Sri Lanka is a preferred destination for foreign tourists because of the greeneries and the lushes environment visible in most locations. They know little of about the wanton destruction of forests that is taking place; much to the dismay of environmentalists and wildlife enthusiasts.
There were much protests and loads of newspaper articles written on deforestation that’s happening, but the government remains unconcerned. There are allegations made against state officers who are said to be aiding and abetting such activities. For the record it is reported that historic land in Anuradhapura district has been cleared for commercial purposes and businessmen have been issued with annual permits to facilitate such activities.
Priests in the area have complained that as a result of such disturbing activities the bund of the Kalawewa has been damaged beyond repair.
Critics point out that ambitious businessmen have taken undue advantage of the regime’s genuine programme to carry out development work in remote areas. When the destruction taking all over the island was unbearable to witness the Chief of the Indigenous People (Veddas) and the Centre for Environmental Justice filed a joint petition in court to check the damage to the environment; in areas which have been the habitat of these indigenous people.
In a way we should be ashamed that axe carrying Indigenous People had to remind the powerful authorities in the country that enough is enough and that forests should be left alone.
Around last year we heard the voice of environmentalist Sajeewa Chamikara loud and clear when he appeared to save the forests from destruction. The first controversial project after the 2019 presidential elections was initiated to construct a new road to make a connection between Deniyaya and Lankagam. It took the efforts of critics to point out that this activity was taking place too close to the Sinharaja Reserve.
Going further these critics alleged that the road to be built was to facilitate access to a hotel owned by the son of a political bigwig. A family member of this powerful clan then threatened Chamikara that he’ll seek the assistance of the law if the allegations made continued. One voice was silenced. But the destruction of forests continued in areas like Hantana Reserve, Knuckles Reserve, Kadolana, Thanamalwila, Udawalawe Reserve, Lunugamwehara Reserve, Rathmale Reserve, Randenigala, Morawewa and the list goes on.
Give that Sri Lanka plans to aggressively promote tourism such destructive activities must be checked immediately.
In this backdrop the government has commenced a tree planting campaign titled ‘Kekulu Thuru Udana’ which will rope in school children. The regime plans to continue with the programme and has a vision to have 17 lakhs trees after a five year period.
All that is good, but the education of these children regarding environment would not be complete if they are not made aware that action would be taken against citizens if they breach the National Environmental Act of 1980, the Forest Ordinance of 1907 and the Fauna and Flora Protection Ordinance of 1938. Recently leopards encroaching into estate areas in search of ‘food’ indicates that ambitious human activities are destroying wildlife. The next warning sign came from the less educated, but highly intelligent indigenous people who demand that the destruction of forests be stopped. About a week or more ago the destruction or clearance of land in Anuradhapura district came under the spotlight because historical Buddhist architecture and ancient ruins were destroyed. The subject minister for National Heritage, Performing Arts and Rural Skills Promotion Vidura Wickramenayaka inspected the destruction, but no arrests were made.
The religious aspect in the wanton destruction of forests and the blatant clearance of historic land makes such unlawful activities newsworthy.
What about such destruction that happens in areas where there are no temples and the people