The United National Party (UNP) has sought the intervention of the United Nations (UN) to protect the Sinharaja forest.
A letter addressed to UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres in this regard, was handed over to the UN Resident Coordinator by UNP Deputy Leader Ruwan Wijewardena today.
It was handed over after the party had staged a demonstration outside the United Nation’s compound in Colombo this morning.
In the letter, the UNP pointed out that it was essential to consider the urgent need to protect the natural environment of Sri Lanka, while acknowledging the importance of forest cover and the contribution made to the natural resources.
The Sinharaja forest was declared in 1978 as a Rainforest Reserve Area, by the late President J.R. Jayawardene. In 1988 the National Heritage Wilderness Areas Act was introduced, and the Sinharaja rainforest, which was the original tropical rainforest, was brought under the said Act. Following the introduction of the Act an area of 7,848.2 hectares with a further proposed area of 2,772 hectares was declared protected. By 1992 the protected areas including the adjoining forest area was increased to 11,178 hectares, it said.
The UNP said according to Section 4 (1) (a) of the National Heritage Wilderness Areas Act “no person shall; in a National Heritage Wilderness Area, cut, mark, lop, girdle, saw, convert, collect, or remove any plant, tree or any part thereof or other forest produce”. It further provided that if anyone was found to be acting in contradiction to the above would face criminal proceedings.
The binding articles of the UNESCO Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, to which Sri Lanka is a signatory, states “each State party to this convention undertakes not to take any deliberate measure which might damage directly or indirectly cultural and natural heritage.”
Accordingly, it can be seen that the protection of the environment is not only covered by the laws of Sri Lanka but also guided by the principles of international agreements and undertakings, the UNP said.
The UNP pointed out that Sri Lanka has in furtherance of the UN Goals to protect the environment, reduce carbon emissions and preserve the natural resources entered into international agreements under the Stockholm Agreement, the Rio +20 Conference, the Kyoto Protocols, the Paris Climate Agreement, the Rio Forest Principles and the UN Forum on Forests.
All these bodies are setup under the United Nations, in order to protect the planet and its inhabitants.
Plans are afoot to build two reservoirs within the Sinharaja Rainforest area, which is a protected area under both the local laws and the international obligations. A breach will amount to a criminal offense and a contravention of the international undertaking, the UNP said.
The United National Party has requested the United Nations Secretary General to ensure that he and his agencies will not permit such a breach. (Colombo Gazette)