Monday, June 18, 2018

Foreign Investors want land for agri – industry based projects – instead of forests, give them existing cleared land – here's how:

Rogues in high places are presently trying hard to land grab from areas of biodiversity and forest, to join with foreign investors in projects where they see financial gains for themselves. This has caused all sorts of problems, such as in the the sensitive Knuckles Reserves, where there are allegations and denials by people in high places.

The answer is simple, a complete prohibition if any government land being alienated for this UNLESS the land is already cleared and previously distributed. One may ask, how can that be, as it is already  utilized?

MY CONTENTION is to the contrary – It is NOT utilized. We have over a million hectares in Sri Lanka that is scrubland that had at some time being given on a lease to people to do agricultural projects, but due to many reasons of inability to farm or put to productive use, is not currently used. 

I personally, have seen so many Mahaweli blocks of 50 acres each that were leased at almost peppercorn rents per annum, in which the lessees  cut the trees, took the timber and disappeared and nothing has happened to them since. Neither is the lease being paid, nor is the land vested in the relevant department due to a PUBLIC OFFICIAL found wanting.

The President is not only the Minister of the Environment, but he is ALSO the minister of the Mahaweli. It is high time he gets a report on all single tracts of land in excess of 5acres that have not been worked on in the past 6months, that is in 2018. He will TRULY BE SHOCKED at the extent of this land that his own Authority has not properly recorded and investigated and offered to these deep pocketed investors to begin projects in. His own staff are sleeping on the job, as it is more work when the land is worked on, than if it is kept fallow. I know local people always like to agitate when land is given for projects, but that is because they don’t cultivate, nor do they want anyone else to do so, fearing their power would diminish. We as a country cannot afford to leave land fallow, if places like Israel can make deserts bloom. New agricultural ventures use minimal water in their production.

Days of providing land for landless to farm are now over, we now agree that economies of scale where a fair investment is required is the only means of food security that we can rely on to meet out demands, and for export, where there is a large market, for high value added and niche products, none of which small farmers are able to grow, nor have the means to take a risk on. Hitherto the easiest way is to cut a large tract of land clear the forests and begin planting. This is NO LONGER TENABLE as we must increase our forest cover, not reduce it further if we are to mitigate climate change, so it is better to rethink the whole formula on what is and what is not possible when a foreign investor comes knocking on doors with money to invest in agriculture.

Don’t forget our water usage per acre of paddy is the highest in the world and we have not priced this water economically, and are giving a MASSIVE water subsidy to our farmers who then don’t appreciate the value of this FREE water. As a farmer I know my neighboring farmers would waste the water, rather than allow me to use it out of envy. They take 10 times their entitlement and when shown their actions, don’t wish to alter that behavior. We want increased output from limited land, and so the answer is not to clear more forest, but use what we already have, much of it already under Government control.

We don't have to go far. CIC just announced their intention to dispose of their agribusiness where they found it hard to make a return on their investment. If there is a foreign interest in purchasing and building that business, then let them take that over and try and make a go of it.

We have to have an open mind on looking at all options, but we cannot compromise destroying our forest cover, when all other alternatives have not been pursued.


Anonymous said...

The senior officials in the Mahaweli are not showing this because they have grabbed it and forged the documents for themselves and their family members. Simple just go to the land, check why it is not cultivated, and call up the owners and get an answer. Then when you follow the paper trail, the truth will come out. Too much is hidden from the heads of departments who change all the time and also from Ministers who change even more frequently.

Anonymous said...

Even the Government does not know how much land they own, that is not utilized. It is time a census of land is taken. Just like the Kantalai Sugar Factory scandal, there is so much land in Kantalai which is not being cultivated, thousands of acres, because the sugar factory closed, so this is just one of hundreds of examples.

We cut down forests for what, to harvest the timber it seems like, and for no other reason. Time all this stops and we value our land, use it wisely, not leave it empty. At least grow trees if you cant do anything else with it.

Anonymous said...

Don't forget countries are looking for land, buying in tropical countries for their own food security calling it for export project.

So whatever happens don't cut forests to begin with. When determining price, it should be only for 50 year leases, not 99 year leases and for an annual lease payment not less than Rs100K per hectare, as the rent for the land, with conditions placed on soil erosion and sold quality retention.

The problem is that every fixer in Sri Lanka does not mind if they sell their mother, so they are trying to get a deal for the buyer only so that they can be given some kickback, so they don't look at the Country's interest only their personal interest. The Public Sector is the worst at this treachery

Anonymous said...

Actually worse than public sector are the elected reps, MPs ministers and their henchmen as they buy in other people's names anyway. It is a huge scam. Why do we elect people who don't have any love for this country? Behind every scam is a minister

Anonymous said...

mahaweli was a mega project built on kickbacks to corrupt politicians and their cronies from the outset so whatever follows is fruit of this rotten tree!