Developing the 2021-2030 Forestry Sector Master Plan of Sri Lanka
The framework to guide the forestry sector in the challenging decade ahead
9 September 2021, Colombo, Sri Lanka: With one of the highest population densities in the world, the demand for land in Sri Lanka has increased exponentially over the years. This and other drivers of deforestation have contributed to the depletion of forests in this island nation. The focus on sustaining forests in Sri Lanka has also evolved over the years. The Sri Lanka Forestry Master Plan prepared in 1983-1986 is considered one of the first such comprehensive plans that were produced for the forestry sector globally.
This master plan was thereafter replaced by a new Forestry Sector Master Plan (FSMP) for 1995-2020 that categorised forestry as a sector, which has many dimensions – not only timber as previously envisaged. While
addressing the need to conserve forest-based ecosystems and safeguard the island’s rich biodiversity, the new plan also introduced the concept of community participation in forest management to Sri Lanka. With this, the Forest Policy in Sri Lanka was also updated in 1995. However, ground realities in Sri Lanka as well as at a global level have now changed, and there is a need to re-focus and update the existing FSMP to ensure that a clear and relevant guideline exists to conserve and sustainably manage existing forests.
To this end, the Forest Department with support from the Ecosystem Conservation and Management Project (ESCAMP) of the World Bank, is now beginning the process of developing the 2021-2030 Forestry Sector Master Plan that would provide guidance and resources to the sector. This new Forestry Sector Master Plan, which would be developed with the input of all the main stakeholders, would address current issues such as climate change adaptation and resilience, sustainable forest management, restoration of forest landscapes, support to communities and community forest management, valuation of ecosystem services, setting parameters for
ecotourism, biodiversity enhancement, pandemic recovery, and so on.
To announce the development of the new FSMP and highlight the way forward, a virtual event was held this morning by the Forest Department in collaboration with the Ministry of Wildlife and Forest Conservation under the patronage of the Secretary of the Ministry. This launch event was attended by over 150 distinguished invitees representing academia, private sector, civil society organisations, NGOs, UN and other agencies as well as the general public. Speaking at this high-level forum on the significance of the ‘2021-2030 Forestry Sector Master Plan’ in bringing about change in the forestry sector, Secretary of the Ministry of Wildlife and Forest Conservation Mr. Somarathne Vidanapathirana stated, “The Forestry Sector Master Plan’s aim is to identify the strategic direction that should be taken and facilitate the implementation of existing and new national forest policies, institutional, and investment programs in the forestry sector of Sri Lanka while considering current trends and scenarios.”
Presenting the process that would be followed to develop the new Forestry Sector Master Plan, Conservator General of Forests, Dr Bandara stated, “A comprehensive survey would take place among key stakeholders to understand forestry sector challenges and needs, Working groups including technical experts would be formed and national workshops conducted while public comments would also be considered when drawing up the new FSMP.” He went on to inform the participants that the new Forestry Sector Master Plan would be providing the strategies and resources to modernize the Forest Department’s capacity, embrace a landscape management approach to sustainably manage land with a view to reduce stress on sensitive ecosystems in Sri Lanka, and benefit the local communities.
The World Bank’s Country Manager for the Maldives and Sri Lanka Ms Chiyo Kanda described a new global approach for development that allows an opportunity to support Green, Resilient, and Inclusive Development (GRID). It tackles poverty and inequality which have been negatively impacted by COVID-19 while addressing the longer-term challenge of Climate Change. She said that “The World Bank understands the important role of forests in supporting the rural poor and Sri Lanka’s economy, and fully supports the development of this new strategy. It will include new paradigms in managing Sri Lanka’s forests and better conserving and restoring forest landscapes, which will enhance human well-being and serve the needs of the economy.”
Speaking on the need to have a dynamic plan to overcome ground-level forestry sector challenges, State Sectory of the Ministry of Wildlife and Forest Conservation Mr. Palitha Fernando stated, “There’s a need to find ways to support forest-dependent communities in such a way that they become good stewards of surrounding forests. While community-centric forest management is proving to be effective in many parts of the world, this concept has now become entrenched in Sri Lanka also. I am glad that these issues would be addressed by the new Forestry Sector Master Plan. ”
The new Forestry Sector Master Plan will be a macro-level plan, including a detailed approach to the investment programs which would cover the first 5 years of the FSMP. The proposed development objective of the Forestry Sector Master Plan is to identify a strategic direction in line with current trends and facilitate the implementation of existing and new national forest policies,as well as institutional and investment plans in Sri Lanka’s forestry sector.
The Forest Department: The Forest Department’s mission is to conserve and develop national forest resources ensuring the prosperity of the nation. The Forest Department, along with the Department of Wildlife Conversation, is the implementing agency of the Ecosystem Conservation and Management Project (ESCAMP). ESCAMP’ aim is to support the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) in the conservation of the country’s natural resources, particularly forestry and wildlife resources, and ensure the sustainability of the national development process.