Sri Lanka has been colonized for more than 100,000 years by humans (Deraniyagala, 1986).
With the advent of humans, the natural landscape of Sri Lanka was changed significantly. Sri
Lanka’s history chronicles a hydraulic civilization from 200 BC till 1200 AD, for about a thousand
years (Jayasena and Selker, 2004). During this period, much of the forests of the dry zone
were cleared for agriculture (Wijesinghe, 2000). During colonial rule, the forests of the wet
zone were cleared in swathes for the establishment of plantations (MoFE, 1999). The dry zone,
which had been largely ignored during colonial rule, again came into focus in the late 1960s,
with the commencement of the Mahaweli Development Programme. An accelerated loss of
forests between 1983 and 1992 is attributed to large-scale clearing of forests for the schemes
established by this programme (BDS, MoENR, 2009).
Currently Sri Lanka is at another historic turning point, post-conflict, since 2009. Many challenges
— such as resettlement, resource extraction, increased irrigation for agriculture, generation of
energy, provision of drinking water, and infrastructure development — are placing the remaining
forests in the North and East under a great deal of pressure. As a consequence of these
stressors, there is increased habitat fragmentation, pollution and spread of invasive alien species.
Therefore, Target 2 was formulated to conserve habitats. Its actions will help reduce habitat
loss through better planning; conduct national level ecosystem restoration plans to enhance
carrying capacity and connectivity; conduct national level programmes to reduce impacts due to
agrochemicals and other pollutants; reduce the impacts due to invasive alien species; reduce
impacts due to over-visitation of natural habitats; manage climate change-driven impacts;
manage wetlands and conduct assessment of ecosystem status.