COLOMBO — With a single notification, Sri Lankan authorities have recently transferred the guardianship of forests lying outside protected areas to local administrators, with a view to increasing the island’s food productivity. The move effectively makes these “other forests” available for agricultural purposes. Falling outside the regular network of protected areas, they are known as “other state forests” (OSF) in Sri Lanka, and span a combined area the size of Long Island in New York. Historically, these forests were administered by divisional secretariats, a regional-level administrative unit in Sri Lanka. But in light of the importance of these residual forests, their administration was in 2001 transferred to the protection of the Department of Forest Conservation directly. In July this year, the Sri Lankan government transferred the OSF administration back to the divisional secretariats. This has prompted fears among environmental activists that these forests could be cleared for agriculture and other developmental work, as part of the nation’s pandemic response and with food security concerns on the rise. Formally protected areas in Sri Lanka are governed by three pieces of legislation: the Forest Ordinance, the National Heritage Wilderness Areas Act, and the Flora and Fauna Protection Ordinance (FFPO). Protected areas that fall under the first two laws are administered by the Department of Forest Conservation, while lands protected under the FFPO are overseen by the Department of Wildlife Conservation (DWC). A forest patch in Rakwana, part of Sri Lanka’s biodiverse central highlands, where tea plantations are already encroaching. Image courtesy of…This article was originally published on Mongabay Läs mer