The Sri Lankan government aims to expand the country's forest cover to 32% of its land within a decade. Photo: Luisa Ricciarini/Leemage

In an effort to protect and expand its forests, Sri Lanka will ban the importation of chainsaws and shut down timber mills within five years, President Maithripala Sirisena’s office said.

Sirisena told an environmental conference that he was determined to crack down on illegal logging and increase the amount of territory devoted to forests.

“I have instructed officials to ban the import of chainsaw machines and blades from next week,” Sirisena told the conference, his office said Friday.

Four months ago, Sirisena ordered all users to register chainsaws with police and 82,000 units were recorded within three weeks.

The president, who is also environment minister, did not say if he will completely ban machines already in use. However, he said carpenters and loggers will have five years to shut timber mills and find alternative employment.

Sirisena said the island state has experienced rapid deforestation in recent years, but gave no figures. However, he said the new measures were aimed at expanding the country’s forest cover to 32% of its land within a decade from 28% now.

– with reporting by AFP

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