Sri Lanka actively joined the world community on Thursday to mark the International Day of Forests with the theme being Forest and Education. In a statement to mark the event, the United Nations says when we drink a glass of water, write in a notebook, take medicine for an ailment or build a house, we do not often see the connection with forests. Yet, these and many other aspects of our lives are linked to forests in one way or another.
Forests, their sustainable management and use of resources including in fragile ecosystems are key to combating climate change and to contributing to the prosperity and well-being of the present and future generations.
According to the UN, forests also play a crucial role in poverty alleviation and in the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Every year on March 21, the UN raises awareness of the importance of all types of forests.
This year, the International Day of Forests promotes education to learn to love forests. It underscores the importance of education at all levels in achieving sustainable forest management and biodiversity conservation. Healthy forests mean healthy, resilient communities and prosperous economies.
Understanding our forests and keeping them healthy is crucial for our future. Forests will be more important than ever as the world population climbs to 8.5 billion by 2030, the UN adds. We are never too young to start learning about trees. Helping children connect with nature creates future generations conscious of the benefits of trees and forests and the need to manage them sustainably. Both modern and traditional knowledge are key to keeping forests healthy.
While foresters should know and understand nature well, they should also learn to use cutting-edge technology to ensure that our forests are monitored and managed sustainably, the UN says. Investing in forestry education can change the world for the better. Countries can help ensure there are scientists, policymakers, foresters and local communities working to halt deforestation and restore degraded landscapes. Women and men should have equal access to forest education. Gender parity in forest education empowers rural women to sustainably manage forests, according to the UN.
In Sri Lanka, President Maithripala Sirisena – known and admired as an activist in the battle against global warming and climate change – presided at a ceremony on Thursday to mark the International Day of Forests. The ceremony was held at the Dimbulagala, Weheragala Central School. At the well–attended event, the President said it was the duty of eco-friendly citizens to protect forests, trees and animals.
He said effective and sustainable measures had been taken to protect Sri Lanka’s forests and expand the density. The President warned that in recent decades the forest cover had withered to 28% and if citizens did not cooperate with moves to increase the forest cover, we might face the calamity of having little or no forest cover within the next 15 years.
Mr. Sirisena made another interesting observation. He said that LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran, though spearheading one of the world’s most ruthless terrorist movements, had protected the North-East forests that were necessary for his strategic campaign.
But in other parts of the country, corrupt politicians, business groups and other notorious characters had destroyed the forests to a point as low as 7%. He pointed out that of the 28 per cent of forests that we had, as much as 20% was in the North-East.
The President said he had drawn up plans to increase forest density to about 32% in the coming three years. This would mean making 140,000 hectares lush green, and it had to be done by growing trees to cover 15,000 hectares a year. Therefore, to make this programme a success, the support of government sector, private sector, NGOs, schoolchildren and the entire population was essential, the President said.
French poet, novelist and dramatist Victor Hugo has said the mountains, the forest and the sea, render men savage; they develop the fierce, but yet do not destroy the human. Reflecting on such deep philosophy, we need to take at least one small step such as planting trees or developing our home gardens to mark the International Day of Forests.