08/19/2020, 14.45
SRI LANKA
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Environmentalists urge UNESCO to halt road construction in Sinharaja forest

by Melani Manel Perera

The area is the last virgin tropical forest left in the country, a World Heritage Site since 1988. Army engineers began work on 10 August. The UN agency blocked the same project in 2013.

 

Colombo (Asia News) – The Centre for Environmental and Nature Studies (CENS) has asked UNESCO to stop the construction of a road inside the Sinharaja Forest Reserve.

The biodiversity hotspot is located in a hilly area in southwestern Sri Lanka, and is the country’s last remaining virgin tropical forest. UNESCO declared it a biosphere reserve in 1978 and a world heritage site in 1988.

In a letter sent to the UN agency, CENS director Ravindra Kariyawasam explains that the government ordered the construction of the road to connect Lankagama and Deniyaya. However, "UNESCO blocked the same project in 2013," he explained.

Army Engineers began work on 10 August. A group of environmentalists immediately asked the authorities to stop building, but President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the Ministry of the Environment and the Department of Forestry have not yet responded.

According to a report by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the conservation status of the forest is of “significant concern”.

 ‘The value of Sinharaja as a natural world heritage site continues to be recognized by the discovery of several endemic species of plants and animals,” the report reads. “Some of the recent discoveries include several species of herpetofauna [*] that are restricted to the eastern region of Sinharaja.”


[*] Amphibians and reptiles.

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