Table Of ContentsNext Page


1.1 Highlights of social and economic situation

The estimated population of Sri Lanka in 1994 was 17.9 million with an annual growth rate of 1.4%. The GDP at constant 1982 factor cost price was Rs. 159.3 billion during 1994 and per capita GNP was US$ 652. The GDP growth rate during 1995 at constant 1982 factor cost price was 5.6%.

Table 1 - Composition and Growth Rate of GNP 1993 - 1995 (1982, constant) factor


Amount Rs Million

Growth Percentage






Agriculture Forestry and Fishing






























Other Agriculture Forestry & Fishing






The employment in forestry sector is estimated officially to be 171,000. However studies done during the forestry master plan review during 1995 revealed that the total employment in the forestry sector is around 330,000 which is almost double the official figure. The total employment in harvesting, transport and processing was estimated to be around 28,000 in 1995. The forestry sector contribution to the energy supply in Sri Lanka is also not duly recognized. The share of bio energy in the total energy consumption is around 67% of which around 85% is fuel wood. This means that fuel wood provides about 57% of the total energy supply.

According to official statistics the contribution of Forestry to the national economy in 1994 was 1.4% of the total gross domestic product. The true contribution to the economy is however much greater. The statistics fail altogether to account for the non-marketed production of sawn wood, fuel wood and various non-wood forest products and other informal value addition in the sector.

Sawn wood production was 514,000 m3 in 1993 which were used in various industries including construction, furniture.

1.2 Highlights of long term objectives and goals

The first forestry sector master plan which was formulated in 1986 was revised and a new forestry master plan was developed in 1995. As a part of this master plan formulation exercise, a new forest policy was also developed, and accepted by the government in mid 1995. Some of the future objectives and goals of the forestry sector are as follows:

· In the context of bio diversity conservation it is proposed to establish a protected area net work which is fully representative of forest eco systems, communities and species. This is to be supplemented by ex-situ conservation wherever necessary. In addition, it was also emphasized that these areas should be managed in such a way that benefits from protection also accrued to the rural people.

· In the context of production forests it proposed to create a permanent forest estate which will be categorized into various forest classes depending on the objectives of management. It is also proposed to develop and manage all the forest areas scientifically through appropriate forestry management plans with peoples participation wherever possible. Another main objective will be the development and management of agro forestry systems and improvement of wood production potential of existing home gardens by providing appropriate institutional and technical supporting services.

· Forest plantations will be managed as commercial ventures by establishing a "forest plantation profit centre". Partnerships will be built for the scientific management of the plantations with appropriate community based organizations or private sector. In addition degraded state lands will be leased out on a long term basis to the private sector for the development and management of forest plantations. In wood utilization, it is hoped to produce wood products competitively based on sustainable wood supply. It is also emphasized that forest industries based on the sustainable utilization of wood resources will be established, in order to enhance the contribution to economic development especially in the rural areas. In order to make the markets competitive, it is also proposed to allow free price formation of the raw material by removing the present monopoly on wood marketing from state areas enjoyed by the State Timber Corporation.

· The non wood forest resource base will be conserved both in in-situ and in ex-situ, making non wood forest production sustainable, mainly for the benefit of local people and rural industry. Rural industries based on non wood forest products from sustainable sources and efficient non wasteful production techniques will established. Wherever possible non wood forest products will be obtained through cultivation both in forest areas and in home gardens.

· In the fuel wood sector the main aim will be to provide adequate bio energy for rural people. It is also proposed to develop and improve existing technologies to increase the efficiency of energy use by household and fuel wood consuming industries. It is also envisaged to develop dendro thermal electricity on a pilot basis.

· In the context of human resource development, the main aim will be to have an adequate number of motivated, trained and capable forestry personnel engaged in resource conservation, management and utilization. In order to achieve the above, it is also proposed to build up high quality educational and training institutions which could fulfil the requirements of each forestry partner and strengthen the capacity of the institutions.

· The main objectives of forestry external support services will be the development of forestry partnerships for the establishment, management and conservation of all natural forests, forest plantations, agro forestry systems and other non forest tree resources. It is also emphasized that institutions concerned with extension and the delivery of support services effectively provide proper motivation, guidance, information and other support to different forestry partners.

· In order to provide technical information to achieve the above objectives it is envisaged to develop a long term research programme including a policy on research allocation, research agenda and a manpower and facility development plan. The above programme will be implemented through a National Forestry Research Network under the leadership of the already established national forestry research committee supported by appropriate technical research committees. Although the possibility of the establishment of a national forestry research institute will be explored, as an interim measure existing institutions will be strengthened.

1.3 Summary of Major Issues

The main economic linkages among the forestry sector and the other sectors of the economy are: with the house hold sector the labour force and the final demand for products; with the energy sector the supply of bio energy and the protection of catchment areas servicing hydro power generation; with agriculture, protection of soil and water supplies; and with industry the supply of wood and other forest based raw materials.

According to the official statistics the contribution of the forestry sector to the national economy in 1994 was around 1.4% of the total gross domestic product. The true contribution to the economy is however much greater. The official estimates concentrate on market oriented activities and do not even include them properly due to non availability of reliable statistics. The statistics fail altogether to account for the non marketed items such as fuel wood and other sawn wood consumed locally and non marketed quantities of various non wood forest products used by the villages living near natural forest areas. In addition forests also provide other tangible and intangible benefits. They contain most of the biodiversity and therefore serve a crucial ecological function. Forests also protect soil and water resources so that they make a positive contribution to agriculture and hydro power generation. In addition natural forests are important from the view point of recreation and aesthetic values.

Taking these facts into account, it is justifiable to say that the forestry sector's contribution to the national economy is grossly under estimated in the official statistics. A conservative estimate from the Forestry Master Plan study (1994-1995), revealed that the true contribution to the national economy is around 6% without all the intangible benefits. As a consequence to the under estimation of the contribution of the forestry sector, inadequate allocation of resources have been assigned for the development of the sector. In addition the most important issue is that the adverse social and economic impacts associated with deforestation and forest degradation may be under valued or may even go unnoticed because the sector's important functions are not fully accounted for.

Sri Lanka was almost entirely covered by natural forest until the turn of the century. Since that time the closed canopy natural forest cover has dwindled rapidly from about 80% until around 24% in 1994. In the light of the increasing demands placed upon the forestry sector, its diminished capacity to meet the forest needs of the people sustainably has become the major problem, which is being felt both at national and local level. The most serious consequences of deforestation and forest degradation are:

a) Reduction in biodiversity due to destruction of habitats of fauna and flora.

b) Irregular water flow, and drying up of natural springs and reduction in base flow of streams together with flash floods during rainy season.

c) Shortened lifespans of irrigation reservoirs and channels.

d) Loss of soil fertility associated with soil erosion which results in the reduction of agricultural productivity.

e) Widening gap between the demand and the supply for wood products resulting in rapidly increasing prices together with increasing imports of sawn wood and other wood products.

f) Scarcity of fuel wood in certain localities.

g) Contribution to green house gas emissions.

Thus it can be concluded that the overall impact of forest degradation and deforestation will result in the reduced well being of the present as well as future generations.

The web of factors contributing to deforestation and forest degradation is extensive and complex. Some of them are outside the forestry sector. The main one of the under line causes of the deforestation is poverty which is often associated with landlessness and a poor land-tenure system. Other causes of deforestation are large agriculture and human settlement projects, chena cultivation, unscientific harvesting of forest products and the conversion of the natural forest to other land uses. In a predominantly agricultural economy such as Sri Lanka, there is a strong link between population growth and deforestation. More food is needed to support the increasing population and agricultural production has been increased mainly by expanding the area under cultivation. Since most of the other cultivable land had already been used, natural forests have been cleared.

As a result of these constraints forest area per capita has declined from about 1.3 ha. in 1990 to less than 0.1 ha. in 1992. The remaining natural forests are placed under increasing pressure as the population keeps on growing and the resource base diminishing. Thus the competition for the cultivable lands will increase. Unless a comprehensive national land use policy is formulated and implemented, unplanned conversion of forest into other land uses will be continued.

The degradation of the forest resource is also closely linked to the demand for forest products such as timber, non wood forest products and fuel wood. Population increase combined with economic growth has resulted in higher demand for housing and business construction which has automatically increased the demand for wood. At the same time people's awareness of forestry related environmental issues has increased, which has caused acute conflicts between the desire for conservation and the pressures to produce and consume. Alongside these basic factors one can observe policy and institutional causes for deforestation. Inappropriate land use trends are partly the results of insecure tenure and the lack of explicit land use and forest policies with clearly defined development objectives and associated legislation. Agricultural development and settlement policies have been expansive in nature and they have been implemented without guidance from a national land use policy.

Practically all the forest lands have been vested in the central government but the government has been unable to extend effective control over all these land. At the same time the local villagers depending on the forest have practically no right to the land or its produce and no obligations. In this kind of environment, where rights and responsibilities are unequally and irrationally shared, the resources base will inevitably be "mined". As a whole, the policy and institutional environment and the allocation of resources have not supported sustainable, much less progressive, forestry development.

If the current trends are continued, the future will not alleviate the pressure on the forest resources, on contrary pressure can be expected to increase. It is estimated that the expanding population and economic growth will increase the demand for logs and poles from about 2.0 million M3 in 1995 to 2.7 million M3 in 2020. During the same period the requirement of biomass energy will increase from 9.0 to 9.7 million tons. The pressure placed upon the forest of Sri Lanka is immense. Industry wants sawn wood and other forest products, rural people requires fuel wood to meet their energy requirement, the growing population require land for agriculture while the environmentalists and other nature-concern people want to preserve the remaining natural forests.

Top Of PageNext Page