Sri Lanka

International Treaties

Sustainable Development

Environmental Law

Case Studies


Environmental Crime Legal Framework in Sri Lanka

Historically, Sri Lanka has had a tradition of conservation and protection of wildlife dating back over two thousand years. Historically one of the world's first wildlife sanctuaries dates back to the 3rd century BC. The kings of that time developed a system of agriculture and water management which still services today. Sri Lanka’s constitution contains provisions for the protection of the environment. Article 27 reads: “The State shall protect, preserve and improve the environment for the benefit of the community. The State shall promote international peace, security and cooperation, and the establishment of a just and equitable international economic and social order and shall endeavor to foster respect for international law and treaty obligations in dealings among nations”.

Featured Legislation

1999: The Plant Protection Act, No. 35, was brought into force. The present Act provides for the prevention and eradication of whatever organism (plant, bacteria, virus, algae, fungi etc. etc.) or weed potentially harmful that could be introduced or spread in the Country; for restriction or ban on the importation of plants , their products and organisms: for the importation of certain pests to the sole aim of research; for testing and subsequently quarantine, disinfect and clean or destroy if deemed necessary every plant, product , package or container that has been infested; for fixing terms and fee for quarantined items; for restricting or ban the cultivation of any plant over a determined period of time in any location in the country; for compliance with safety of all plants and their products produced in Sri Lanka and ready to be exported.

2008: The Marine Pollution Prevention Act, No. 35, was promulgated. The Act, consisting of 60 sections divided into XI Parts, provide for the prevention, control and reduction of pollution in the Territorial Waters of Sri Lanka or any other Maritime Zone, its fore-shore and the Coastal Zone of Sri Lanka and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto. It provides for the following sectors: Establishment of the Marine Environment Protection Authority (Part I); Function of the Authority (Part II); Establishment of Marine Environmental Council (Part III); Staff of the Authority (Part IV); Finance (Part V); Reception, Facilities and Preventive Measures Against Pollution (Part VI); Maritime Casualties (Part VII); Prevention of Pollution-Criminal Liability (Parts VIII and IX); Prevention of Pollution When Engaged in Exploration of Natural Resources including Petroleum or Any other Activity (Part X); and Miscellaneous Provisions (XI).

2008: The National Action Plan for Agrobiodiversity Conservation and Sustainable Utilization in Sri Lanka was approved. This National Action Plan for Agrobiodiversity Conservation and Sustainable Utilization (NAP) presents the holistic approach of directives on conservation and use of agrobiodiversity. Agrobiodiversity primarily refers to the sustainable and productive use of genetic resources for agricultural development. The main objectives of the NAP is to provide a comprehensive long term development framework including necessary guidelines, tasks, strategies and systematic approaches for conservation and utilization of agrobiodiversity in Sri Lanka using an ecosystem approach. It requires participation and collaboration of all relevant stakeholders including public sector agencies, NGOs, private sector and (farming) communities. The principles used in NAP are (i) sustainability; (ii) national commitment; and (iii) integration across sectors and disciplines. During the formulation process of this NAP consideration is given on gaps, issues and recommendations made in Biodiversity Conservation in Sri Lanka: A Framework for Action (BDFA) Addendum identified for integrated solutions in conservation and utilization of agrobiodiversity in Sri Lanka in line with the scope of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).

2014: The National Policy on Protection and Conservation of Water Sources was established. This National Policy on Protection and Conservation of Water Sources, their Catchments and Reservations in Sri Lanka is a nationwide sectoral policy document. The primary intention of this policy is to ensure the protection and conservation of all the water sources and their source areas in Sri Lanka through an optimum management. The main objective of this policy is to protect and conserve all the water sources, their reservations, the conservation areas and immediate catchment areas to ensure the existence of the water sources in Sri Lanka.

2016: The Marine Environmental Protection (Waste Reception Facilities) Regulations were instituted. These Regulations, consisting of 15 sections and seven Schedules, establish the following provisions to prevent marine pollution and apply to: any port, harbor, terminal, repair yard of ships, dry dock, anchorage or offshore marine facilities or any other marine related facility in Sri Lanka; and any service provider registered with the Authority to provide waste reception facilities. These regulations shall not apply to warships, naval auxiliary or other ships owned or operated by a state and used for the time being only for that government’s non-commercial services. The Authority or any service provider shall provide adequate and effective waste reception facilities within or outside any port, harbor, terminal, repair yard of ships, dry dock, anchorage or off shore marine related facility or any other marine related facility in Sri Lanka to enable any ship using such port, harbor, terminal, repair yard of ships, dry dock, anchorage or offshore marine related facility or any other marine related facility or traversing Sri Lanka waters or any other maritime zone, its fore-shore and the coastal zone of Sri Lanka to discharge any waste without causing undue delay to such ship. Where the owner, operator, master or agent of any ship has reason to believe that waste reception facilities available at any port, harbor, terminal, repair yard of ships, dry dock, anchorage or offshore marine related facility or any other marine related facility in Sri Lanka is not adequate for the discharge of the waste on board such ship, he shall forthwith inform the Authority of such fact and request the provision of adequate waste reception facilities.

2016: The Sri Lanka E-agriculture Strategy laid down a roadmap by which Information Communication Technology (ICT) developments can significantly contribute towards achievement of the country’s agricultural vision and development objectives. It integrates ICT experiments under a collaborative and inclusive framework while prioritizing solutions that can be scaled up and supported through the required ecosystem. This document provides an analysis and evaluation of current and prospective roles of ICT in agriculture in Sri Lanka, lays down a vision for e-agriculture in the country and recommends specific actions plans. The strategy document has been prepared based on the framework proposed by the FAO and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) The strategy has been prepared through extensive research and stakeholder consultation from multiple sectors and has taken into consideration the fact that ICT would influence peoples life from many different aspects, not only agriculture, and will act as an efficiency multiplier that enables people and processes to achieve higher level of efficiency, efficacy and enhance the overall quality of life. It leverages on the existing ICT developments that impact agriculture in Sri Lanka and aims to mainstream it.

2017: The Sri Lanka Sustainable Development Act, No. 19 was passed. The objects of this Act shall be to: a) ensure that the National Policy and Strategy on Sustainable Development is prepared in accordance with section 11 and provide the legal framework for developing and implementing such National Policy and Strategy on Sustainable Development; b) ensure an ecologically efficient use of natural, social and economic resources; c) to promote the integration and maintain the equipoise of environmental, economic and social factors in the making of all decisions by government; and d) formulate strategies in accordance with paragraphs (a-c). In addition, this Act establishes a Council called the Sustainable Development Council. The Council shall, by the name assigned to it by this section be a body Corporate and shall have perpetual succession and a common seal and may sue and be sued in such name. The Powers, functions and duties of the Council are: to facilitate the achievement of national, regional and international commitments relating to sustainable development; to formulate National Policy and Strategy on Sustainable Development in consultation and with the concurrence of all relevant parties and nine Provincial Councils and place before the Cabinet of Ministers for approval; to review and update the National Policy and Strategy on Sustainable Development periodically; to issue guidelines relating to sustainable development to the ministries, provincial councils and project approving agencies in respect of new development projects; etc.

2017:The Conservation of Fish and Aquatic Resources within Sri Lanka Waters Regulations were introduced. These Regulations specify that no person shall discharge industrial or domestic effluent directly or indirectly to Sri Lanka Waters. No person shall dump any pollutant, waste or foreign matter and fill or reclaim the sea areas in a manner causing destruction to fish and aquatic resources in Sri Lanka waters. No person shall engage in removing, cutting or altering mangrove ecosystems grown in the coastal belt or in any area adjacent to the Sri Lanka Waters. No person shall engage in any activity which causes a threat to the conservation of fish species in Sri Lanka Waters or coastal belt adjacent to it. However the Director General may issue a permit consisting of conditions required to be observed for any activity which does not have any harmful effect.

Featured Case Studies: Transnational Environmental Crime, Human Security, and Biosecurity

  • One of the last remaining wetlands in Sri Lanka, Kelanimulla is a refuge for urban wildlife, including the elusive fishing cat. The wetland absorbs runoff from the Kelani River, playing a key role in urban flood control. However, since October 2019, truckloads of debris and waste have been illegally dumped into this important ecosystem, posing serious threats to human health and security. Local residents have decided to report the dumping to the authorities through a mobile application. Referred to as eJustice, this application was developed by  the  Centre for Environmental Justice (CEJ), an NGO that advocates for environmental justice and equity in Sri Lanka. Illegal filling in Kelanimulla wetlands has decreased since the inception of eJustice, according to  Janaka Withanage, CEJ’s policy and advocacy campaign officer. The wetland was under private ownership; however CEJ informed the  Sri Lanka Land Reclamation and Development Corporation (SLRDC), which took immediate action. Today, eJustice is accessible via  Apple and  Android devices, encouraging citizens to share information on possible environmental crimes while remaining anonymous to prevent any backlash. CEJ verifies the information and then uses it to demand action from the authorities. Specifically, the app makes the most of users’ devices, allowing them to upload up to four photos, along with GPS tags, and a brief description of the nature of the issue. Once CEJ’s moderators review the report and approve it, it becomes accessible to other users of the app, who can comment on it or share further information of their own. Measures have been taken to reduce the possibility of false flagging of issues, visually offering some evidence to begin working on. In the eight months since its launch, the eJustice app has received about 30 complaints, most of them related to wetlands being filled in or encroached on. Aggressive campaigns have been launched to promote the eJustice app, deterring urban wetland destruction. Throughout 2019, CEJ received information on around 32 forest crimes, 62 forest fires, 10 wetland destruction incidents and 14 poaching incidents through the hotline. CEJ has also formed forest vigilance groups in many village areas, which work to minimize forest destruction by reporting and verifying incidents.

References and Further Reading


H.E. Mr. Mahinda Amaraweera Minister of Environment “Sobadam Piyasa", Robert Gunawardana Mawatha, Battaramulla:;