Legal and administrative steps would be taken by the government shortly to prohibit the import of tree cutting machines, chainsaws, mechanical saws and the carpenter sheds popularly known as ‘wadu maduwa’, in a bid to protect the environment - in particular, the forest density of the country, President Maithripala Sirisena declared today.
He added that people would have to import furniture as deforestation and tree cutting would be banned fully.
Delivering the keynote address at a ceremony held to mark ‘World Environment Day 2019’ under the theme, ‘Minimising of air pollution through sustainable forest management’ at the BMICH last morning, President Sirisena went on to say that if these measures were taken and implemented for ten years, the forest density of Sri Lanka could be increased to an environment friendly 32% from the current not so satisfactory 28%. “A few months ago, I went to a funeral house at Kurunegala. A poor looking old person approached me and asked, ‘Sir you are the Environment Minister?’ and I said ‘yes’. He again said you work hard to protect the environment and forests, don’t you? Yes, no one can cut trees without my permission, I said.
Then he said cutting of hundreds of trees using chainsaws in many parts of the country around the year was a common sight everywhere. If you want to stop cutting of trees in a haphazard manner, you must do something for this. It was after this poor citizen drew my attention to the harm done to our forests using chainsaws that I decided to register chainsaws at Divisional Secretariats and obtain permits to use them to restrict the use of chainsaws. As a further measure to put an end to this destruction, I will also prohibit the import of chainsaws, tree cutting machines and maintaining of carpenter shops,” President Sirisena stressed. He said no official, even from the Environment Ministry, Forest Department or Central Environment Authority (CEA) had educated him on the damage done to Sri Lanka’s forests by chain saws until this person did it. When laws to register chainsaws were made effective, 82000 chainsaws had been registered island wide in three weeks. “I have been using a chopper to travel to distant places in Sri Lanka as a minister for about 25 years.
After becoming the president, I use the helicopter at least twice a week. I enjoy the beauty of our country when I fly within Sri Lanka. The greenery of vast forests, the blue waters of rivers and the blue sky make Sri Lanka a paradise,” he added. When he visited India last week, he said he had to travel with Prime Minister Narendra Modi from Delhi in a chopper. What he saw all the way was barren and yellowish lands. When I checked the temperature in New Delhi, it was at 47 centigrade while the temperature in Colombo was at 30 centigrade.
The air quality index in New Delhi was 113 particle matters, in Lahore, it was 114, in Washington DC it was 8 and in Colombo 32. We must try our best to bring Colombo to the level of Washington DC. The welcome address was made by Director General of the CEA, Hemantha Jayasinghe. President Sirisena launched the ‘Water Quality Monitoring’ website of the CEA. (Sandun A. Jayasekera)