He thanked the FAO for the assistance given to Sri Lanka and its people, especially during periods of national disasters such as floods, drought and landslides that occurred causing much damage, especially to poor farming communities, by providing them with urgently required food and provisions.He also thanked the FAO Director General for inviting him to address the opening session of the 24th Session of the Committee on Forestry and described it as a great honor to Sri Lanka, and personally to him. (Colombo Gazette) President Sirisena said that forests provide many socio-economic benefits, including food, energy and shelter, which are basic human needs and to sustain the products and services that help meet these and other needs, forests must be sustainably managed. “The agenda ahead of you is very comprehensive and challenging,” he told the international gathering.He pointed out that more than 50 percent of the land area in Sri Lanka was covered by forests two centuries ago and now the total dense forest cover of the island is estimated at 29.7 percent of the total land area of the country. He explained the programs the Government has launched to enhance it to 32 percent. President Maithripala Sirisena told a summit in Rome today that the environment is given priority in Sri Lanka.He said that mega or even medium level projects should conduct environmental impact assessments before commencing activity. Delivering the Inaugural Speech at the opening ceremony of the 24th Sessions of the Committee on Forestry, of Food & Agriculture Organization (FAO) in Rome today (July 16), President Sirisena said the Committee on Forestry is the right platform for the forestry experts to share knowledge, discuss, debate and take decisions for the progressing of the global forestry sector.