Ejustice

THIS FIGHT IS FOR THEM: THE ADOPTION OF RIGHTS OF NATURE

APPROACH TO PROTECT NATURAL RESOURCES IN SRI LANKA

Co-authored by Dr. Kokila Konasinghe and Asanka Edirisinghe
Centre for Environmental Law and Policy Faculty of Law

University of Colombo

Introduction

The protection of the Wilpattu Forest Reserve has been one of the most popular topics on the spotlight of environmental debate in Sri Lanka in the recent years. It created a green wave across the community with ‘Save Wilpattu’ being the catchphrase of a social media lead campaign to protect the reserve. The actual matter, however, has arisen with regard to the illegal settlement of around 1500 families in the forest complex adjoining Wilpattu National Park, i.e., Northern Sanctuary of Wilpattu National Park, Maraichukkaddi/Karadikkuli Reserve Forest standing westward of Wilpattu blocks II and IV and the forest area in Madu, Periyamadu and Mannar area which is part of the Madu Road Sanctuary and Madu Road Reserved Forest which are declared as reserved forests in terms of section 3 of the Forest Conservation Ordinance.1 The judgement delivered by the Court of Appeal of Sri Lanka on the 16th of November 2020 against the illegal settlement of internally displaced persons inside this reserved forest demonstrates an impressive application of the polluter pays principle in extremely broad terms, recognizing and affixing the liability on the polluter to restore the environment into its previous condition.2 As far as the protection of significant natural resources is considered, the emerging global trend is to shift from anthropocentrism towards ecocentrism through the recognition and upholding of the Rights of Nature. Today there are at least 9 countries which recognize rights of nature through Constitutional, legislative, or judicial measures including the closest neighbours of Sri Lanka: India and Bangladesh. Rights of Nature is definitely an alternate approach that the court could have adopted in the protection of the Wilpattu Forest Reserve and all its adjoining reserved forests. Such an approach will set a ground-breaking example for the courts in the country to follow in their quest in the protection and conservation of rapidly degrading natural resources of the country.

Rights of Nature

The concept of Rights of Nature perceives nature as a person in the eyes of law and accords to it certain rights including the rights to exist, persist and restoration. READ THE FULL ARTICLE

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