COLOMBO — As Sri Lanka’s Forest Department embarks on a reforestation campaign in an area previously cleared for new settlements, environmental activists and lawyers have hailed the unprecedented court ruling that ordered a top government official to pay for the effort. Replanting in the affected 1,200-hectare (3,000-acre) part of the Wilpattu Forest Complex (WFC) has just begun, following the court order handed down last November. In its ruling, the country’s Court of Appeal found in favor of a petition by environmental groups to hold a government minister, Rishad Bathiudeen, liable for illegal forest clearing in the WFC, a Ramsar wetland, and ordered him to pay for reforestation, estimated at more than 1 billion rupees ($5 million). “The Court of Appeal decision emphasizes the role of the state in protection of nature and its resources,” said Bhagya Wickramasinghe, the chief lawyer at the Environmental Foundation Limited (EFL), a prominent NGO. “We earnestly look forward to the speedy and effective implementation of this decision by the relevant state authorities.” She added the ruling also has “great significance in giving effect to the ‘polluter pays’ principle,” which is enshrined in Principle 16 of the Rio Declaration and which the court cited to justify imposing the cost of the reforestation on Bathiudeen. An aerial view of a housing scheme inside the Vilaththaikulam Forest Reserve. Image courtesy of Protect Wilpattu. Resettlement in forest areas The issue dates back to 1990, in the midst of Sri Lanka’s long-running civil war, when the separatist Liberation Tigers of…This article was originally published on Mongabay Läs mer

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