Recent Trends in the Forestry Sector of Sri Lanka

Mr  H  M  Bandaratillake
Director, Forest Resources Management Project
Ministry of Environment & Natural Resources

The forest cover in Sri Lanka has been continuously declining during the last several decades.  The forest cover which was around 44% of the land area in 1956 had declined to 23.9% in 1992 and 22% at present.  It has been widely accepted that this rate of deforestation has caused one of the main environmental and social problems in the country.  Although, successive governments have taken many steps to conserve forests and to introduce laws and regulations to control deforestation, the problem was aggravating from year to year without effective solutions, mainly due to the conflicting demands placed on forest resources.

In view of this situation, the National Forest Policy was revised and Forestry Sector Master Plan  (FSMP) was formulated and approved by the government in 1995.  The Forestry Sector Master Plan (FSMP) which was based on the National Forest Policy, provides the framework for developing partnerships with non state sector for promoting community and private sector participation in forest conservation and development. FSMP also provide a guiding framework to introduce new policies and to carryout legislative, administrative and institutional reforms required.

The Forest Resources Management Project (FRMP) which is scheduled to implement during 2001- 2007 is the first implementation programme of the FSMP. The overall objective of the FRMP is to establish and operationalise participatory sustainable forest resources management for increasing forest protection and production. With the implementation of  FRMP, number of new strategies and programmes have been introduced to the forestry sector in order to achieve the objectives of sustainable forest management.  Some of these strategies include;  private sector re-forestation and management, woodlot development, establishment of Permanent Forest Estate, Re-organisation of the Forest Department, Amendments to the Forest Ordinance, Private sector harvesting of forest plantation and development of nature tourism etc,.  Legal provisions including mechanisms for benefit sharing have been provided to facilitate the effective implementation of these programmes.

Theme Seminar Presented at Forestry and Environment Symposium 2005, Organized by Department of Forestry and Environment Science, University of Sri Jayewardenepura, December 2005, Thulhiriya, Sri Lanka