Rubber plantations in Weliya Forest, Sri Lanka

Massive land grabbing has become a common problem in Sri Lanka. 3,000 acres belonging to Soragune "Kuda Katharagama Devalaya" have been illegally sold to rubber plantations, hurting local community and exacerbating conflict between human and elephants


Description

3,000 acres belonging to the village Soragune "Kuda Katharagama Devalaya" have been sold to the private Company Lalan Rubbers Ltd for the cultivation of rubber plantations [1]. What before were cultivated fields and forest land has now turned into a rubber plantation, benefiting a small elite.

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Basic Data
NameRubber plantations in Weliya Forest, Sri Lanka
CountrySri Lanka
ProvinceUva province
SiteWeliya, Badulla district
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
Land acquisition conflicts
Plantation conflicts (incl. Pulp
Specific CommoditiesRubber
Land
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsThe rubber plantation industry in Sri Lanka has been established over 150 years ago. Through a nationalization program in 1975, these rubber plantations were managed by the Government Cooperative until 1992. Following a World Bank Report these plantations were then re-privatized to 23 plantation companies. The World Bank has played an important role as policy advisor for Sri Lanka's rubber sector.

According to the Central Environmental Authority (CEA) of Sri Lanka, Rubber processing is categorized as one of the major polluting industries in Sri Lanka. On average, the production of one kilogram of rubber discharges approximately 40-50 litres of effluent. Thus, according to the total production of 114,700 Metric Tonnes in 2006, an effluent load of 4.5 to 5.7 billion litres has been produced and discharged to the natural ecosystem [4].

The rubber plantation established in the Weliya Forest covers 3,000 acres (1,214ha).

Lalan Rubber is one of the companies engaged in the Rubber plantations. No information could be found regarding the other companies involved.

In the same area 628 acres of land have been grabbed from the Soragune forest in order to build a Golf Course and a hotel (see related conflicts).
Project Area (in hectares)1,214
Level of Investment (in USD)unknown
Type of PopulationRural
Potential Affected Population7,000 households
Start Date2014
Company Names or State EnterprisesLalan Rubbers (Private) Ltd (Lalan Rubbers (Pvt) Ltd) from Sri Lanka
Relevant government actorsCentral Environment Authority (CEA)

Commissioner of Buddhist Affairs

District Coordination Committee
International and Financial InstitutionsThe World Bank (WB) from United States of America - Policy advisor. In Sri Lanka, since the 90s the World Bank has been promoting policies of privatization and deregulation of the labor market in the field of rubber production. A consequence of these policies is the increase of land grabbing by foreign and local companies for rubber plantations [5]
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersLocal communities of Welioya and Soragune,

Centre for Environmental Justice,

Sri Lanka Environmental Congress,

Engaged Buddhist Solidarity for Nature
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 MobilizingInternational ejos
Religious groups
Farmers
Local ejos
Social movements
Local government/political parties
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Local scientists/professionals
Neighbours/citizens/communities
Women
Forms of MobilizationArtistic and creative actions (eg guerilla theatre, murals)
Community-based participative research (popular epidemiology studies, etc..)
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Land occupation
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Arguments for the rights of mother nature
Appeals/recourse to economic valuation of the environment
ORDINATION OF TREES: In order to bring the necessary attention, several trees were symbolically ordained on the 1st March 2014 and the forest has been now handed over to the Buddhist monks to save it. Buddhist Monks lead by Venerable Kalupahana Piyarathana Thero issued a 'Sahngaachna" to the gods to save the forest (see picture).
Impacts
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Desertification/Drought, Floods (river, coastal, mudflow), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil erosion, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity, Other Environmental impacts
Potential: Food insecurity (crop damage), Global warming, Soil contamination, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Air pollution, Genetic contamination, Noise pollution, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality
OtherWhere repetitive cultivation is performed on steep slopes without appropriate conservation methods erosion has accelerated and stream sediment loads have increased.

Permanent conversion of hill slopes and road building due to plantation increase the risk of landslides.

Irrigation of cash crops in the dry season desiccate streams

Use of pesticides and fertilizers to sustain commercial agriculture has reduce water quality
Health ImpactsPotential: Accidents, Occupational disease and accidents, Other environmental related diseases, Other Health impacts
OtherDiseases related to water contamination
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Militarization and increased police presence, Land dispossession
Potential: Displacement, Increase in violence and crime, Loss of livelihood, Social problems (alcoholism, prostitution, etc..), Specific impacts on women, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Outcome
Project StatusIn operation
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCorruption
Strengthening of participation
Fostering a culture of peace
Development of AlternativesSome EJOs propose the forest area which included Soragune and Samanalawewa to be declared a national park.

They further propose the promotion of local and diversified agriculture.
Do you consider this as a success?No
Why? Explain briefly.The project goes on
Sources and Materials
Legislations

Land Acquisition Act
[click to view]

References

[4] Community Pressure and Environmental Compliance: Case of Rubber Processing in Sri Lanka J. C. Edirisinghe Dept. of Agribusiness Management, Faculty of Agriculture & Plantation Management, Wayamba University of Sri Lanka, Makandura, Gonawila (NWP), Sri Lanka
[click to view]

[3] A. D. Ziegler, J. M. Fox, J. Xu. The Rubber Juggernaut. Science 22 May 2009. Vol. 324 no. 5930 pp. 1024-1025
[click to view]

[5] World Bank discussion paper. Sri Lanka's rubber industry: Succeeding in the global market. 1997
[click to view]

Links

[1] Hemantha Wintage's personal Blog. Article: Dharmayathra for Forest Conservation. Posted on 26th February 2014 by Hemantha Wintage
[click to view]

[2] Ejustice report. A Savana Forest into a Rubber plantation. Story of Land Grabbing in We-Eliya. Edited by Centre for Environmental Justice. April 2014, Volume I Issue 4
[click to view]

Lalan rubbers private limited website. List of Sri Lanka rubber plantations owned by the company
[click to view]

Other Documents

tree ordination held in Weli Oya and Soragune
[click to view]

Meta Information
ContributorCentre for Environmental Justice (Colombo, Sri Lanka) and Paola Camisani (EJOLT team, Barcelona)
Last update21/07/2015
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