Amarawewa Forest clearing for biofuel, Sri Lanka

Landmark victory by Sri Lanka's environmentalists! After the mobilization by local environmental organizations the Supreme Court stated to stop a Gliricidia plantation for bio-fuel production set in a National Park which was hurting the local environment.


Description
United Dendro Energy (UDE), a subsidiary of Lanka Orix Leasing Company (LOLC), planned a project in an area contiguous with Ruhunu National Park, clearing scrub forest to grow Gliricidia as fuel wood for Dendro power generation. The project had commenced without approval processes set forth in the National Environmental Act, and a large extent of forest land was cleared.  The plantation was set in Amarawewa which is an important Buffer Zone to the protected areas of the Ruhuna National Park, reducing the impact of humans on the area as well as the interference of wildlife on the developed areas sat along the border of the Park. Specifically, the area is inhabited by elephants, bears, leopards and numerous smaller creatures. Moreover, it is also the center of  biophysical activities that are of importance to both humans and wild creatures alike. It is an area where a large number of farmers practice their traditional chena (shifting) cultivations, and keep their free-ranging livestock. Furthermore, it acts as a catchment area for a number of seasonal tanks.  The project caused extensive damages as the site was being cleared by heavy machinery and earth moving equipment for planting Gliricidia for Dendro Power. Dendro Power refers to the generation of electricity from biomass. Following Environmental Foundation Limited (EFL), a local EJO, Dendro power production should be supplied without any interference and destruction to natural processes and habitats, using wood that is produced as multi-crop in home gardens, as undergrowth in coconut plantations or as shade trees on tea estates. Glyricidia is considered an ideal wood for such a scheme because it can be easily grown and does not interfere with food production or destruction of natural forests. Therefore, destroying forest habitat for a mono-crop plantation is entirely against sustainable Dendro power production principles. Investigations carried out by EFL revealed that the setting of the plantation was based on an agreement now found by the courts to be unlawful. The Forest Department, which is the institution in charge of protecting the area, made a tripartite agreement with UDE and a farmer association called the Magampura Cattle Owned Farmers Association according to which 1500ha were to be developed as pasture land. However, this is illegal because the annual permit granted to the Magampura Cattle Owned Farmers Association only allowed for 500ha. Along with the Wildlife and Nature Protection Society (WNPS) and Wilderness and Protected Areas Foundation (WPAF) the EFL filed a fundamental rights application in the Supreme Court, claiming that the project violated the National Environment Act (NEA), the Forest Ordinance (FO) and the Flora and Fauna Protection Ordinance (FFPO). The Court declared that the tripartite agreement was unlawful therefore null and void. The parties to the case reached an agreement for a conditional settlement with UDE dissolving as a company and LOLC ceasing all activities of the project and Forest Department undertaking to not alienate any part of the Amerawewa grazing land unlawfully. In August 2015, UDE agreed to settle the case by abandoning the project and also removing the Gliricidia that had been cultivated. The settlement was filed by consent motion in Supreme Court. The agreement further states that the area should not be released for a similar project in the future. [1][2][3]
Basic Data
NameAmarawewa Forest clearing for biofuel, Sri Lanka
CountrySri Lanka
ProvinceSouthern Province
SiteAmarawewa
Accuracy of LocationHIGH local level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Biomass and Land Conflicts (Forests, Agriculture and Livestock Management)
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Deforestation
Agro-fuels and biomass energy plants
Specific CommoditiesTimber
Gliricidia
Project Details and Actors
Project Details 1MW Plant requires approximately 1,000 hectares of plantation to be sustained [2]
Project Area (in hectares)1,500 [3]
Type of PopulationRural
Start Date31/07/2012
End Date30/08/2015
Company Names or State EnterprisesUnited Dendro Energy (Pvt) Ltd (UDE) from Sri Lanka
Lanka Orix Leasing Company Ltd (LOLC) from Sri Lanka
Relevant government actorsForest department
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersEnvironmental Foundation Limited http://efl.lk/

Wildlife and Nature Protection Society (WNPS) http://www.wnpssl.org/

Protected Areas Foundation (WPAF)
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)LOW (some local organising)
When did the mobilization beginIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups MobilizingLocal ejos
Forms of MobilizationLawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Impacts
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover
Potential: Desertification/Drought, Food insecurity (crop damage), Groundwater pollution or depletion, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Socio-economic ImpactsPotential: Loss of landscape/sense of place
OtherPossible increase in human-elephant conflict
Outcome
Project StatusStopped
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCourt decision (victory for environmental justice)
Project cancelled
Development of AlternativesEFL point to bio-fuel obtained without any interference and destruction to natural processes and habitats. Dendro Power should be supplied using wood that is produced as multi-crop in home gardens, as undergrowth in coconut plantations or as shade trees on tea estates instead by wood produced in mono-culture plantations
Do you consider this as a success?Yes
Why? Explain briefly.The Court declared the tripartite agreement null and void and the project was halted. Furthermore it was a landmark case that led to many other companies obtaining approval before clearing forest land.
Sources and Materials
Legislations

Forest Ordinance (FO)
[click to view]

Flora and Fauna Protection Ordinance (FFPO)
[click to view]

National Environmental Act (NEA) and its Amendments
[click to view]

Links

[1] Online report, 'Amarawewa Forest Clearing' by Environmental Foundation Limited. 2015 (Accessed 30/10/2016)
[click to view]

[2] Online news paper article, The Island, 'AMARAWEWA: Leasing away our Natural Heritage' by Rohan Wijesinha. 3rd November 2012 (Accessed 30/10/2016)
[click to view]

[3] Online news paper article, The Sunday Times, 'Green groups celebrate rare win against commerce' by Malaka Rodrigo. 15th November 2015 (Accessed 30/10/2016)
[click to view]

Other Documents

Amarawewa Forest Clearing. Source: Environmental Foundation Limited website
[click to view]

The land being cleared in Amarawewa. Source: The Sunday Times, 'Green groups celebrate rare win against commerce' by Malaka Rodrigo
[click to view]

Meta Information
ContributorEnvironmental Foundation Limited and EJAtlas collaborator Paola Camisani
Last update05/12/2016
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