By Mandana Ismail Abeywickrema
Forest hermitages that have received land from the
Forest Conservation Department and have failed to
register under the Wana Sensun programme launched
by the Environment Ministry in 2007 will have to pay
commercial rates for the land.
The hermitages would then have to pay the rates
levied according to the land area in its possession.
It was last week reported that an assessment tax of
Rs. 250 is now levied on a hermitage possessing land
less than two acres. A sum of Rs.300 per acre is to be
levied on hermitages possessing between three to five
acres, and Rs.500 for every acre if the hermitage
possessed land in excess of five acres.
According to the new tax scheme a forest hermitage
should be less than five acres.
Environment Minister Champika Ranawaka told The
Sunday Leader that the Ministry together with the
Forest Conservation Department was in the process of
identifying the real forest hermitages in the country,
as some of the lands initially acquired for forest
hermitages have been used for commercial purposes.
He explained that land for hermitages were initially
allocated under different purposes, which also included
land given out for agriculture and commercial purposes.
Under the Wana Sensun programme launched in
2007, the Environment Ministry had requested all forest
hermitages that have received land from the Forest
Conservation Department to register themselves with the
"The hermitages that have registered with Wana
Senasun are recognised as forest hermitages and are
required to pay only Rs. 20 per acre annually. Under the
programme only two acres are allocated for a forest
hermitage. Therefore, they would have to pay Rs. 40 per
year. If they still inform us that they find it
difficult to make the payment, we pay it for them," he
While there are close upon 200 forest hermitages
located island wide on lands belonging to the Forest
Department, a few have registered themselves under
"The target of the programme was to get at least 100
hermitages to register," Ranawaka said. However,
hermitages that have failed to register under Wana
Sensun and possessing over two acres would have to
pay commercial rates for the land.
He alleged that politicians during previous
governments had allocated land to their associates for
commercial purposes claiming to be for forest
"During the UNP regime a lot of land was allocated to
various persons claiming to be for hermitages," he
Ranawaka said the Ministry was in the process of
streamlining the system and identifying the lands being
used for commercial purposes from that being used for
The Forest Conversation Department it is learnt has
requested all District Forest Officers to send
assessment reports according to the new tax scheme of
all hermitages in their respective areas