Sinharaja rainforest reserve to be quadrupled in size.
COLOMBO — Sri Lanka plans to quadruple the size of the protected area inside its last viable rainforest, in a nod to the ecological significance of the region.
The Sinharaja Forest Reserve currently spans 8,864 hectares (21,903 acres) in the island’s southwest and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988 because of its rich and unique plant and animal life.
Over the years, however, this prime lowland rainforest and the areas surrounding it have faced multiple threats, ranging from illegal logging and cardamom cultivation, to unauthorized settlements and gem mining. To counter this fragmentation of the forest, the Sri Lankan government has opted to incorporate surrounding forests into the reserve, effectively increasing the size of the protected area four times to 36,000 ha (88,960 acres).
The proposed expansion was signed last month by Maithripala Sirisena during the final days of his presidency, and is now awaiting formal notification via gazette.
Sri Lanka has two different types of protected areas: one managed by the Department of Wildlife Conservation (DWC) and the other by the Forest Department. Sinharaja falls under the jurisdiction of the latter, and the newly expanded area will be formally declared as part of the Sinharaja Forest Reserve, to be governed under the Forest Ordinance.