Centre for Environmental Justice
Sri Lanka is one of 128 countries that have pledged to stop deforestation by 2030. Sri Lanka is one of the countries with the most deforestation in recent years. Sri Lankan government removed protection to almost 500,000 hec; of other state forest by issuing the Forest circular 1/2020 and subsequent circulars 2/2021 to hand over them to the Division Secretaries for development purposes. Most recent circular issued by the land commissioner allows mining inside those forests without obtaining the views of the Forest and Wildlife Conservation Departments.
Joining a pledge while allowing political supporters to grab forest land shows the hypocrisy of the Government of Sri Lanka. The statement signed at Glasgow states they are committing to working collectively to halt and reverse forest loss and land degradation by 2030 while delivering sustainable development and promoting an inclusive rural transformation. Countries further promise to conserve forests and other terrestrial ecosystems and accelerate their restoration. They further pledge to reduce vulnerability, build resilience, and enhance rural livelihoods, including through empowering communities, the development of profitable, sustainable agriculture, and recognition of the multiple values of forests, while recognizing the rights of Indigenous Peoples, as well as local communities, in accordance with relevant national legislation and international instruments.
“The COP 26 pledge is vague and includes multiple loopholes that allow big polluters to continue emitting greenhouse gases,” said Hemantha Withanage, Senior Advisor at the Centre for Environmental Justice. The financial pledges are very similar to REDD initiatives, which have failed to stop climate change and resulted in large-scale land grabbing around the world in the last ten years. He further added that it is not the first time to see such announcements by global leaders. Updated Sri Lanka’s NDCs commits to increase 32% forest cover by 2030 and reduce greenhouse emissions by 14.5% for the period of 2021-2030 from Power (electricity generation), Transport, Industry, Waste, Forestry, and Agriculture.
Although Sri Lanka claim for 29.2% forest cover, the close canopy forest is almost 17%. Out recent investigation in the forested areas in Monaragala shows that many forest areas including Vandama- Demaliya, Kotiyagala- Wattegama have been destroyed. Sri Lanka NDC further promise to achieve 70% renewable energy in electricity generation by 2030, achieve Carbon Neutrality by 2050 in electricity generation, Adopting ‘Colombo Declaration on Sustainable Nitrogen Management’ with an ambition to halve nitrogen waste by 2030, Banning agro-chemicals and chemical fertilizer, Promoting organic fertilizer and farming, Banning single-use plastics, Promoting E-mobility and Promoting circular economy Sri Lanka expects to achieve its Carbon Neutrality by 2060.
All these are very high ambitious targets which needs lot of investment and expert involvements. “As we see how the government’s ambitions to produce food from organic cultivation were shattered by poor practices, we have our doubts about the NDC targets being implemented. These promises are merely political promises, and holding the government accountable is difficult.” said Dilena Pathragoda, Executive Director of the Centre for Environmental Justice .