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* Sri Lanka to conserve and expand forests in North and East
Thu, Dec 6, 2012, 12:23 am SL Time, ColomboPage News Desk, Sri Lanka.

Dec 05, Colombo: The Sri Lankan government said that it will declare the forests in the Northern and Eastern provinces as conservation areas.

The need to conserve the forest areas has risen due to the severe damage caused by the accelerated development of Mahaweli Development Project, the government said.

According to a government report a number of jungles have been destroyed and biodiversity in certain areas has been changed due to development.

The Environment Minister Anura Priyadarshana Yapa recently criticized the Ministry of Irrigation & Water Resources Management for clearing the forests to implement various irrigation projects without paying attention to the environmental impact.

The Minister pointed out that the country has to face the challenges of the natural disasters such as drought, floods, earthquakes, cyclone, and storms occurring due to the climate change brought about by the increased global warming and therefore, has to balance both the environment and development.

As a measure to preserve the forest the government plans to increase the forest coverage. The percentage of the forest cover in the country has been reduced to 23 percent, and the government plans to increase the forest cover to at least 35 percent.

The Environment Ministry decided in May this year to declare 17 jungles in seven districts - Mannar, Kilinochchi, Mullaitivu, Trincomalee, Polonnaruwa, Anuradhapura and Colombo - as national forest reserves.

The 2013 Budget has proposed increasing the forest coverage to 35 percent of land, targeting 250,000 hectares.

The government has proposed allocating Rs. 500 million in 2013 and Rs. 1.5 billion over the next three years for forest conservation programs to preserve rain forests, reservoirs and the wildlife.

** Related Story :: Sri Lanka takes actions to protect forest reserves of the country

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