Soil Conservation Act amends

To broaden the scope and make more relevant to present need

Soil Conservation Act amends

Soil Conservation Act of Sri Lanka 1951, amended in 1996, to be amended again to make the legislation more relevant to present need and future needs. This is the main legislation that the country has to prevent land degradation. It is mainly focused on soil erosion but provisions are available to arrest other forms of soil degradations, said the Director, Natural Resource Management Centre (NRMC) of the Department of Agriculture Dr.Ajantha De Silva. He was addressing a stakeholder consultative meeting to discuss proposed amendments to the Act.

Under the present Act the Director General of Agriculture has the authority to implement the Act and the powers has been delegated to the NRMC. Dr. Silva said that impacts of climate change, long droughts and high intensity of rainfall within shorter period are experiencing Sri Lanka. On the other hand, urbanization is increasing and houses and settlements are being constructed in unsuitable terrains such as steep mountain slopes. All these scenarios have intensified soil erosion and other sort of soil degradations. Stakeholder agencies present here today dealwith land related matters and have the authority of preventing soil erosion and land degradation within the Acts and legislations related to them. However, still there are gaps in the relevant legislations.

Dr.Silva said that the scope of the Soil Conservation Act has to be broaden to meet current requirements. The present Act covers only the central highlands the most sensitive and vulnerable area for soilerosion. However, the laws are required to arrest soil degradation in other parts of the country, the farmlands in the dry zone and tea cultivation areas in low and middle country. Therefore the Act will be amended to cover all areas apart from the coastal areas covered by the Costal Conservation Act.

The proposed amendment has forwarded 14 new proposals for the discussion of stakeholders. They include; prohibition of annual crops cultivation in lands with over 60% slope, impose regulations and criteria for land preparation for farming activities and other off-farm activities, land development in replanting  of tea, rubber and coconuts, prevention of soil erosion in tree falling, weed management in tea cultivation, erosion of river banks, obstruction of runoff water flows from paddy fields, erosion prevention in irrigation water supply, soil testing and fertilizer recommendation, enforce hydrological impact analysis in large projects and implement counter measures, obstruction of water seepage in development projects and counter measures, prevention of activities that aggravate soil erosion in land sites sell for residential purposes and soil mining.

Dr.Silva said that this is the third round of stakeholder discussion on these amendments. These amendments were agreed upon at two meetings held earlier. The document finalized at this meeting will be published for public comments and further revision of all stakeholders.

The stakeholders pointed out that enforcing laws against soil degradation is very complex due to several reasons. There are large number of agencies that handle these land related matters and some parts of the issue are covered by respective Acts of those institutions. Therefore existing laws are sufficient to address the issue but it is not happening because the enforcement of these laws is difficult. Additional GA, Kandy and other Divisional Secretaries present at the meeting pointed out practical issues in implementing these legislations. However, all stakeholders agreed that the Act should be amended to meet present situation and cover whole country.