The Upper Watershed Management Project funded by the Asian Development Bank and the Government of Sri Lanka comes to an end this year.
Integrated Watershed Management in the highlands of Sri Lanka encompassing absolute forest conservation and forest regeneration, wildlife conservation, integrated participatory agro forestry livestock and inland fishery development, bio-diversity research and strict scientific Soil conservation is a Permanent Need in the country, and it is hoped that integrated watershed management in Sri Lanka will not die a natural death with the end of this project.
All the forestry problems and soil conservation problems in the country started in the highlands with the colonial policies of full scale clearing of natural forest for coffee and tea, the downright robbery and export of timber, and for the decimation of wildlife in the name of sport.
Either a follow up project or an extension of the present project is considered to be a dire need whilst the expertise and grass roots interest generated by the present project are still at hand. In addition other watersheds in critical hilly areas should be brought together and linked up with the highland watersheds the Uma-Oya, Kirindi-Oya, Walawe Ganga and Kalu Ganga watersheds covered by the present project, eventually making it a nationwide umbrella effort.
The Government should also consider gradually terminating potato cultivation in the highlands the number one enemy of the soils in the highlands, and bringing all lands above at least 5000 ft m.s 1 under a single National Watershed Management Authority for the whole country.
This could be done through a stepwise process under a new project or through other mechanisms, in order to manage the watersheds scientifically without any political pressure whatsoever thus conserving these invaluable highlands with their rich and diverse vegetation, fauna and topsoils for posterity to benefit future generation.
V.R. Nanayakkara, Retired Conservator of Forests