Last update:

Land grabbing in Nilgala Forest, Sri Lanka

The first Tree Ordination Ceremony took place in the Nilgala Forest, organized by local communities and environmental associations to highlight and fight forest destruction.


Land grabbing for cash crop plantations is becoming an increasingly serious issue in Sri Lanka. It has been reported that until 2012, a total of 36,611 hectares have been illegally acquired throughout Sri Lanka for different purposes (plantations, but also tourism, mines, streets etc.). Moreover, most of the time, land grabbing occurred in forest reservoirs or protected areas [10]. Within this context, the case of Nilgala forest is an emblematic example.

See more
Basic Data
Name of conflict:Land grabbing in Nilgala Forest, Sri Lanka
Country:Sri Lanka
State or province:Uva Province
Location of conflict:Nilgala Forest Reserve
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict: 1st level:Biomass and Land Conflicts (Forests, Agriculture, Fisheries and Livestock Management)
Type of conflict: 2nd level :Deforestation
Land acquisition conflicts
Intensive food production (monoculture and livestock)
Specific commodities:Banana
Project Details and Actors
Project details:

More than 800 acres of forests have been destroyed for plantations [11].

Project area:more than 2,000
Level of Investment:unknown
Type of populationSemi-urban
Affected Population:unknown
Start of the conflict:01/2014
Company names or state enterprises: Gal Oya Plantations (Pvt) Ltd from Sri Lanka - sugar plantation owners
LOLC Group (LOLC) from Sri Lanka - plantations, infrastructure development
Relevant government actors:Forest Department
Department of Wildlife Conservation
Central Environmental Authority (CEA)
Director of the Environment Trust Conservation (ETC)
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Centre for Environmental Justice
Sri Lanka Environmental Congress
Engaged Buddhist Solidarity for Nature
Future in Our Hands
Ruk Rekaganno
Badullgammana Sumanasara Thera, Kalupahana Piyarathana Thera, Thalangalle Sudhamma Thera
Conflict and Mobilization
IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
International ejos
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Social movements
Local scientists/professionals
Religious groups
Forms of mobilization:Artistic and creative actions (eg guerilla theatre, murals)
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Arguments for the rights of mother nature
Appeals/recourse to economic valuation of the environment
tree ordination
Impacts of the project
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover
Potential: Air pollution, Fires, Floods (river, coastal, mudflow), Food insecurity (crop damage), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil contamination, Soil erosion, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Land dispossession
Potential: Displacement, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Social problems (alcoholism, prostitution, etc..), Violations of human rights, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Fostering a culture of peace
Development of alternatives:Demand the end of all land encroachments initiated in the past few years.
Demand the immediate halt to the destruction of the forest and to its conversion into cash crop plantations.
Demand that Nilgala Forest be placed under the protection of the Forest Ordinance [6] or under the Fauna and Flora Protection ordinance [7] and the forest demarcated.
Urge the Forest Department to establish a proper forest protection mechanism for Nilgala and set up a Forest Office with adequate staff to protect and preserve the Forest [8].
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:Following the statements by 'Friends of the Earth Sri Lanka', a local environmental justice organisation, no new land grabs have occurred in Nilgala forest after the tree ordination ceremony and there is now a special task force in place to monitor the forest [9].
However in the whole country land grabbing episodes are still going on (see other Sri Lanka cases on and [10])
Sources and Materials
Related laws and legislations - Juridical texts related to the conflict

[6] Forest Ordinance 1907 (No. 16 of 1907) as amended up to 2009
[click to view]

[7] Fauna and Flora Protection Ordinance
[click to view]

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

[10] Sri Lanka Nature Group, People’s Alliance for Right to Land - PARL. Uprooting People from the Land. Land Grabbing Current Status and Trends in Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka, 2012

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

website of Center for Environmental Justice
[click to view]

[11] News paper article from 'The sunday leader' online (January 2014). Politicos Destroying Nilgala Forest By Nirmala Kannangara. (accessed 10/04/2015)
[click to view]

[1]Article on 'Friends of heart International' web site (4/02/2014): The story of Tree ordination in Sri Lanka by Hemanth Withange (accessed 10/04/2015)
[click to view]

[2] Online article on 'Buddist News' (24/02/2014): First Tree Ordination Ceremony in Sri Lanka - Solution for widespread and rapid deforestation. By Kishani Samaraweera (accessed 9/04/2015)
[click to view]

[4] Online article from 'W3Lanka' (1/06/2011). Bitter story of sugar of Booker Tate to be re-written in Sri Lanka. By Ajith Perakum Jayasinghe (accessed 10/04/2015)
[click to view]

[5] Online article from 'Hemantha Withanage blog' (3/04/2014). Second Tree ordination held at Welioya and Soragune. By Hemantha Withanage. (accessed 10/04/2015)
[click to view]

[3] Online article on 'People's alliance for right to land' web site. Resettlement of People in Nilgala-Boelle Forest. (accessed 10/04/2015)
[click to view]

[9] Online article from 'Friends of the Earth International' web site. Surprising Sri Lanka protest grabs government attention (accessed 9/04/2015)
[click to view]

[13] On line article from 'financial times' (29/07/2007). Government going ahead with controversial sugar plantation. By Bandula Sirimanna. (accessed 2/06/2015)
[click to view]

[14] On line article from 'the Island' (18/01/2014) Thousands of years-old Nilgala medicinal forest being destroyed by weedicides

Trees ‘ordained’ to prevent destruction (accessed 02/06/2015)
[click to view]

[8] Online article from 'Friends of the Earth International' web site (4/02/2014). Sri Lanka: Demand stronger environmental protection for ancient Nilgala forest (accessed 9/04/2015)
[click to view]

[12] Save Nilgala Forest petition. Directed to Conservator of Forest, Forest Department of Sri Lanka Mr. Anura Sathurusinghe and Ministry of Environment and Renewable Energy Mr. B.M.U.D Basnayake. Issued by Centre for Environmental Justice and PARL Sri Lanaka
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Nilgala Tree Ordination Video
[click to view]

Other documents

tree ordination ceremony in Nilgala Forest
[click to view]

Soragune tree ordination The second ordination of trees in Soragune forest
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:Centre for Environmental Justice (Colombo, Sri Lanka) and Paola Camisani (EJOLT team, Barcelona)
Last update21/07/2015
Legal notice / Aviso legal
We use cookies for statistical purposes and to improve our services. By clicking "Accept cookies" you consent to place cookies when visiting the website. For more information, and to find out how to change the configuration of cookies, please read our cookie policy. Utilizamos cookies para realizar el análisis de la navegación de los usuarios y mejorar nuestros servicios. Al pulsar "Accept cookies" consiente dichas cookies. Puede obtener más información, o bien conocer cómo cambiar la configuración, pulsando en más información.