- Wildlife Ministry issues circular to empower District/Divisional Secretaries; move opposed by environmental groups
- Circular based on Cabinet decision taken in July
By Chandani Kirinde
The Ministry of Wildlife and Forest Conservation has issued a circular to give District and Divisional Secretaries authority to transfer ‘other State forests’ for economic purposes, a move that is strongly opposed by environmental groups who fear the move would lead to wide deforestation.
The circular was issued last Wednesday by Secretary to the Ministry Bandula Harischandra in keeping with a Cabinet decision taken in July to revoke Circular No.05/2001 dated 10.8.2001 issued by the then Secretary to the then Ministry of Wildlife and Environment which brought the lands under the Forest Conservation Department.
The Government says farmers engaged in chena cultivation in the said ‘other State forests’ have encountered severe hardships since a lengthy procedure has to be followed when using such lands in keeping with the 2001 Circular which has resulted in an impediment to the use of such lands for economically productive purposes.
Based on this, the Ministry of Environment and Wildlife Resources has revoked the previous circular to transfer powers to the District Secretaries/Divisional Secretaries, enabling the use of the ‘other State forests’ temporarily for any other purposes while retaining the ownership of the said lands with the Government, without causing harm to the forest environment and wildlife.
Prior to 2001, District/Divisional Secretaries had such powers but they were revoked amidst allegations of abuses when transferring such land.
The new circular details the lands that can be given for economic purposes and say the transfer of land should ensure that areas which are identified as ecologically sensitive are protected.