Vandalism of Sinharaja Forest
Posted on August 7th, 2011

Sunil Vijayapala Australia

We read a disturbing report in Sunday Times of 31 July 2011, about a proposal to build a road near Sinharaja Forest, an area under LRC. 

 If it is true we wish to know who initiated this and who authorised this project.

 We quote from the article ‘……a considerable area of forest patch is to be cleared under this project, although the Central Environmental Authority had not carried out an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and the Forest Department too
seemed to be silent on the issue’.  What?  Are we living in the 21st century?

We lost half a million acres of Forest cover in the hill country to the plunderer, the British and now apparently our own fools would finish off the job with the encroachment of this World Heritage site and render the final death blow. 

The hills are gradually turning into meadows with soil erosion and in years to come virtually most will be a flat land as there will be no more surface area left to grow tea, the obsession of Sri Lankans.  While the unproductive tea lands which need to be reforested lay idle, new land is being cleared to grow tea, with the encroachment of pristine Sinharaja forest.  While we certainly hold the monopoly in the world on the Cinnamon market, Cinnamon growers are gradually turning to grow tea, a pathetic situation indeed, which needs to be addressed immediately.

 Some time ago I wrote to Mr.Mahinda Rajapakse to declare a buffer zone a minimum of  500 meters around the Sinharaja so that to protect it permanently from clearing for growing tea and from timber exploitation.  With a subsidy given to farmers to grow tea, which should have been stopped long ago, they certainly take the easy road and destroy the perimeter of Sinharaja area to grow tea for their survival, an acre being quite sufficient.

 If Mahinda Chintana is clearing existing forest to grow tea and build roads, it is fundamentally flawed.  For politicians what matters most is the vote and their preoccupation with Election challenges, the situation becomes critical. 

Why are Sri Lankan politicians and administrators so stupid?  Are the bureaucrats under political pressure to engage in this crime or are they miserably corrupt and incompetent?.

 Here are few instances of our ‘unscientific’ minded politicians attempted to destroy our country, with their dramatic proposals, which were prevented by the intervention of wise Sri Lankans.

            A former Prime Minister ordered the Sinharaja Forest to be cleared using Canadian aid to extract timber!

            A former Minister planned to grow potato, in his terms the ‘wasteland’ of Horton Plains!

            Today Parliamentarians need to travel in armoured cars to enter the Parliament when torrential rains hit Battaramulla,

            an area supposed to be a catchment area for rain water to collect, a nature’s reservoir.  This was a project by Land

            Reclamation  Department to fill boggy land and build structures.

            A former Minister ordered the cutting down of a four hundred year old tree in the South, a treasure from our King’s days, to pave way for a sports arena.

 What next? Yala city?  Certainly we don’t need a wild life sanctuary, do we?  What we need is to build concrete jungle replacing the existing jungle and the land value of Yala to go up by Rs.500,000 per perch!  What baloney is this?  In the name of development we engage in destroying the last forest base, the only areas spared by the British, who still our politicians worship!  Without England there is no survival for Sri Lankans.

 While most countries move away from building new Coal fired plants to generate electricity and new nuclear plants our fools get excited over these projects.  A potential nuclear disaster means the WHOLE country will be unliveable and we may end up in the sea.  Why are Sri Lankan politicians and administrators so stupid?

 In the name of our ancestral kings we earnestly request you to drop this project to build a road near Sinharaja forest.  We expats came to the rescue of our motherland to counteract the LTTE terrorist propaganda and now unscrupulous Sri Lankans have begun environmental terrorism!  Perhaps let us hope the World heritage Foundation will come to the rescue of Sinharaja, if no one else would!

 Sunil Vijayapala

Australia

 

14 Responses to “Vandalism of Sinharaja Forest”

  1. Sunil Vijaya Says:

    I copied Nirmala Kannangara’s article published here to World Heritage Convention. http://whc.unesco.org/en/contacts/
    I earnestly request all concerned to write to them and lodge a formal protest as individuals and also as organisations and also to Sri Lanka goverment politiicians and administrators. We have a duty to safegaurd our county and stop this horendous project. Sunil Vijayapala.

  2. Susantha Wijesinghe Says:

    May we please have the name of the Minister who gave orders to cut down a 400 year old tree. It is tantamount to patricide. We have had, and still do have many ministers who cannot, and will not, stand up to destructive ideas, that is harmful to the motherland, beautiful Sri Lanka. It is an unforgivable sin to cut down a 400 year old tree.

    Those patriotic environmentalists who are serious in stopping this Roadway to a Hotel inside Siharaja Forest, should immediately go for an injunction to stop the road construction, and the Hotel construction too. There are many beautiful places in Sri Lanka to site Hotels.

    When the greed for money is apparent, those involved become circus acrobats, and will perform their acts with great desire, to achieve their objectives.

    The various Officers who are passing the buck, and who are avoiding media personnel, are scared and servile personnel. Cannot blame them, as Presidents son is initiating the construction. I too would be scared to lose my Job.

  3. Sunil Vijaya Says:

    Sorry Susantha – I shall not divulge the name of that Minister as per your request for personal reasons. However karma vipake has taken care of this man and that’s all I can say. This was a well publicised story sometime ago which you may have missed. Sunil Vijayapala

  4. Lorenzo Says:

    This is totally unacceptable.

    Govt should stop doing this.

  5. Lorenzo Says:

    Susantha

    Following from Daily Mirror.

    Historical trees: Overlooked aspect of heritage that needs a revival of interest Wednesday, 16 March 2011 01:10
    By Jagath Gunawardana

    Sri Lanka is fortunate to be endowed with a very large number of trees, some of which even have historical, cultural, social and religious value, growing in all parts of the country.

    In June 2009, the Bio-diversity Secretariat of the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources published a book depicting some important trees, an endeavour that took them several years. However, it has to be noted that two of the trees provided in the text were destroyed within the year itself. The first to be destroyed was the giant Pus-wela (Woody Liana) in Hunuwila, Opanayaka. It is a famous landmark when reaching Balangoda. The major part of this was cut down for no apparent reason despite public protests, by the company that was laying the road. The other tree to be destroyed within the year was the Ebony tree that was in the middle of the Malabe Junction, a famous landmark and also the largest ebony tree that was outside a protected area. It was killed slowly due to the tap root being cut to accommodate the cementing of the pavement. In addition, the historic Arukku-Nugaya (arched banyan tree) that was across the Galle-Matara main highway was also felled during 2009, despite protests by people, to accommodate the widening of the road.

    A tree gets historical significance by the events or circumstances associated with it and the its age or the species is often irrelevant. The historical, cultural and social values are the important factors, although the significance of the species may, on occasion, give an added intrinsic value to it, such as the case of Baobab trees in Mannar. There are trees with historical significance that are comparatively young in age such as the Mahogany tree at Horana planted by Ernesto Che Guevera when he visited Sri Lanka. This tree is only 50 years old but is even depicted in a stamp due to the fact that it was planted by Guevera and to denote the friendship between the countries. There are instances where an event is associated with a historical tree having different historical significance for different people who look at an event from their own perspectives. The best example of this is the Bo-tree at Watapuluwa which gets its historical value from the first complete rout of the British colonial forces by the forces of the Kandyan kingdom which happened in 1806.This tree was named the Davies Tree by the Colonial administration and a plaque has been placed near it in 1906 mentioning the incident as a massacre. The first great victory by the Kandyan forces against the British forces had been viewed by them as a massacre in which only the officer who led the contingent, one major Davy, was left alive and after whom the nearby road (Davie Road) and this tree have been named.

    The identification of, and more importantly, giving legal protection to old trees especially to those with historical and religious value, is important as some of these have been wantonly destroyed during the recent past. The cutting down of the historical Banyan (Nuga) tree at Denipitiya, associated with the Poetess Gajaman Nona, by the orders of the Divisional Secretary is one of the worst such cases. This historic tree was earmarked to be protected way back in 1971 but was not given protection in 1993 when the Fauna and Flora Protection Ordinance was amended, and the authorities were not particularly in a hurry to provide protection by regulations when this was pointed out at the time. Their reasoning was that such a well-known tree would be protected by all and that giving it legal protection could wait until the next amendment. However, it was cut down under the orders of the Divisional Secretary in 2001, despite many protests, and we could not take any action as it was not protected at the time. The historically and religiously important Na Tree at Parakaduwa was saved in 2001 because it had been protected by law.

    These recent examples show that public awareness and protests are in themselves insufficient to protect these ancient trees although there are instances where trees have been saved by civic action. A good example is the saving of the historic Kumbuk Tree at Paramaulla at Alawwa through public protests after an irate colonial administration officer wanted it cut-down as his coach met with an accident when passing it.

    In contrast to the disinterest shown to the protection of historical trees in Sri Lanka, some countries are taking great efforts to protect old trees, even though they may not have a historical significance as such. For instance, Britain is taking steps to protect their ancient trees regardless their historic importance and the Woodland Trust, the leading woodland conservation charity, launched a project in 2007 called the Ancient Tree Hunt to find, records and protect the ancient trees found in Britain. Their intention is to find all possible trees which are more than 200 years old. It is worth noting that this effort is to identify old trees in general and not to confine their efforts to trees with historical value.

    If Sri Lanka is to conduct a similar survey to identify ancient trees without their historical, religious or cultural significance, the number would be very high. Even if we were to take only those with religious or historic significance, it could be a large number. It is a little known fact that Sri Lanka has the largest number of ancient trees with their histories recorded from their planting up to the present. The oldest tree with a continuous written historical record from the time of planting to the present days is the Jaya Sri Maha Bhodiya at Anuradhapura and the record is unbroken since it was planted in the third centuary B.C. The other oldest trees with continuous records are the eight saplings known as Ashtapal-Bodhi that sprang up from the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhiya and have been planted in different parts of the country under the orders of King Devanampiyatissa. All of these sacred Bo-trees (Bodhis) have continuous records spanning more than 2000 years.

    There is an urgent necessity to identify and document the ancient trees growing in Sri Lanka and priority should be given to those that have religious, cultural, and historical importance and to those which may need immediate intervention to protect their survival. A tree that is important for religious purposes gets a certain degree of protection under the provisions of Section 293 of the Penal Code because the destruction and the damaging of objects of religious value are deemed as offences. Those that have some historical, cultural, social or religious value that grow in public places can be protected under the provisions of the Fauna and Flora Protection Ordinance.

    The Bio-diversity Secretariat of the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources had, based on the survey of historical trees, identified some of those trees that needed immediate legal protection. They were preparing the necessary documents to provide legal protection to them under Section 43 of the Fauna and Flora Protection Ordinance when the subject of wildlife conservation was taken away from the Environmental Ministry and handed over to the Ministry of Economic Development. This subject has in turn been handed over to the Ministry of Agrarian Services in November 2010. The ultimate result is that the move to give legal protection to some important trees has been stalled since April 2010. It is therefore an urgent national necessity to revive this process and give them the necessary legal protection before many other such valuable trees are wantonly destroyed.

  6. Ben_silva Says:

    It is sad to see green areas disappearing in Lanka, due to poplation growth. Sinharaja is one of the few remaining forrests. A road will speed up its elimination. We need to save Sinharaja.

  7. AnuD Says:

    What I heard, most of the plants in Sinharaja are endemic and are of medicinal value. In Sri Lanka, politicians are the ones who decide and then bureaucrats just dummys who should implement what the politician say. I don’t think Sri Lankan bureaucrats have any job satisfaction.

  8. KingSasanka Says:

    I am glad; finally the Editor of this forum has taken a bold decision to publish this write up diverting from their previous stance.

    The purpose of forums like this is to educate the reading public and leave it for them to make their own opinions and decisions.

  9. Susantha Wijesinghe Says:

    Sunil Vijaya, it is OK. I may have missed the original article. I was just Curious.

    Lorenzo, Whenever I go to Mannar every month, long years back, I always find the time to go and gaze at the great Baobab Trees.

    When you go over the causeway and enter Mannar, onto the right is the Mannar Rest House. Next to the rest house is a gravel road going inwards. When you walk about a mile you see these Great Trees, about five of them.

    They are about 10-15 feet in diametre and is about 15-20 feet in height. It appears like an Elephant Leg. The trees are all protected with a fence, to prevent people going and pricking it, as it bleeds a Red Sap. The branches and leaves are on top of it mostly. I saw one of these plants tilted to about 45% due to the Cyclone.

    legend decrees that the Arabs brought this plant to store water. Just digressing.. I will never forget the Lunch Feast at the Rest House for Rs2.50.

  10. Sunil Vijaya Says:

    I made few calls to Sri Lanka on this matter. It seems everyone is in fear to bring in an injuction on this project as they fear of reprisals. This is a very sad situation in a democratic country. Safegaurding Sinharaja is of paramount importance as much as safeguarding Buddhism in Sri Lanka. A place where apparently evolution is still taking place has fallen into the hands of environmental terrorists and criminals. Most University dons, professionals involved in Judiciary, Journalism, Environment etc. are reluctant to protest. We expats have a duty bring some clout on this. I wrote this article on the insistance of one of my most admired professors at Uni. who requested me to continue writing. However I sincerely feel our dialogues have no impact on the direction the government of Sri Lanka is heading and the important dialogues just seem revolve around this forum, hence this will be my final. Anyway let us forget the past misdemeanors and do our best to write and protest through world bodies and hope for a favourable outcome. We need some solid action now. Sunil Vijayapala

  11. Lorenzo Says:

    Sunil,

    That is outrageous! Just because traditional avenues are not working doesn’t mean we should give up. We have to explore other avenues as well. May be the people in that area are for it given the business opportunities it brings (at least they may think it might bring). We have to educate them too. If the political majority is against it and is important, there is no way the government would go ahead with it.

    I came to know this road will not cut across the forest which is a great relief. But any road or other commercialisation or change near this national treasure is TOTALLY UNACCEPTABLE.

    If sane people stop writing, the INSANE will have a WALKOVER. This is what happened with the propaganda war. We kept the truths hidden and the terrorists had a walkover. When we woke up it was very late (but we caught up).

  12. Lorenzo Says:

    The Editor has ALWAYS allowed factual articles that benefit the Motherland irrespective of political impact. This is no exception.

    Only spiteful nonsense aimed at petty political gains that add no value to the nation were not allowed from my experience.

    No wonder Lankaweb is the most popular community driven original current news website of SL affairs in the net.

  13. Marco Says:

    Head out the sand at last?

  14. Sunil Vijaya Says:

    Guys – do the needful. Write to World Heritage Convention – the link I have given on the first comment. The more complaints and petitions the better. SLUNA, SPUR must also take action. This is our only hope. Sunil Vijayapala

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

 

 


Copyright © 2017 LankaWeb.com. All Rights Reserved. Powered by Wordpress