The Sinharaja Rainforest has been in the public eye for a few weeks now. Is it being threatened by encroachment and development? Will it lose its UNESCO World Heritage status? Are there new hotel projects on its boundary? Will the Government construct reservoirs in its forests? Or, as the State media asserts, is this fake news expounded by environmentalists – political opponents of the government – with vested interests of their own?
The wave of controversy sparked by the emotional outburst of teenage Bhagya Abhayaratne from Rakwana on prime time TV that Sinharaja is being destroyed in clear view of its official protectors brought to focus a number of long-buried issues that plague this jewel of our conservation portfolio. This article attempts to put into perspective Sinharaja’s conservation status, the current controversies and bring into focus some of the long-standing issues related to managing the land in and around the Sinharaja Forest Complex.