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Global deforestation rates hit a record high in 2017 as data revealed that the world has lost one football ground’s worth of forest cover every second in 2017. Not only does this mark an upward trend in deforestation but also jeopardises all efforts to tackle environmental issues including climate change.
A small but important group of Sri Lankans are attempting to change this trend. Reforest Sri Lanka, a non profit society committed to protect and extend the forest cover in Sri Lanka was formed by a group of students studying for their MBA at the University of Moratuwa in 2015. What started out as a mandatory course work, shared among eight students, eventually became their passion project, planting saplings where necessary and raising awareness on the importance of reforestation.
Over the course of 28 months they have replanted over 50,000 saplings with the participation of 3,500 volunteers
Founder and President of Reforest Sri Lanka Achala Meddegama hails from Peradeniya. He recalls seeing the Hantana mountain range engulfed in flames during the dry seasons, sometimes even a dozen times a month. “As swathes of forest cover were destroyed in wildfires I felt that we had to initiate change to preserve the natural beauty of this country,” said Achala.
Their initial project was to plant 500 saplings. “What we observed during this project was that Sri Lankans are keen on efforts to protect and preserve the environment, but that doesn’t necessarily translate into action. Public engagement on this kind of work was almost non existent,” he said. Encouraged by the response they received, the group decided to take their exemplary work across Sri Lanka.
Their initial areas of concern were to increase the forest cover, especially in government lands. Reforest Sri Lanka has been instrumental in replanting saplings in catchment areas with native and endemic trees. Their usual choices would be to replant trees such as Karanda, Kohomba, Nelli, Aralu and Bulu. They would also add 10% of fruit trees to this mix for animals and birds to feed on.
The organisation functions entirely on the services of volunteers, while various corporates, university staff, students, factory employees as well as members of the Army and Navy have taken part in the reforestation efforts led by this group.
A re-planting project carried out with volunteers
Reforestation is not an easy task. It involves finding the saplings as well as an immense amount of groundwork. “Over the course of 28 months we have replanted over 50,000 saplings with the participation of 3,500 volunteers,” he added. Their efforts have taken them across the length and breadth of Sri Lanka in search of viable areas for re-plantation. They have successfully completed re-plantation projects in
Ingiriya, Kalutara, Kandana, Talawila, Knuckles, Batalanda, Wellawaya and even planted 15,000 saplings along the Galle Expressway from Kadawatha onwards.
If you wish to support this worthy cause, reach out to them via firstname.lastname@example.org or through the Reforest Sri Lanka facebook page where they share updates of their projects as well as useful information about our environment.