Cultivating on forest land invites environmental catastrophe – CEJ

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The country is heading towards another environmental catastrophe due to the efforts to hand over forests land for cultivation in a bid to overcome the food crisis, the Centre for Environmental Justice (CEJ) observed.

Executive Director of CEJ, Dilena Pathragoda noted that officials are attempting to justify the use of forest land for cultivation, whereas this could be a threat to such land while noting that there are abundant lands which are not forest lands that could be used for cultivation.

Pathragoda made this statement in response to the instructions given by the Minister of Agriculture Mahinda Amaraweera to officials to conduct a joint comprehensive survey of the lands under the Department of Forest Conservation that can be used for cultivation in the Trincomalee District.

Amaraweera noted that certain regional secretaries have complained that a majority of the lands in the area have been marked as forest conservation lands, so the farmers have faced several issues due to a shortage of land for cultivation.

He said, thereby in accordance with the decision of the Government to use all cultivable land for cultivation, such lands under the Department of Forest Conservation can be handed over, following a special joint public investigation conducted regarding such land.

Accordingly, Amaraweera instructed the Secretary of the Ministry of Wildlife and Forest Conservation Chandra Herath to take steps to conduct a joint public investigation of the forest conservation lands that can be used for cultivation in the Trincomalee District. Thereby a committee comprising representatives from the area’s agriculture, wildlife, forestry sectors together with residents from the area, will be appointed chaired by the Trincomalee District Secretary.

He noted that no new land will be given for cultivation to any person who requests more land without cultivating the land on which he resides.

Pathragoda thereby said if the objective is to provide land for cultivation purpose, officials should focus on using other abundant land as opposed to forest land.

By Faadhila Thassim

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