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Environmentalists protest against road construction in Sinharaja Forest

The government has given the green light for this road to be cut through the pristine UNESCO protected Sinharaja Rainforest

ECONOMYNEXT – The Centre for Environment and Nature Studies (CENS) in Sri Lanka, is protesting against the construction of a road in the buffer zone and inside the Sinharaja World Heritage Site.

In a letter sent to UNESCO headquarters, Ravindra Kariyawasam of CENS says construction of the road by Sri Lanka Army Engineers has commenced on August 10.

The road building is taking place from Lankagama to Deniyaya and has been ordered by the government of Sri Lanka, he says.

This is the same road that they started to build through Sinharaja in 2013, says.

“A complaint has been sent to UNESCO world heritage office in 2013 and it has been stopped at that time,” he notes.

A group of environmentalists have informed the Sri Lanka Forest Department, the President of Sri Lanka, Ministry of Environment and the Central for Environment Authority.

“But they never take action to stop the road construction,” Kariyawasam alleged.

Another group called Rainforest Protectors visited the construction site. Its Convener Jayantha Wijesinghe

In a letter to the President and to UNESCO  they said that the “most disturbing part here is the part (of the road) that runs around one and a half kilometre through the world heritage Sinharaja rain forest. People in the area say that this is how they will be built and concrete in the area.”

The Sinharaja Forest Reserve is a 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.

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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 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.” (Colombo, August 17, 2020)

Reported by Arjuna Ranawana