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Preparation of a Country Environmental Profile for Sri Lanka for European Union (EU) Sri Lanka economic cooperation

S.W. Newman* and D.M.S.H.K. Ranasinghe**
* School of Biology, University of Leeds, Leeds L 52 9JT UK
** Department of Forestry & Environmental Science, University of Sri Jayewardenepura

Full Paper Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

Methodology adopted

The approach taken in compiling the profile included literature review, a field trip to the East and the North (Ampara, Batticaloa, Trincomalee, Vavuniya and Jaffna) and a participatory workshop on environmental potentials for Sri Lanka 2006-2013. The field trip consisted of meeting with all government agents and the North East Provincial Council. The assessment attempted to deliver the following results;

? An assessment of the environment identifying key environmental factors influencing the Country’s development and the responses to these
? An assessment of national environmental policy and legislation, institutional structures and capacity and the involvement of civil society in environmental issues
? An assessment of past and anticipated future trends of environmental indicators
? An overview of past and ongoing international cooperation in the environmental sector
? Recommendations and as far as possible guidelines or criteria for mainstreaming environmental concerns in priority development areas


Critical environmental issues as per the MDG targets

The Table 2 shows the progress made with regard to environmental targets according to the views obtained from the stakeholder workshop which had representations from both Government, Non government and Private Sector. The MDG targets were set taking 1990 as the baseline. Further, this was supplemented by the existing reports and observations made during many field visits including the Tsunami affected areas in North and East.

Table 2: Results of the observations and views of the stakeholder workshop on the country’s position in meeting the MDG targets

Environmental Policy, Strategy and Legislation

The need for clear overarching environmental action plans and policy aimed at addressing environmental issues has been clear to the government since the early 1980’s. National Environmental Action Plans (NEAP) have been in place since 1992. The third and last NEAP was for the period 1998-2001.
National Environmental Legislation

There appears to be a very high number of acts and ordinances to do with rational management of natural resources and the environment. In discussions with Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (MENR) the only act which appeared to require high priority further development was concerned with soil conservation.

The stakeholder workshop involved an assessment of the adequacy of policy in relation to the key environmental issues. The analysis of the adequacy of policy and law was based upon its effectiveness in dealing with the problem, which in turn requires adequate monitoring and enforcement along with the involvement and compliance of the private sector The results are shown below in Table 3 with the percentage of yes answers

Table 3: The results on the status of the effectiveness of the environment policies and laws in Sri Lanka

The main conclusion is that enforcement is the main problem and to a lesser extent monitoring. It is clear that there is a role for the private sector in terms of environmental improvement of business operations and helping to set enforceable regulations. Forestry as a sector has had large donor support. Perhaps this is reflected in the comparatively high scores that the issue obtained
in policy, law, monitoring and enforcement. Drinking water monitoring had a reasonably high score.

There does appear to be good public participation in the drafting of laws. The free press is a good vehicle for this. There is less participation in the drafting of national policy. There appears to be a long way to go in terms of the influence of village level plans on divisional and district level actions.

International Environmental Legislation

Sri Lanka has signed and ratified many international treaties, policies and laws too. Most of this is straightforward apart from the convention on biological diversity which requires a very high level of coordination between several ministries. Based on the information procured the following analysis and recommendations were arrived at which is shown in Table 4.

Table 4: Recommendations made by various international treaties and conventions to the private sector and their level of progress made.

2001 recommendations to the private sector

Impressions of progress by 2005 and suggestions

Make concessionary finance available to smallholder farmers

Still problems of threshold

Encourage private sector investment in forest plantations


Formulate a policy to promote private sector investment in renewable energy projects

Very limited with problems of low prices paid for selling electricity to the grid

Issue environmental licenses through certified private licensed institutions


Establish a fund to finance private sector investment in environmental management activities/projects


Encourage private sector involvement in environmental insurance and financial guarantee activities


Make privatisation programme environmentally compatible


Institute environmental entrepreneur of the year awards


Involve community organisations in land alienation decisions


Spatial integrated planning

There are marked differences in the density of poverty, ethnicity, and livelihood across the country. There are also marked differences in agro-ecological environment and across the country. In order to improve perception of the role of environment in sectoral development and the links with poverty production and economic group, it is essential to develop an environmental (sustainable) development zone approach. This is currently absent. The following method was used to develop a zonal approach based upon literature analysis, expert consultation, and testing at the workshop:

• The tsunami zone is distinct in its environmental problems and potentials, available funds through new political structures and livelihood opportunities
• The municipality or dense urban zone is distinct in its environmental problems and potentials, type of poverty, and potentials for business development
• The coastal non-tsunami zone is distinct in its environmental problems and potentials and has varied livelihood potentials and political structures
• The high potential zone has the greatest availability of water biodiversity and plantation industry yet has poverty at high density levels
• The double crop paddy zone has a good agricultural base with minor and major irrigation activities
• The remaining low population and low rainfall zone has relatively low population and therefore poverty density has low production potential but high potential for extensive extractive reserves and agroforestry.

The table 5 shows some of the key features of this zone, key environmental potentials and key strategic approaches to poverty alleviation.

The Table 6 shows the activities which can be enhanced in the above zones;

Table 6: The activities which can be enhanced in the above divided zones

Conclusions and Recommendations

1. The country strategy for EC funding should be guided by the environmental development zone approach in order to maximise impact and sustainability in poverty reduction and economic cooperation as per Table 6.
2. Environmental concerns should be mainstreamed into development thinking through four approaches; environment considered as a business opportunity, by recognizing that MDG Goal 7 has key indicators of judicious environmental development, by establishing an environmental development strategy for international and national public and private partnerships in functionally important development zones, by approaching poverty reduction through a livelihood approach.
3. Any programme or project in the tsunami zone should have an environmental assessment.
4. The housing, road and energy sectors could have the highest impact on poverty elimination linked to the creation of new environmental opportunities
5. Economic cooperation between Europe and Sri Lanka should focus on environmental business and social enterprise and be guided by a study of win:win:win business partnership models
6. Any area development project should consider organisational development and delegated management approaches rather than purely increasing government “capacity”. Monitoring the constraint to environmental business and environmental business partnerships should be a central part of design.
7. An environmental assessment should be carried out as soon as possible as many tsunami rehabilitation interventions are and will have significant negative impact. Tsunami recovery in most areas will take between 5 and 10 years given current rates of progress
8. On a Regional perspective, the tsunami condition on Asia wide programs should be extended for five years
9. Links between Asia and European environmental business in building, roads, solid waste/sanitation and energy should be a priority and research partnerships in these areas should be encouraged.


Arjuna’s Atlas of Sri Lanka.
Bioenergy Association of Sri Lanka (2005) The Dendro Option for Future Energy Security of Sri Lanka. Information Note.
Central Bank of Sri Lanka (2004) Annual Report
Central Environmental Authority (1995) Index to Environmental Legislation in Sri Lanka: 1-35
Coast Conservation Department (2003) Revised Coastal Zone Management Plan, Sri Lanka 2003
Department of Census and Statistics in Sri Lanka (2003) Statistical Abstract: 1-445
Green Network of Sri Lanka (2002) People’s Report on Sustainable Development in Sri Lanka: 1-97
IUCN (2003) Wetland Conservation in Sri Lanka, Proceedings of the National Symposium on Wetland Conservation and Management, June 19-20, 20003: 1-75
Ministry of Finance and Planning (2005) Sri Lanka New Development Strategy, Framework for Economic Growth and Poverty Reduction.
Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (2001) State of the Environment, Sri Lanka 2001: 1-106
Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (2002) State of the Environment in Sri Lanka, A National Report Prepared for the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, 2002: 1-245
Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (1999) Conservation of Biological Diversity in Sri Lanka, A Framework for Action: 121
Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (2003) Caring for the Environment 2003 – 2007 – Path to Sustainable Development: 1-152
Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (2002) Sri Lanka’s Middle Path to Sustainable Development in the 21st Century, National Report of Sri Lanka to the World Summit on Sustainable Development: 1-84
Ministry of Policy Development and Implementation (2003) Current Issues by Sector: 1-311
Ministry of Agriculture, Lands and Forestry (1995) Sri Lanka Forestry Sector Master Plan: 1-508
National Science Foundation (2000) Natural Resources of Sri Lanka 2000: 1-306
Ranasinghe, D.M.S.H.K. and Huxley, P.A. (1996) Agroforestry for Sustainable Development in Sri Lanka, University of Wales, UK: 1-275
UNESCO (1997) Footprints of Our Heritage, Sri Lanka National Commission for UNESCO, Isurupaya, Battaramulla: 1-181
UNDP (2004) Millennium Development Goals – Ensuring Environmental Sustainability (prepared by Hemanthi Ranasinghe and S.T. De Silva): 1- 164.