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UNP’s Green Declaration proposes stringent laws to protect Sri Lanka’s environment

The UNP party headquarters in Pitakotte/EconomyNext

ECONOMYNEXT – The United National Party (UNP) issued a Green Declaration today, proposing amendments to Sri Lanka’s Forest Ordinance and the National Wilderness Heritage Act of 1988 among other measures to protect the environment.

Presenting the declaration to the media today, UNP Deputy Leader Ruwan Wijewardene said the initiative aims to “bring about solid legislature to protect our environment and sustainable economic development”. The party looks forward to sharing ideas with stakeholders and other interested parties, he said.

The declaration states that the UNP’s priority is the protection of the Sinharaja rainforest reserve, which the party claims is threatened by actions of the present government. The announcement follows a written request by Wijeardene to United Nations Secretary General António Guterres on Monday (05) to ensure that Sri Lanka does not go ahead with a controversial proposal to construct two reservoirs inside Sinharaja.

The UNP is currently not represented in Sri Lanka’s parliament, with the party yet to nominate an MP for the one seat it occupies in the legislature following its defeat at the August 2020 parliamentary polls.

States the Green Declaration: “The existing laws in the country must be enforced, and through them further deforestation and destruction to the environment will be halted. The campaign should not end here. We must go on to build a consensus on a new framework to give effect to the Paris Climate Agreement. These should include protecting the Carbon Sink.”

In addition to strengthening the Forest Ordinance as well as amending the National Wilderness Heritage Act to enable court action to prevent the contravention of provisions therein, the declaration proposes special legislation to also cover the Knuckles Range and the Peak Wilderness Protected Area of Sripada (Adam’s Peak).

“It is proposed that stronger laws be introduced to safeguard and increase forest cover as well as tree cover. This can be accomplished by amending the Forest Ordinance, based on the Forest Law Act of 1991 (Switzerland), the Karnataka Preservation of Trees Act of 1976 (India), the Town and Country Planning (Tree Preservation Regulation) Act (England) and the Tree protection laws adopted by the State Parliaments of Australia. A program to promote mini-forests- 1/2 acre to 25 acres will be supported by the necessary legislation as well as financed by the government.”

The UNP also proposes promoting soil conservation by amending the Soil Conservation Act to make soil conservation compulsory, as well as promoting shrubs, ground cover and trees.

“The declaration of agricultural areas which will also promote special regenerative agriculture and conservation. There will be a limit on non-agricultural practices and a prohibition of the commercial fragmentation of agricultural land (sic).”

Other proposals include a national policy to protect Sri Lanka’s rivers and streams, with an emphasis on rivers with headwaters in the hill country and the Sinharaja rainforest. The UNP also proposes additional legislation to protect swamps and mangroves in the style of Japan’s River Law.

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“Legislation to give effect to the Paris Climate Agreement. Good examples are the Climate Change Act of the United Kingdom and Law 221 of 2015 enacted in Italy, Climate Change Act of the State of Victoria in Australia, Climate Change Act of Germany and France’s Transition to Green Growth Law, which will provide for the promotion of a Green Economy while restricting the excessive use of natural resources in the country.”

The National Environment Act I to be updated, with the Central Environment Authority in charge of implementing Climate Change legislation, the UNP’s Green Declaration states.

“A consultative body to be established comprising of representatives from the environmental and conservation organisations, which will enable a dialogue between the Government, Provincial Council and the relevant stakeholders. There we call in all interested parties to commence a dialogue on the necessary laws to be implemented to ensure a green economy.” (Colombo/Apr07/2021)

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