the country’s priority protected areas are located.
QWhat is the Global perspective of forest management planning?
At present worldwide, environmental issues such as Global warming, Climate change, Biodiversity loss, and Ocean exhaustion are faced by almost all countries around the world. One of the root causes identified for the above is desertification and land degradation which are more or less experienced by many of the countries. Land degradation resulted due to deforestation and misuse of lands is correlated with all other issues resulting in other severe environmental disasters such as low crop yield, depletion of water resources, air pollution, habitat loss, epidemics, an increase of atmospheric temperature and so on. The International Natural Resources Center (INRC) has predicted that within the next 50 years the Global temperature will increase by 7.6 Cₒ which will lead to many other social issues. A major challenge in forest management experienced globally is the sustainability of the forest resources.
Key feature of our project’s Landscape Management Planning exercise is to identify the conservation areas whether they are Biodiversity Hot Spots, Wild Life areas, Forest Reserves, Buffer zone areas or other protected areas such as Archeological sites, Coastal areas, River and Tank reservations...
According to the recent study carried out by the IUCN, there is about 2 billion ha of forest land around the world that have been denuded mainly due to reasons such as deforestation, and unplanned development activities. Thus, the IUCN has drawn the attention of the international community to shift their forest conservation and management strategies by incorporating a novel approach designated as “Restoration Opportunities Assessment Methodology” (ROAM).
QHow does this novel approach differ from the previously adopted methodologies?
The Restoration Opportunities Assessment Methodology (ROAM), introduced by IUCN and the World Resources Institute (WRI), provides a flexible framework to identify and analyze areas that are suitable for landscape restoration. ROAM is broader concepts which assess the restoration opportunities in a larger area and provides support to implement restoration programmes and landscape-level strategies. ROAM identifies the priority areas for restoration; and the most relevant and feasible restoration intervention types across the assessment area, which could be forest areas, water catchments, buffer zone villages, other state lands, private lands, townships, coastal areas or any other land use types. This approach originated in 1965 and reached its peak level in 2015. The pioneers of adopting this new methodology are USA, Japan, China, Rwanda, Costa Rica, Burundi, Myanmar, Mozambique, Cambodia, Malawi, Uganda, Ghana, Netherlands, Thailand, Indonesia, South Korea and Mexico. So far 148.38 Million hectares of land have been restored by reforestation as a result of a large number of countries across the world adopting this process. According to IUCN, it has been estimated that by restoring this extent of land about 15.1 GT of Carbon Dioxide can be sequestrated which is economically valued about $46,595 Million USD. This landscape base mass scale integrated planning and management process is known as “Landscape Planning and Management (LPM)” methodology. It is important to mention that, at the International Symposium on “Asia - Pacific Forestry Commission” held at the Bandaranaike Memorial International Conference Hall (BMICH) on September 24 – 29, 2017; all participating countries (around 150 delegated from 65 countries) unanimously endorsed to adopt this new approach.
QHow do you plan to implement this new approach to address the challenges in Sri Lanka’s forest resources conservation?
The Ministry of Mahaweli Development and Environment has launched the Ecosystem Conservation and Management Project (ESCAMP) with funding assistance from the World Bank. Component 1 of this project is “Pilot Landscape Planning and Management” that focuses to address land use issues and restoration in two selected sites in Wet Zone and Dry Zone.
A Landscape Approach is “Managing multiple lands uses in an integrated manner, considering both the natural environment and human systems”. A selected landscape may comprise of all types of land uses in an area such as Forest areas, Wildlife areas, Private lands, Agricultural lands, Reservoirs, Homesteads, Livestock areas (animal husbandry), Plantations, Urban areas, Coastal areas, and Road networks, etc. Therefore, landscape planning and management are beneficial for people, flora and fauna as living forms.
Therefore, we consulted key stakeholders in selecting these sites for LMP by referring the recommendations made by number of studies carried out in Protected Areas (PAs) and also complying with the guidance of the expert committee appointed for this particular component.
Through Landscape Management Planning in the selected areas we especially focus on conserving forest resources to enhance watersheds, promote sustainable production, provide food security, develop livelihoods, conserve protected areas, improve biodiversity and carbon sequestration.
Landscape approach emphasizes on increasing the extent/health/quality of forests cover; dealing with a holistic approach to include entire watersheds, jurisdictions, biomes and mosaic of interdependent land uses; and restoration of degraded lands to bring back the biological productivity to achieve social benefits. The main aim is to incorporate ecosystem conservation principles into the broader implementation plans. It is a Long-term process over large areas which can produce short-term benefits as well.
QWhat should be the extent of a landscape, and how are landscape boundaries demarcated?
There is no limitation for the extent and also there is no specific or accepted method to define a landscape boundary. Landscape boundaries can be demarcated by considering a number of factors, such as an area confined to a watershed, land features and ecological zone, administrative border or a mix of all these. It can also be extended from ridge to coast covering an entire province or state of a country or limited to a small area. Therefore, the extent will depend on the scope of your landscape management exercise, all the resources available and the capacity to handle its restoration activities.
Key feature of our project’s Landscape Management Planning exercise is to identify the conservation areas whether they are Biodiversity Hot Spots, Wild Life areas, Forest Reserves, Buffer zone areas or other protected areas such as Archaeological sites, Coastal areas, River and Tank reservations, or other environmentally sensitive sites as Wet lands, Villus etc.
QWhat are the sites selected by ESCAMP for LMP, and why are these important?
The activities related to the Ecosystem Conservation and Management Project is implemented by the Forest Department and the Department of Wildlife Conservation. Therefore, we have selected two important sites to carry out LMP, one from the Dry Zone and the other from the Wet Zone. In the Dry Zone, we will be implementing our project activities in the Hurulu, Anawulundawa, Kawdulla complex in the Mahaweli Basin. And in the Wet Zone the Rakwana Range in the Singharaja Contiguous Forest Complex.
The Dry zone site consist of private lands, homesteads, water resources, agricultural lands, archaeological sites within a number of Protected Areas, namely Hurulu Forest Reserve (FR), Anawulundawa Proposed Reserve (PR), Konwewa Forest Reserve (FR), Ramale Forest Reserve (FR), Moragaswewa Forest Reserve (FR), Kantale Forest Reserve (FR), Kalegama Forest Reserve (FR), Padawiya Forest Reserve (FR), Andiyagahahinna/Kumbukwewahinna Forest Reserve (FR), Chundankadu Forest Reserve (FR), Thananparichchan Forest Reserve (FR), Pamburugashinna Forest Reserve (FR), Borawewa Forest Reserve (FR), Ratapanawa Forest Reserve (FR), Ratmale Forest Reserve (FR) and the Mangrove areas managed by the Forest Department. Kawdulla National Park (NP), Somawathiya Chaithya National Park (NP), Trincomalee Naval Headquarters Sanctuary (SA), Great Sober Island Sanctuary (SA), Minneriya National Park (NP) which are managed by the Department of Wild Life Conservation. The total extent of these areas is 528,826.85 ha; which includes 272,557.03 ha forest areas and 256,269.82ha private lands.
The Wet Zone site covers private lands, homesteads, tea plantations and forest areas in the Rakwana range. It includes Singharaja World Heritage Site (WHS); Morapitiya-Runakanda Forest Reserve (FR), Dambuluwana Forest Reserve (FR), Muwagankanda Forest Reserve (FR), Magurugoda Forest Reserve (FR), Iriyagahahena Forest Reserve (FR), Warathalgoda Forest Reserve (FR), Kithuluthura Forest Reserve (FR), Nahitimukalana Forest Reserve (FR), Handuwal Kanda Forest Reserve (FR), Mudalikanda, Yake Kanda, Dhanawa Kanda, Kabaragala Forest Reserve (FR), Walankanda Forest Reserve (FR), Kalugala Forest Reserve (FR), Sooriyakanda Forest Reserve (FR), Kalubovitiyana Forest Reserve (FR), Diyadawa Forest Reserve (FR) and few other Conservation Forests in Ratnapura, Galle and Matara Districts. The total extent of this site is 242695.17 ha with 150,473.07 ha of forest areas, and 92,222.10 ha of private lands.
QCould you explain what criteria you adopted to select the above sites for landscape planning.
The Ecosystem Conservation and Management Project (ESCAMP) aimed at preparing Pilot Landscape Management Plans for two selected sites, one in the Dry Zone and one in the Wet Zone as models. Therefore, we consulted key stakeholders in selecting these sites for LMP by referring the recommendations made by number of studies carried out in Protected Areas (PAs) and also complying with the guidance of the expert committee appointed for this particular component. The criteria we adopted in site selection referred factors such as: -
Multiple land use patterns
Highly environmental sensitive
Highly pressurized by development activities (Urbanization, settlements, agriculture & infrastructure development etc.)
Fragmented by high population densities
Recommendations of Portfolio of Strategic Conservation sites/Protected area Gap Analysis in Sri Lanka (2006)
Elephant Conservation Zones identified by DWLC
Highest Legal/Conservation status received (E.g.; CF, FR, NP, SNR etc.)
International and National recognitions (E.g.; IBR, WHS, NH etc.)
Other biodiversity surveys (NCR 1992/1993)
QHas the project suggested a planning methodology to be adopted for the LMP process?
Three committees have been appointed representing relevant stakeholder institutions working at different levels; i.e. at the National level, at District/Regional level and at the Local level.
The Local level committee members will gather required data and information through PRAs, discussions, consultations and data collecting tools. The other committees will provide inputs by incorporating their national and district/regional level plans and databases. The National Planning Committee will finalize the landscape plan and submit to relevant authorities for comments and amendments. Followed by required approval of Ministries and other Institutions, then the final plan will be implemented by relevant institutions. At present, the stake holders who are engaged in development activities will only focus on the economic aspects such as economic growth, profit and National Products etc. They will not assess the monetary value of environmental damages caused by development activities, and will not consider much on conservation aspects. Expert Committee’s inputs as well as external specialists’ contribution will be obtained during the planning process. Although individual priorities may differ from the basic concepts of Forest Reserve conservation policies and institutional frameworks, biological diversity and forest resource uses, functions of the forest ecosystem, socio-economic benefits of the forests, etc. are almost in similar line. Therefore, the final plan will be developed through a participatory process considering all these factors.
QWhat would be the key features of a final Landscape Management Plan, and what are the benefits that can be derived from LMP?
The Final Landscape Management Plan (LMP) will be a descriptive integrated plan which will include all long-term mega-scale development plans as well as restoration and conservation programs prepared by relevant stakeholders and earmarked for the area with the recommendation of appropriate land use plans. The benefits that can be derived include:-
Mapping of areas depicting population pressure, environmentally sensitive areas, degraded areas, restoration areas and proposed land use plans.
Proposed Conservation and Management plan to be implemented in the Protected Areas.
Conservation plans proposed for areas outside the Protected Areas such as residential areas, private lands, agricultural lands, common areas etc.
Segregation of Potential development areas and settlement areas.
Identification of cultural and archaeological sites in the site which need to be preserved.
Identification of biodiversity hotspots and elephant corridors in the project area
Recommendation of suitable conservation measures.
Identification of the social strata of the families living in buffer zone villages
Identification of dependents from forest resources and other protected areas
Suggestions of appropriate alternative income generating activities for low-income communities.
Identification of potential areas for nature-based tourism.
Information and data sharing with policy makers on possible conservation/ecosystem changes and address environmental issues
QHow would this novel approach support environmental conservation and economic development aspects of the country?
From the current trend what we can assume is that in the years to come most of our country’s population will be living in cities. This will create social conflict, environmental degradation and also the interruption of basic services. The economic, social, and environmental planning practices of societies can propose remedies to these negative trends. Multifunctional landscapes provide multidimensional benefits. Landscape planning and management with a proper approach can meet diverse human needs, while also facilitating ecosystem functions and services. A large number of short-term as well as long-term environmental benefits and economic benefits could be derived from Landscape Planning and Management. For example, the novel approach ESCAMP is planning to implement in the two selected project sites will: -
Integrate all land management agencies to create a forum both at national and regional level to discuss the balance between development and conservation
Help boosts ecosystem services such as carbon sequestration, soil conservation, environmental amelioration and nutrient cycling
Has the potential to function as a climate mitigation mechanism
Improve and preserve water resources and enhance the watershed functions
Improves food security in the area and increase production
Create employment opportunities and assist in uplifting the local economy
Addresses the root causes of biodiversity losses and create a foundation for conservation
Minimizes further land degradation and shrinking of arable land
Improve the quality, quantity and the health of forest resources
Addresses growing demand for forest products and bio-energy
Provides a platform for greener development
Minimizes the waste of financial, human and natural resources
Complements associated programs carried out by International organizations.