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NGOs against implementation of taxes on imported timber

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By Divya Thotawatte 

Increasing taxes implemented on the imports of timber will result in harming the environment of Sri Lanka while destroying its natural resources, said Wanaspathi Nature team, a Non-Governmental Organisation.

Addressing a press conference, Wanaspathi Nature Team President Indrajith Perera stated: “Most initiatives that are being taken today harm the environment. We believe in developing the country and its economy, but when carrying out initiatives, it is necessary to implement them in a manner which has a very minimalistic impact on the environment.

“When the tax on timber imports is increased, the price of the imported timber will correspondingly rise and that will impact the environment of Sri Lanka because then the demand for local timber will also increase. It is our duty to see that we take every move to minimise deforestation by lessening the demand for local timber.” 

He said facilities for timber importers should increase because if the price of imported timber went down, it would benefit Sri Lanka by helping to safeguard its forests. He added that most countries that harvest timber similarly work on commercial forests to lessen the impact of deforestation, but since such a strategy was not taking place in Sri Lanka, the country had been facing many problems.  

“Disaster management is better but disaster prevention and mitigation is even better, because the subsidies given at a time of disaster is the money of people. Therefore it’s better to prevent deforestation than to give subsidies after the forests are gone. When implementing development schemes the officials should give priority to its effects on the environment of the country. We should not increase the demand for the country’s natural resources, and especially deforestation has adverse impacts on nature, the climate and on wildlife as well,” he added. 

Environmentalist and Environmental Conservation Trust Director Sajeewa Chamikara stated that the upcoming Budget would make matters worse by increasing the taxes on imported timber. Chamikara claimed that although Government officials say that the ratio of the country’s green area is higher, it is not so. “Although our green area remains at about 25%, the natural forest cover has reduced by 16-17%,” he stated.  

He said that in districts such as Anuradhapura, Galle, Matara, Kalutara, Ratnapura, Hambantota and Monaragala, timber harvesting, especially in domestic fields and privately-owned lands, has shown a steep increase.

Sri Lanka Rainforest Protectors Convener Jayantha Wijesinghe addressing the press conference said: “There are 14 large contiguous forests around Sinharaja rainforest and we have made a proposal to the Department of Forest Conservation to attach these contiguous forests to the main forest and name and protect them as a part of Sinharaja rainforest.” 

Wijeysinghe claimed that no action had been taken to date and that timber harvesting was increasingly taking place in these large contiguous forests.

Pix by Lasantha Kumara 


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