IV. ANALYSIS OF SECTOR-LEVEL MEASURES USED TO INTEGRATE ENVIRONMENTAL CONSIDERATIONS IN TERMS OF PERCEIVED EFFECTIVENESS IN ACHIEVING POLICY OBJECTIVES
C. Integration of national level mechanism used to address identified problems related to the plantation sector
Soil erosion and land degradation are the main environmental issues resulting from the three main plantation crops of tea, rubber and coconuts in Sri Lanka. Those issues are addressed by several Acts, all of which seek to achieve the same objective. The most important is the Soil Conservation Act, 1951, which makes provision for the ministry in charge to establish regulations requiring landowners to take measures designed to prevent or control soil erosion, preserve and promote soil fertility, and facilitate the absorption of moisture by soil. The other Acts which provide complementary policy guidelines in this regard include: the Land Development Ordinance, 1935; State Lands Ordinance, 1947; Water Resources Board Act, 1964; the Agrarian Services Act, 1979, the Mahaweli Authority of Sri Lanka Act, 1979; and the National Environmental Act, 1980.
The Mahaweli Authority of Sri Lanka Act, which has direct relevance to the plantation sector (chapter II), provides the authority for taking such measures as may be necessary for watershed management and control of soil erosion in the special areas under its control.
In addition to the above mechanisms, special provision has been made under the NEA for CEA, with the assistance from the ministry charged with the subject of soil conservation, to recommend effective soil conservation programmes, including: the identification and protection of critical water shed areas; encouragement of scientific farming techniques; physical and biological means of soil conservation; and short- and long-term research and technology.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Lands, in its capacity as the office responsible for basic policy formulation covering soil erosion, soil conservation and related issues, is in the process of developing a comprehensive policy which will consolidate the statutes outlined above (chapter I) in order to achieve better integration and coherence of existing policies.
The Ministry of Plantation Industries, which is responsible for policy formulation for the plantation sector (especially the tea sector), implements more specific policy measures for State plantations in regard to soil conservation and related issues within the broad policy and legislative framework. The primary objective is to improve productivity in the sector and achieve sustainable development. Accordingly, replanting is not permitted on sloping land with a gradient exceeding 450. The same specific policy is implemented by TSHDA for private tea smallholdings.
However, in the case of the large privatized plantations, there appears to be a lack of policy integration and coherence in replanting by means of "internalization", although provision has been made in the long-term lease agreements for the regulation of related environmental issues, such as tree felling (deforestation), crop diversification etc. But despite that deficiency, there is a large measure of integration and coherence in the policy as far as the tea sector is concerned.
In the case of the EIA process, there is integration and coherence in policy guidelines because the same definitions apply to the identification of environmentally sensitive prescribed projects covering all three plantation crops (chapter III). Those definitions include, among others, "clearing any erodable area declared under the Soil Conservation Act, irrespective of magnitude". It may be argued that the deficiency in the integration of replanting policy in relation to the large privatized plantations is addressed through this provision.
As for the processing activities covering all three plantation crops, there is integration and coherence in national policy, as the discharge of effluents that impact on natural resources is regulated and controlled through the requirement to obtain an EPL for such activities. Appropriate mitigatory measures and standards for the discharge of effluents have been laid down by CEA and are implemented through EPLs.
With regard to the environmentally-related international Conventions to which Sri Lanka is a signatory, there is strong integration and coherence in policy, as the Ministry of Environment and Forestry is the national focal point for all such Conventions and agreements (chapter V).The same considerations apply to policy formulation and integration arising out of the Uruguay Round Multilateral Trade Agreement of the World Trade Organization (WTO). The salient policy features and the programmes that are being undertaken in terms of that agreement and which have relevance to the plantation sector are: the adoption of ISO standard specifications, especially for tea and coconut products as they are food products; and the efforts being made to install ISO 9000 and ISO 14000 series systems (Chapter V).
Sri Lanka has not yet introduced methods of internalization, such as property rights, charges, taxes, tradable permits, performance bonds, deposit refund systems and eco-labelling, in its policies. Although those mechanisms are known, the appropriateness of introducing them at present, particularly when considering the need to achieve a balance between environmental considerations and developmental imperatives, apparently needs further examination. In that regard, one important factor could be the cost factor to entrepreneurs and investors engaging in commercial as well as economic development activities. The cost constraints in relation to the introduction of eco-labelling schemes is briefly discussed in the next chapter. These issues are also being discussed in connection with the proposed revisions to the NEA.