“I Broke My Back To Have Knuckles Declared A World Natural Heritage Site” — Faiszer
By Raisa Wickrematunge
Despite the central highlands of Sri Lanka recently being named a World Natural Heritage Site, Sri Lanka had to persuade international authorities to consider the nominated area, following reservations expressed by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
Deputy Minister for Environment, Faiszer Mustapha explained that the IUCN expressed reservations about the areas put up for nomination by Sri Lanka.
Mustapha explained that the IUCN wanted a comprehensive management plan for the sites, rather than an individual one. In addition, the IUCN thought there was no proper buffer zone to protect the area. The International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) additionally said that the sites did not belong to the same cultural theme and historical period.
Together with Environment Minister, Anura Priyadarshana Yapa, Mustapha individually met with each of the 21 member states of the World Heritage Committee. The Ministry convinced the states that despite the IUCN’s reservations, the sites came under an exception.
“For a property to be considered…it must have outstanding and universal value,” Mustapha said. The committee had decided that the sites fell under the exception and voted for the area to be a World Natural Heritage Site.
The areas nominated included the Peak Wilderness Protection Area, Horton Plains National Park and the Knuckles Conservation Forest.
“This area excludes the peak and pathway, i.e. the pilgrim area of Sri Pada…and comprises the Central Highlands of Sri Lanka,” Mustapha said.