President Gotabaya Rajapaksa today instructed to temporarily suspend road development work taking place in the Sinharaja forest.
The Road Development Authority said the directive was issued after a complaint was filed by the Centre for Environmental and Nature Studies of Sri Lanka (CENS) in this regard.
The CENS had filed a complaint with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) on the illegal construction inside the Sinharaja World Heritage Site.
In a letter to UNESCO, the National Coordinator for CENS Ravindra Kariyawasam said the road construction work goes on buffer zone and inside the Sinharaja world heritage site in the Lankagama area to Deniyaya.
The construction commenced on 10 August by engineering personnel from the Sri Lanka Army on behalf of the Sri Lankan government.
It is reportedly a project that was launched in 2013 which was halted by UNESCO in the same year following a complaint filed by the CENS.
Despite a group of environmentalists informing the Sri Lanka Forest Department, the President, the Ministry of Environment, and the Central Environment authority, no action has been taken as yet to suspend the construction, he said.
The Sinharaja Forest Reserve is the unique remaining virgin tropical rainforest in Sri Lanka. It is of international significance and has been designated as a Biosphere Reserve and World Heritage Site by UNESCO. The hilly virgin rainforest, part of the Sri Lanka lowland rain forests ecoregion, was saved from the worst commercial logging by its inaccessibility and was designated as a World Biosphere Reserve in 1978 and a World Heritage Site in 1989.
According to IUCN’s Conservation Outlook Assessment (2017) the conservation status of the Sinharaja Forest Reserve is of ‘significant concern’. The IUCN report notes that ‘The value of Sinharaja as a natural world heritage site continues to be recognized by the discovery of several endemic species of plants and animals since the declaration of this forest as a world heritage in 1988. Some of the recent discoveries include several species of herpetofauna that are restricted to the eastern region of Sinharaja, Kariyawasam said.
Ravindra Kariyawasam further called on UNESCO to initiate action against the illegal road construction in the Sinharaja Forest and help the CENS protect the virgin forest land in Sri Lanka. (Colombo Gazette)