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Sri Lanka’s forest cover has not reduced to 16% – Conservator General of Forests

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The Conservator General of Forests  K.M.A Bandara said that the media reports implying that Sri Lanka’s forest cover has decreased to 16% are false.

He said this in response to a query made regarding the media report on the instructions of President’s Secretary  Saman Ekanayake. The Presidential Secretariat had focussed its attention regarding these reports published in the media.

The assessment of forest cover is carried out every five years and the census conducted in 2020 is scheduled to be completed in June this year. According to the census conducted in 2015, the natural forests of Sri Lanka stood at 29.15% (1,912,970 hectares) of the total land extent.

The Conservator General of Forests also said that although there has been some reduction in the amount of forests due to various development activities and other human activities in the country, there has definitely been no decrease in the amount of forests up to 16% as stated in the media reports.

According to media reports, if the forest area in Sri Lanka is 16% of the total land extent, then the existing forest area in the country should be 1,040,000 hectares. This means that 872,970 hectares of forests should have been destroyed during the seven years from 2015, which is 124,710 hectares per year and 341 hectares of forest destruction per day.

He also said that the method used to assess the forests should have been described in the presentation of data on forests. Basic points such as the definition of forests, the method of estimating forest size, and the estimation of forest size should have been mentioned in the report. However, there is no source from which the relevant data was obtained in the media reports suggesting that the forest cover had decreased.

The Conservator General further stated that if there is widespread forest destruction, as reported in the media, it should have been observed by the Department of Forest, the Department of Wildlife Conservation, the Sri Lanka Police, and the Sri Lanka Air Force, which monitors forests from the air. However, such extensive forest destruction has not been reported to any of these institutions. He also stated that the Forest Department is updating forest maps and that no such forest destruction was observed during those activities.



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President orders probe into notification issued by Department of Immigration and Emigration

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It has been reported that President Wickremesinghe ordered an investigation into the notification issued by the Department of Immigration and Emigration requesting all  Russian and Ukrainian tourists to leave the country within 14 days.

According to the President’s Media Division (PMD), the relevant notification was issued without prior approval from the Cabinet of Ministers.

The decision had reportedly been taken as certain foreign tourists are running illegal businesses in the country.

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Contentious Chinese research vessel docks in Maldives

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Xiang Yang Hong 03 has previously visited Indian Ocean on several other occasions

A contentious Chinese research ship reached the Maldives on Thursday in the latest sign of the archipelago’s diplomatic reorientation towards Beijing and away from its traditional benefactor India.

Local residents said they had spotted China’s Xiang Yang Hong 3 at the Thilafushi industrial port near the capital Male.The 100-metre-long (328-foot) vessel was at an anchorage near Male on Thursday evening, according to the website Marinetraffic.

The Maldives’ pro-Beijing government said earlier the vessel was docking for a port call to rotate crew and take on supplies, on the condition that it would not conduct “research” while in its territorial waters.

Media reports in India had suggested that the vessel was conducting surveillance for Beijing.

India is suspicious of China’s increasing presence in the Indian Ocean and its influence in Sri Lanka and the Maldives, which are strategically placed halfway along key east-west international shipping routes.Relations between Male and New Delhi have chilled since pro-China President Mohamed Muizzu won elections last year.

Muizzu has asked India to withdraw 89 security personnel based in the Maldives to operate reconnaissance aircraft by March 15.But the president has also insisted he does not want to upend ties with New Delhi by replacing Indian troops with Chinese forces.

Sri Lanka refused entry to Xiang Yang Hong 3 after two other port calls from Chinese vessels since 2022 raised objections from India.That included the ship Yuan Wang 5, which specializes in spacecraft tracking and which New Delhi described as a spy ship. (AFP)

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MP Harsha in Australia as “Special visitor”

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Harsha de Silva

Opposition MP and Chairman of the Committee on Public Finance (COPF) Harsha de Silva is currently in Australia as a special visitor.

Taking to ‘X’, the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) MP said he had embarked on a nine-day visit on an invitation extended by the Government of Australia.

“My engagements with policymakers, academics, scientists and investment managers began in Melbourne and will continue in Adelaide and then public officials and politicians in Canberra,” he added.

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