Making the latest revelation in the series of forest destruction countrywide, opposition MP Rohini Kaviratne said that 22.668 hectares of forest land in the Central province including 1802 hectares in Matele District are now under the threat of the devastation of illicit timber dealers.
Centre for Environmental Justice has already sent a letter of demand to the Secretary of the Ministry of Environment demanding him to protect the 5/2001 circular which brought residual forest/other forests under the protection of the Forest Department.
At the moment there is a huge pressure by certain parties to cancel this circular and return those forests back to the full control of the District Secretaries and Divisional Secretaries.
Attempts to abolish a circular limiting arbitrary allocation of other forest lands have stirred up public outcry with environmentalists leading the campaign.
According to circular 5/2001, any allocation of other forest lands for development activities requires the approval of a special review board.
Forestlands that have not been protected under a parliamentary act are classified as other forest lands.
If the circular is revoked, district secretaries and divisional secretaries will be empowered to make decisions regarding these other forests.
“They have prepared to hand over these lands to five multinational companies,” Ven. Pahiyangala Ananda Sagara Thero, the President of the Surakimu Sri Lanka movement said.
He claimed that the government is planning to hand over 500,000 acres of other forest lands to multinational companies by abolishing the gazette.
Other environmentalists claim the move is linked to the proposed US Millenium Challenge Corporation agreement, and debt obtained from China.
“They are preparing to commercialize these lands by opening them up to the market,” Sajeewa Chamikara, an environmentalist said.