Circular 5/2001 :Protest to be held today

By Sarah Hannan 

Environmental and multi-sectoral organisations are to hold a protest in front of the Ministry of Environment today (13) at 2 p.m. over the possible revocation of Circular 5/2001.

Their objective is to urge the authorities to continue enacting Circular 5/2001 which protects other state forests of the country. Over the past two weeks, discussions took place that the Cabinet of Ministers was to reassign the legal authority to make decisions of such forests from the Forest Department to the divisional and district secretariats; to decide and allocate the forests for cultivation and development purposes for the residents of the respective areas.

“We have been told that the Presidential Secretariat is to call the relevant stakeholders for a meeting on Tuesday, 14 July, where they are to discuss matters pertaining to Circular 5/2001, which at present, stands as the only document that is protecting other state forests. However, when we checked with the Forest Department, they said they had not been informed,” Centre for Environmental Justice Executive Director Hemantha Withanage told The Morning.

He also pointed out that the President had appointed a committee to look into the possible impact it would cause should the other state forest land be repurposed for cultivation or development work. He added that neither an environmental organisation representative nor the Forest Department is included in the committee to advise on the adverse effects of destroying the forests.

Last week, many environmentalists and environmental conservation groups raised concerns over the Cabinet approving the repurposing of other state forests for cultivation and development, which later on prompted the President to advise the Cabinet of Ministers to reconsider the decision.

The Cabinet is to act on the recommendation that would be put forth by the special committee that is appointed to look into the matter.