Efforts have been initiated to return the lands that were originally owned by the residents of the Northern and Eastern Provinces which were subsequently acquired by the Forests Department and the Wildlife Conservation Department following the war, Wildlife and Forest Resources Conservation Minister Pavitra Vanniarachchi said.
As of now, lands owned since 1985 or earlier have been officially designated as forests under the purview of the Forest Conservation Department or as areas allocated to the Wildlife Department, the Minister said.
However, the Minister said there are plans to return these lands to the local communities in the respective areas in the future.
The Minister made this announcement during a recent discussion at the Ratnapura District Secretariat on the transfer of lands previously owned by the local residents but subsequently handed over to the Forest Conservation Department of the Ratnapura District.
The Minister mentioned that lands owned by residents in regions such as the Balangoda Rajawaka Reserve and other areas in the Ratnapura district have been officially designated to the Department of Forestry. However, following a re-survey, the boundaries will be clearly demarcated, and the respective areas will be returned to the local people.
Furthermore, the Minister said that meticulously delineated reserve boundaries will be officially gazetted to prevent any unauthorized acquisition. Stringent measures will be implemented to safeguard these areas, and every possible effort will be undertaken to enhance the country’s forest cover, aiming for an increase to 32% by preserving the integrity of the forest reserve.