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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


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
Name of conflict:Rubber plantations in Weliya Forest, Sri Lanka
Country:Sri Lanka
State or province:Uva province
Location of conflict:Weliya, Badulla district
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict: 1st level:Biomass and Land Conflicts (Forests, Agriculture, Fisheries and Livestock Management)
Type of conflict: 2nd level :Plantation conflicts (incl. Pulp
Land acquisition conflicts
Specific commodities:Rubber
Project Details and Actors
Project details:

The 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.

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Project area:1,214
Level of Investment:unknown
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:7,000 households
Start of the conflict:2014
Company names or state enterprises:Lalan Rubbers (Private) Ltd (Lalan Rubbers (Pvt) Ltd) from Sri Lanka
Relevant government actors:Central Environment Authority (CEA)
Commissioner of Buddhist Affairs
District Coordination Committee
International and Finance 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 organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Local communities of Welioya and Soragune,
Centre for Environmental Justice,
Sri Lanka Environmental Congress,
Engaged Buddhist Solidarity for Nature
Conflict and Mobilization
IntensityLOW (some local organising)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
International ejos
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Social movements
Local scientists/professionals
Religious groups
Forms of mobilization:Artistic 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 of the project
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
Other Environmental impactsWhere 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
Other Health impactsDiseases related to water contamination
Socio-economical 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
Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Corruption
Strengthening of participation
Fostering a culture of peace
Development of alternatives:Some 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 an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:The project goes on
Sources and Materials
Related laws and legislations - Juridical texts related to the conflict

Land Acquisition Act
[click to view]

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

[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 to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

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

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

Other documents

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

Meta information
Contributor:Centre for Environmental Justice (Colombo, Sri Lanka) and Paola Camisani (EJOLT team, Barcelona)
Last update21/07/2015
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