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When Sri Lanka’s president and environment minister, H.E. Maithripala Sirisena, pledged to increase the island nation’s forest cover from 29.7 per cent to 32 per cent, the REDD+ national strategy being developed began to be seen as a means support this ambitious goal. 

REDD+ Gains Ground in Sri Lanka

The Government of Sri Lanka is using REDD+ as the platform to bring all relevant government ministries and other stakeholders around a common table to find a sustainable solution to the ever-increasing demand for land use in Sri Lanka. Such a plethora of stakeholders meeting around a forest-centric objective has never been witnessed before in this country.

image 01 - A Programme Executive Board PEB meeting in session rt med

Fuelled by a growing awareness of the impact that human activity is having on global warming and climate change, the REDD+ national strategy development process in Sri Lanka is now in top gear. The REDD+ vision for Sri Lanka is “Forests and beyond, sustaining lives and livelihoods in a greener Sri Lanka”. This is a vision to improve land management, enhance environmental services, conserve biodiversity, maintain economic growth and minimize the risk of natural disasters through a stepwise and targeted approach. Sri Lanka is presently at the final stage of the “readiness” phase of its REDD+ journey, and is one of 64 partner countries of the UN-REDD Programme, through which it receives support.

The REDD+ national strategy in Sri Lanka is expected to be ready for endorsement by January 2017 and for implementation thereafter. REDD+ provides an internationally recognized credible platform for Sri Lanka to focus its efforts to conserve its forestry and gradually reverse the negative trend of deforestation that has been seen in the past. Encroachments, infrastructure development projects and private agriculture ventures were identified during the foundation study of the national REDD+ strategy development process, as the three main drivers of deforestation in Sri Lanka, while the drivers of forest degradation differ from region to region.

image 02 - A meeting in session of the Task FOrce on National Policies and Strategies rt med

 

Like a phoenix that is rising from its ashes, Sri Lanka after the civil conflict ended in 2009 is in a path of economic development, which is now clearly the top priority on the government’s agenda. Recognizing the need for development to take place in this once war-ridden nation, the national REDD+ strategy in Sri Lanka is gearing towards making best use of land with the objective of reducing deforestation and forest degradation. This strategy is an attempt to extend the island’s forest cover while improving the quality of existing forestlands; the national REDD+ strategy is answering the call for a sustainable solution for land use in Sri Lanka.

The REDD+ national strategy that is being developed in Sri Lanka attempts to directly address the five REDD+ activities that are endorsed by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The policies and measures (PAMs) that are needed to counter the key drivers of deforestation and forest degradation in Sri Lanka were identified last year through a comprehensive multi-stakeholder consultative process. These stakeholders include civil society organizations that also represented the indigenous Veddha community, the private sector, academics, other relevant non-governmental organizations and the Government of Sri Lanka. The PAMs were then prioritized according to 44 criteria that were decided yet again by all REDD+ stakeholders in Sri Lanka. The PAMs were thereafter categorized into three broad areas that are being addressed: forest, wildlife and watershed policies and their regulations; land-use planning and land-use conversions; and other forested lands.

image 03 - One of the many consultative workshops that took place in 2015 rt med

With a high level of interest in the national agenda to safeguard the environment, REDD+ is being thrust forward as an attempt to give priority to maintaining and increasing the island’s forest carbon stock. REDD+ strategy development in Sri Lanka is driven by the enthusiastic participation of all relevant stakeholders in the country. While the Sri Lanka UN-REDD Programme is facilitating this process, all input to develop the REDD+ national strategy is derived from stakeholders who have relevant knowledge and experience in their respective fields.

Under the purview of the Task Force on National Policies and Strategies, three Thematic Working Groups (TWGs) consisting of high-level government representatives from all relevant ministries, were formed on 1 March 2016, with the charge of scrutinizing the PAMs in each of the three identified areas of focus. The three TWGs will:

  • Define specific targets for the REDD+ area being considered.
  • Provide indicators and monitoring protocol for impact on forest area or condition.
  • Suggest relevant actions and related activities under each REDD+ area.
  • Name proposed implementing institutions for the chosen actions and activities
  • Contribute to the costs assessment of the chosen actions and activities
  • Identify relevant challenges and risks when implementing the strategy and seek solutions to overcome these challenges.

image 04 - A team of experts from different institutions gathered around a common table rt med

 

While the Ministry of Mahaweli Development and Environment has been driving the REDD+ process in Sri Lanka since mid-2013, the UN-REDD Programme is supporting the government through the convening role and technical expertise of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). 

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