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27. Sri Lanka

Country data

Total land area (thousand ha)


Total forest area 1995(thousand ha)/% of total land


Total change in forest cover 1990-95 (thousand ha)/annual rate (%)


Population 1997/annual rate of change 1995-2000 (%)


Rural population 1997(%)


Gross Domestic Product (GDP per capita) 1995 US$


Source of data: FAO- State of the World’s Forest 1999

General information

Sri Lanka consists of a highland area in the south central part of the island, which rises to about 2500 m above sea level, and the lowland plains surrounding it. The climate is tropical and maritime. Three major climatic zones can be recognised based on the rainfall pattern: the wet zone (over 2500 mm/year); the intermediate zone (1900-2500 mm/year); and the dry zone (1250-1900 mm/year), which has a markedly seasonal rainfall regime and where dry conditions prevail from May to September. Mean annual temperatures vary from about 28 °C in the lowlands to 18 °C at around 2000 m. In the wet zone, the tropical rain forest is the original vegetation type with a gradual change in composition moving from the south-western lowlands to the central mountains, at elevations ranging from 1,000 to 1,800 m. The original vegetation is classified as “tropical highland rain forests”. At the still higher elevations, with lower temperatures and higher humidity, tropical mountain forests occur.

It is widely accepted in Sri Lanka that deforestation is one of the major environmental problems and that unless planned action is taken, the demands for various forestry products and services will outstrip the productive capacity of the remaining forest resources. Sri Lanka’s varied topography and tropical island conditions have given rise to extremely high levels of biological diversity and endemism. Sri Lanka has greater biodiversity than most Asian countries when measured per unit area. More than 3,650 species of flowering plants, 300 species of pteridophytes, about 400 birds, almost 100 mammals and more than 160 reptiles can be found in Sri Lanka. And 26% of the flowering plants, 76% of land snails, 60% of amphibians, and 49% of the reptiles are endemic to Sri Lanka.

The rate of plantation establishment per year has been in the range of 3,000 ha. In addition to plantation establishment, enrichment planting of degraded natural forests and protective planting by the Forest Department, village reforestation through selected farmers on a short-term 4 year lease agreement supported by payment of incentives was carried out under the Participatory Forestry Programme (PFP). The activities under the PFP programme were home garden development, raising of farmers’ wood lots, and miscellaneous planting. A new approach was launched in 1995 i.e. establishing forest plantations on barren state lands through long-term 30 years leases to private individuals and institutions.

The adaptation of new technology for forest mapping enables the preparation of 1:50,000-scale maps. The computerised forest inventory data base has enabled the preparation of five management plans for the main plantation species such as teak, pinus, eucalyptus, and mahogany. All plantations will be managed according to these management plans by 1998.

Since August 1994, the management of wildlife under the Department of Wildlife Conservation is no longer under the purview of the Ministry in charge of forest. A project supported by the Global Environmental Facility (GEF) is being implemented to upgrade the facilities of the Department of Wildlife Conservation. So at present, forestry and wildlife management are administered by two separate departments under two ministries. As the follow-up to the commitment to the International Convention on Biodiversity, a Biodiversity Action Plan is being prepared.

Forest land use

To ensure sustainable use of forests and related aspects, strategies to promote sustainable land use for forestry have been drawn up. The logging ban, which was enforced in 1990, is still in effect. Harvesting is done in forest plantations of mainly eucalyptus, mahagony, and pinus.

In regard to forestland use, the state forestland will be classified into the following categories based on the relevant management objectives as follows: a) Class I: these forests are conserved and preserved to protect biodiversity, soils and water and historical, cultural, religious and aesthetic values; only non extraction uses, such as research and recreation, are allowed in these areas; b) Class II: non extraction uses, such as scientific research, protection of watersheds and habitats of wildlife and regulated nature-based tourism, are allowed, and collection of NWFPs and firewood by local people living adjacent to forests is also permitted; the broad management objectives of Class II would be the same as in Class I; c) Class III: these forests are to be managed for multiple use production purposes for sustainable production of wood for the national needs and NWFPs for the benefit of adjacent communities; d) Class IV: these forests consist of forest plantations and agroforestry systems in state lands for production of wood and NWFPs by the state and non state sectors, including deforested and degraded state lands suitable for plantation forestry and agroforestry development.

Forest resources

According to the Government Statistics, the dense natural forest cover represents around 23.9% of the land area of the country; if the sparse forests are included, it becomes 30.9%s. The total forest plantation areas covered around 135,000 ha in 1998, of which teak, mahagony, eucalyptus, Acassia auriculiformis and Pinus caribaea were the main species.

During the dry periods, occasional forest fires cause significant damage to forest plantations. The occurrence of fires in natural forests is very rare. Records are kept of no diseases that cause damage to forest trees.

The total area of protection forests (conservation forests), which are managed by the Forest Department and Department of Wildlife Conservation, is around 271,000 ha.

Policy and planning

The First Forestry Master Plan (FMP) was prepared during 1983-86 by the Forestry Planning Unit of the Ministry of Lands & Land Development under the Forest Resources Development Project funded by FINNIDA and IDA of the World Bank. It was a product of its time and was a classic investment programme. However, this was the first meaningful step taken towards providing a coherent, comprehensive long-term framework for the development of the sector. As a result of the justified criticisms made towards the FMP, an environmental component was added to the five-year investment programme.

In order to implement the FMP, a project called the Forest Sector Development Project (FSDP), co-financed by the World Bank, FINNIDA, ODA, and UNDP\FAO, was launched in 1990. Because of its comprehensiveness, this project can be regarded as a landmark project in Sri Lanka’s forestry sector. It has been the key vehicle in implementing the FMP. The revision of the FMP was included as one of its project components. The main components of the FSDP were:

· Environmental management in forestry development;

· Forest Management;

· Plantation establishment and maintenance;

· Forestry education and training;

· Research and information; and

· Institutional development.

The inclusion of the environmental management component in the FSDP was a significant milestone in this country’s forestry development. This enabled the setting up of two environmental management units in the ministry and the Forest Department (FD). The environmental management unit set up in the FD initiated the National Conservation Review (NCR) for making a hydrological and bio-diversity appraisal of all the major natural ecosystems in the country. The NCR, which at present is nearing completion, is an attempt to identify the minimum conservation area network in which the biological diversity of the country’s forests is fully represented. Based on the results of the NCR, 13,000 ha of wet zone forests have been set aside for conservation and the management plans for these areas are being formulated. The work done in this regard has also helped to establish a comprehensive environmental database, covering both fauna and flora. The FSDP was successfully concluded in 1996.

The revision of the Forestry Master Plan, which was called the Second Forestry Master Plan, commenced in July 1993 with assistance from FINNIDA. Although only a revision was envisaged at the beginning, due to the deficiencies of the first FMP, and the fact that more detailed work had to be completed and also on the present emphasis on the “sector”, the final output of this exercise can be regarded as the preparation of a Forestry Sector Master Plan (FSMP).

This plan, accepted in July 1995, is the result of a national exercise carried out jointly by senior staff and also including numerous NGOs. This can be cited as one of the rare examples of a successful joint effort in support of strategic planning, where the officials of the Ministry in charge of forestry, the Forest Department, NGOs, and other relevant agencies were fully involved in its preparation.

The first FMP was a classic investment plan. In contrast the Second FSMP is a policy, strategy, and programme-oriented plan. The National Forestry Policy (NFP) forms the foundation of the Second FSMP.

The main objective was to prepare a comprehensive long-term development framework which, when implemented, will ensure that the forestry sector can provide environmental services and various forestry products to meet the needs of the people and also contribute, in a sustainable way, to the nation’s economic and social development. The Plan covers the period 1995-2020.

The immediate outputs of the Master Plan can be summarised as follows:

· a comprehensive, NFP Proposal to reflect the present and foreseeable development priorities to provide the basis for legislative reform and guide the development efforts;

· a feasible long-term action plan and strategy for the implementation of the NFP;

· ten development programmes outlining immediate-, short-, medium-, and long-term actions, and providing a clear framework for detailed formulation and implementation of projects;

· development of organisational and institutional frameworks for successful implementation of development programmes;

· the setting up of a database to facilitate future planning efforts; and

· institutionalisation of long-term sectoral planning capabilities within the relevant Government agencies.

The FSMP development programmes have been divided into two categories: development programmes which will deal with bio-physical, technical, social, economic, and environmental aspects of forests and land resource management for the production of various outputs; and institutional support programmes which strengthen the sector’s capacity to make the best use of available basic resources.

One of the most important items under the FSMP is the formulation of a NFP for Sri Lanka. An NFP has been drawn up to provide clear directions for development. It reflects consultations lasting for almost a year, involving the Ministry in charge of forestry, the FD, other key Government agencies, universities, research institutes, NGO representatives, and the general public.

The key areas of emphasis in the policy adopted in March 1995 by the Government are: a) high priority on conservation of biodiversity and soil and water resources; b) empowering local people and communities in the management and protection of forests, mainly for their own benefit; c) building partnerships with local people, communities, NGOs and the private sector in all forestry development activities, including the management of natural forests and protected areas; d) the establishment and management of industrial forest plantations on the State lands will be entrusted progressively to the private sector; and e) developing home gardens and other agroforestry systems as a main strategy for meeting the increasing subsistence and industrial demand for wood.

The focus of the policy is on forestry in a broad sense. Forestry covers biophysical components such as land and biological resources found in natural forests, forest plantations and tree crops such as home gardens outside the forest; environmental components like those concerned with the conservation of wildlife and bio-diversity, soils and water supplies, and the mitigation of atmospheric pollution and global warming; socio-political components such as those concerned with or having a stake in policy making, legislation, administration, management, utilisation, and other operations concerning the biophysical resources; and economic components such as those concerned with the production, processing, marketing, and utilisation of forest products.

The policy acknowledges concern for safeguarding the remaining natural forests for posterity to conserve bio-diversity, soil, and water resources. It also emphasises the importance of retaining the current natural forest cover and increasing the overall tree cover. A large part of the forests should be completely protected for the conservation of biodiversity, soil, and water. Multiple-use forestry is to be promoted. The natural forests outside of the protected area system should be used sustainably to provide for the growing demand for bio-energy, wood and non-wood forest products, and various services, especially for the benefit of the rural population, with due attention to environmental concerns.

The policy recognises that home gardens and other agro-forestry systems and trees on other non-forest land, have a crucial role in supplying timber, biomass energy, and non-wood forest products. It recognises that the State alone, or its Forest Department, cannot protect and manage the forests effectively. People’s participation in forestry development and conservation are to be promoted. The policy emphasises the need to develop partnerships with local people, communities, NGOs, and the private sector. The proposed policy aims at broadening the institutional framework for forest management, with clearly defined roles and responsibilities for the various partners. Farmers, community organisations, NGOs, and small and medium-scale commercial enterprises should all have a role in activities such as protecting the forests and growing trees to meet household needs, supplying raw material for wood-based industries, harvesting, transporting, processing, and distribution of various forest products.

An important new trend, which has arisen since the early ‘80s in the forestry sector, is the recognition of the need for people’s participation in forestry activities for sustainable development. Programmes underway emphasise people’s participation in tree planting on leased State land, private land, and the establishment of nurseries. Sri Lanka also participated in the Training of Trainers Programme on Gender Analysis and Forestry in Asia, which resulted in qualified national trainers in this important dimension of planning and programme/project formulation.

A National Conservation Strategy (NCS) has been prepared by a special task force. The NCS identifies constraints to conservation and lays out a plan of action to remove them. It also provides guidelines for the implementation and monitoring of the action plan. The NCS includes directions for the establishment of a comprehensive system of protected areas and in the forestry sector, for the identification of forests for protection by the State.

A National Environmental Action Programme (NEAP) was prepared by the Ministry of Environment and Parliamentary Affairs and is the first comprehensive document regarding environmental planning in the country. The National Environmental Steering Committee and NGO’s were involved in the formulation of the NEAP.

Institutional linkages have been established between the Government agencies concerned with forestry development (FD, Department of Wildlife Conservation, State Timber Corporation/STC etc. and the Ministry of Power). These linkages will strengthen progress in wood energy development.

In the Plan, the programmes have been separated into two categories: development programmes which deal with the bio physical, technical, social, economic, and environmental aspects of forests and land resource management for the production of various outputs; and institutional support programmes which strengthen the sector’s capacity to make the best use of available basic resources.

The FSMP development programmes are not ready for implementation as such, but priorities between various development programmes and proposed activities have to be set and detailed programmes/projects have to be developed before implementation can start. An Identification Mission was launched in 1995 to identify key programmes for implementation during the next five years. The Identification Mission took into account the short- and medium-term development strategies suggested in the FSMP and came up with components and activities that are very crucial to the development of the sector.

The Indicative Five Year Implementation Programme is not a comprehensive document, and hence the preparation of a detailed Five Year Implementation Programme (FYIP) has to be prepared, which was initiated in 1997. The FYIP highlighted the need for expediting the legislative reforms, including the drafting of regulations, and institutional re-orientation and strengthening of forestry institutions. The aim of the FYIP is to develop and conserve forests and enhance the forest sector contribution to the welfare of the rural population and the national economy with particular attention to equity and economic development. A Project Preparation Team (PPT) comprising senior officials of the Ministry in charge of forestry, the Forestry Department, a few internationals, and national consultants was involved in the preparation of the FYIP.

As in the case of the preparation of the FSMP, a participatory process was followed where all the stakeholders were given a chance to be involved in the exercise. A large number of workshops, discussions and meetings were held to discuss the programme components and the various activities.

The purpose of the FYIP is to conserve forests and enhance the forest sector’s contribution to the welfare of the rural population and the national economy with attention to equity and economic development. The component and activities of the FYIP are as follows:

· Forest conservation

* Development of institutional capacity, legislative capacity, and legislative framework for management planning.

* Establishing and management of an effective protected area system.

* Systems to monitor biodiversity, and soils and water development.

· Forest land allocation and macro-level zoning

* Establishment of a categorisation system.

* Identification and allocation of all forest land.

* Survey and demarcation of priority forest land.

· Commercial plantation development

* Management of existing plantations improved.

* New commercial plantations established.

* Creation of suitable environment for non-state sector involvement in commercial forestry.

· Multiple-use management of natural forests

* Improvement of institutional capacity for forest management planning

* Development of participatory forest management planning procedures and management systems.

* Forest management plans prepared and implemented.

· Social forestry/agro-forestry and extension

* Provision of effective extension service.

* Identification and mapping of suitable land for social forestry.

* Development sustainable models for social forestry developed and replication at a larger scale.

* Forest management plans prepared and implemented.

· Forest base industry development

* Promotion of use of new forest products.

* Increased private sector involvement in forest based industries.

* Creation of a favourable business environment.

· Institutional development

* Formulate, enact, and enforce legislation and regulations.

* Necessary institutional arrangements developed for implementing the investment programme.

The total cost of the FYIP is approximately US$ 33 million. The major cost of the programme is concentrated in the Forest Land Allocation and Macro-level Zoning Component, accounting for 58% of the total programme costs.

The FYIP was presented to all donor agencies, who have shown an interest in assisting the forestry sector. Several donors have shown interest, but no firm commitments have been made. The FSMP and the NFP was prepared in 1995, and the FYIP in 1997. It is important that the activities recommended in the FYIP be implemented without delay, as they are very crucial for the continuation of the development efforts made over the years.

Legislation and institution

As highlighted in the FSMP, the need for legislative and institutional reforms required for the smooth implementation of the NFP and the FSMP was given priority by the Ministry.

Necessary arrangements were made to revise the current Forestry ordinance, taking into account the current needs of the sector. The new forestry legislation is due to be forwarded for government approval shortly.

The need for continued legislative and institutional changes was also highlighted in the FYIP. The component on Institutional Development included in the FYIP is expected to deal with the necessary changes.

A new Ministry incorporating forestry and environment was created in 1994. The Forest Department, State Timber Corporation and the Central Environmental Authority operates under this Ministry. A proposal to decentralise the activities of the Forest Department through the establishment of 4 regional offices has been agreed upon in principle. Each regional office will be headed by a Deputy Conservator of Forests.

One of the main constraints of the research division of the Department was the lack of human resources. The scope of activities will be broadened to include environmental forestry, forest ecology and allied subjects, agroforestry, participatory forestry and forest management.

Awareness among NGOs, CBOs and the general public concerning the important role of forests for human wellbeing has been improving. ADB and AusAid have provided support in this matter. In addition, various programmes and strategies have been developed to involve non-government sectors as partners in the forest management and development. In this respect, several pilot projects have been implemented using the joint forest management and community/social forestry schemes.

Collaboration with partners and international agreements

a) Biological Diversity

The convention was ratified in 1994. The Ministry of Forestry and Environment is the focal point for biological diversity. The framework and the first national report were completed in 1988 and the preparation of a strategy for the biodiversity action plan was completed in 1995.

b) Combat Desertification

The convention was ratified in 1999. The Natural Resources Management Unit of the Ministry of Forestry and Environment is the focal point for the preparation of the National Action Plan and the First National Report is in progress.

c) Climate change

The convention was ratified in 1993. The Secretariat of the Ministry of Environment is the focal point. A study on climate change supported by ADB was completed in 1997.

d) Montreal protocol

The protocol was ratified in 1999. The focal point is the same as the focal point for the Climate Change Convention.

e) Wetland conservation

The Department of Wildlife Conservation is the focal point. The preparation of the National Wetland Strategy and wetland site reports for more than 30 sites have been finalised. A National Atlas was prepared in 2000. Bundala and Lunama Kalamatiya were declared as Ramsar Sites

f) Migratory species

The Department of Wildlife Conservation is the focal point.

g) Conservation of world cultural natural heritage

The Forest Department and the Department of Archaeology are the focal points. Five sites have been declared as cultural sites and one site (Sinharaja) was declared as natural site.

h) International trade in endangered species (CITES)

The Department of Wildlife Conservation is the focal point for the convention. The National Wildlife Conservation policy is being amended incorporating the legal bindings under the CITES convention. The Department is also the scientific and administrative authority for CITES and inspects, monitors and evaluates the import and export of fauna and flora species listed under appendices I to III of the convention.

Focal point
B. Bulumulla
Additional Secretary (Forestry and Administration
Ministry of Forestry and Environment
82, Rajamalwatta Road
Battaramulla, Sri Lanka
Tel: 94-1-863652
Fax: 94-1-866656


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