Divisional Administration for Conservation of Environment in Sri Lanka: Opportunities and Challenges


  • Dissanayake D.M.S.B.
  • Jayasinghe I.D.C.




The Transfer of Powers (Divisional Secretaries’) Act No. 58 of 1992 enhanced the powers and
functions of the divisional administration system, and also merged the central government and
provincial governments at the divisional levels, creating a new power center for development
planning, regulation, and resourcing. The divisional administration carries functions under several
laws including Land Development Ordinance, State Land Ordinance, Land Acquisition Act, State
Land Recovery Act, Land Development (Special Provision) Act, Forest Ordinance, Agrarian
Development Act, and Irrigation Ordinance. Natural resources are the key to the rural economy in
Sri Lanka and natural resource depletion is accelerated by anthropogenic causes such as population
pressure, encroachment, and over-extraction of natural resources. Environmental pollution and
degradation challenge sustainable development significantly. The objective of this paper is to
examine the potentiality of divisional administration in environmental conservation, focusing on the
legitimate powers vested. Qualitative methodology was used for the research, a desk review was done
with the relevant legal sources; acts, regulations, and judgments, and challenges were examined
through ten key informant interviews. The study identifies that the divisional has a three-fold role in
environmental conservation; land management, development management, and law enforcement.
The divisional administration holds the guardianship of the state land and associated natural
resources, with powers of granting or leasing land for settlements or developments, and is also
responsible for the land use planning. In the perspective of development management, the divisional
administration is more significant as it has opportunities to coordinate the development through
various committees, mitigate climate change impact and natural disasters, and provide development
assistance and relief. The wider regulation powers vested with the divisional administration is ranging
from issuance of permits to enforcing laws against unlawful acts. This function directly relates to
controlling deforestation and encroachment and managing over and illegal extraction of natural
resources. The significant element of the divisional administration for environmental conservation is
the availability of a vertical mechanism connecting the community at a lower level to the respective
departments at the higher levels and the horizontal mechanism connecting all public, private, and
community organizations. However, the study reveals several challenges such as the nature of
political and community priorities that limit divisional administration in environmental conservation.
The study recommends that recognition and revaluation of the role of divisional administration in
environmental conservation are timely essential.

Keywords: Divisional administration, Environmental conservation, Land management, Development management, Law enforcement

Author Biographies

Dissanayake D.M.S.B.

Institute of Development Studies,

Colombo, Sri Lanka

Jayasinghe I.D.C.

Faculty of Graduate Studies,

University of Colombo,

Colombo, Sri Lanka






Environmental Economics in Resource Management.