An open letter and a plea to the President and the whole nation to save the Central Hill Country “The HADABIMA” of the nation.
Posted on February 29th, 2020

Dr. Sudath Gunasekara (SLAS) retired Permanent Secretary to Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranayaka,  President Sri Lanka Administrative Services Association (1991-1994) and President Mahanuwara Sinhala Bauddha Jesta Puravesiyange Sanvidhanaya.

Stop the wanton destruction and devastation of the HADABIMA (Central Hill Country) of the Motherland immediately and get every man, woman and child to protect it as  his or her own heart and also  observe the concept as a RELIGION” in this country to save the Sinhala nation and the country’s unique civilization.

Abstract

This paper deals with the crying need to save the nation’s HADABIMA from the ongoing haphazard and wanton destruction and devastation carried out there in the name of development and reconciliation, to save this country from virtual extinction, both as a nation and an island suitable for life.

It is discussed under the following headings to make it easy for the readers to comprehend. 1 What is the concept of HADABIMA (the Central Hill Country) and what is its critical role in sustaining the entire life system and the civilization in this country. 2 The wanton destruction and devastation done there in history and at present in the name of development and ethnic reconciliation. 3 The serious consequences it will have on the country’s water resources, quality of land, climate, entire life system and civilization in the Island in the long run. 4 What should be done to arrest this criminal devastation and finally 5 An appeal to the Government and the whole nation to protect it as your own heart and observe the concept as a religion?

1 What is the concept of HADABIMA (the Central Hill Country) and what is its critical role in sustaining the entire life system and the civilization in this country? 

 I use the word HADABIMA in this paper to call the Central Hill Country of Sri Lanka as I have named it in 1991, which I have explained below. All land above 1000 ft above MSL in this country is called the HADABIMA of the country for the purpose of this discussion.

The origin of the HADABIMA concept and why I call the Central Hill Country The Hadabima (Heart Land) of the Nation”.

I named this as the HADABIMA of Sri Lanka in 1991 on three counts when I was the Executive Director of NADASA project. Firstly, its physiography, that resembles a heart flanked by two lungs on either sides, as shown in the diagram given below. Second, it’s geographical location right at the centre of the Island and third, its functional correlation with that of a blood circulatory system in a human and the Hydrological cycle as shown in Fig 2  

This perception first occurred to me with my familiarity with the peculiar physiography of the Hill country and its relationship to the general lay out of the Islands landscape and the unique radial drainage pattern that has a commanding grip over the entire Island and its critical role in the story of sustainability of the entire life system in the country as a student of Geography. My baccalaureate training in Geography at the University helped me to first visualize the analogy between the broad physiography of the central hill country with its two outliers, the Knuckles ranges on the North East and Rakwana Hills on the South West. Actually one day this happened by accident as

                                                Fig 1

Source: Sudath Gunasekara 1991

I turned the physiographic map of the central hill country 15 degrees clock vice. After that I superimposed a drawing of the heart flanked by the two lungs on it and thereafter looking at the blood circulatory system in a human with that of the hydrological cycle (Fig 2) I found a jig saw fit between the two diagrams and the circulatory processes that enabled me to draw a close analogy between the overall morphology of the central hill country and its functions with that of a blood circulation system. Further insight in to the functions of a human heart to the physical functions of the Central Highlands revealed me a close correlation between the two.

Thereafter I visualized the Islands river system as the arteries that perform the function of blood circulation in a living organism. In this case I visualize the river system as the arteries that keep the hydrological cycle going as I have pointed out in my original concept paper on this subject that was published in the Island paper and Lankaweb Dec. 2. 2017. with full details. As I have sated there, in closer examination ”as much as the beat of the heart decides the fate of a man, similarly, the physical stability (beat) of the central hill country decides the fate of the entire life system and the civilization of this country”. Therefore, the crying needs to protect the Sri Lanka’s geographical Heartland at any cost to sustain the entire life system and the civilization in this country.

All 103 rivers of the Island that provide water to sustain the entire life system on this land, agriculture, industry and hydro power and human civilization have their sources on these hills, supported by the forest cover that protects their physical stability. If the forests are not there, there want be any rain and the rivers will cease to flow. If the rivers go dry at their sources they will go dry in their entirety and the whole country will end up as an uninhabitable sterile desert. As much as the man dies when the heart stops, similarly on the day the physical stability of the central hills is gone the entire life system of the

                       (Map 1)

Source: Hydrological Survey Department

Island will disappear from its surface. It is in this context I argued for the crying need to protect the central hill country like the heart of our nation as this is the only watershed that provides water for the whole Island. This is a unique situation in the whole world. Therefore the need to protect it as the nation’s heart, you will agree, is a matter between life and death and survival for this nation.

The Central Hill Country also provides the source for all the rivers in the Island. Out of a total of 103 rivers, nearly forty have their sources directly on these high watersheds. Even the other streams in the Island owe their origin and the courses to the broader foundation of land forms set by the underlying geological structure of the central high lands (Map 2). Draining down the hills and the coastal lowlands all around sculpturing the landscape and feeding the whole country with their bountiful water resources, the rivers form the live ‘veins and arteries’ that keep the Islands entire life system alive. 

         (Map2)

Source Sudath Gunasekara 1991

The rivers transport the excess water that falls from the heavens together with the water released by the sub-surface in to the high seas. The forest cover and the sub-surface absorb part of the rainfall. The forest cover and the water bodies also transfer a part of the rainfall received by them back to the atmosphere by way of evapo-transpiration. Together with what is evaporated from the ocean the same rain water that falls from the heavens thus returns as rain through the process of evaporation and precipitation activated by solar radiation and atmospheric circulation. Once again the excess water is transported back to the seas by the rivers. This we call the hydrological cycle (Map 3).

               Map  3

Source Sudath Gunasekara 1991

As I have already pointed out in my concept paper discussed in more detail referred to on page 2 above as much as the beat of the heart decides the fate of the man the physical stability (the beat) of the central hill country decides the fate of the entire life system in this country and finally the sustainability of its civilization”   This danger calls for the immediate arrest of this devastation of the HADABIMA of the nation by human intervention.

This is why I say that the importance of the HADABIMA (Central Hill Country of this Island) in maintaining the survival of the entire life system and the civilization of this Island nation and the protection of which should be observed as a RELIGION” in this country and that it also should be inculcated to every man, woman and child in this country and taught in all schools and Universities in this country, throughout its history

It is with this broad national objective of protecting this cyclic natural phenomena, I call upon the nation to give top priority to protect the physical stability of the land above 5000 ft MSL as a strictly declared reserved and protected forest and limit all human settlement strictly to land below 3500 ft as it was done in the ancient times. If you take a look at Kotmale, Welimanda and Mandaramnuwara settlements you will see the wisdom of our ancient Kings. They never allowed any settlement above this level.

In the days of the Sinhala Kings all lands above 3500 ft MSL and even the Udawatta Kele behind the Senkadagala pura (that is only about 1000-1050 ft above msl), were declared as Thahanchi kele (strictly reserved and prohibited forest) by Royal decree, where any felling, collecting timber or forest produce or even firewood, digging, mining, hunting, encroaching or settlements were strictly prohibited, violation of which entailed serious punishment. There were only 3 isolated settlements on record in ancient times that reached even 3500 ft elevation as stated above. They were Kotmale (the oldest BC), Welimanda (early medieval period (7thC AD to 13th C AD) and Mandaram Nuwara a small settlement opened up during the Kotte period to temporally settle King Rajasinha’s band of Hindu priests. That was how the ancient native patriotic Kings who knew their history and geography of the land and who loved their motherland (in contrast to the present day unpatriotic and self–centered and vote hunting rulers elected by the people called politicians), jealously protected the nations prime watersheds. That is how they guaranteed the all-important physical stability of the central hill country that acted as the biggest natural reservoir of the nation and the main life giving agent of the whole country and that provided the source for the country’s entire network of rivers and made them perennial and guaranteed the un-interrupted supply of water resources for a bountiful agrarian society throughout history, unlike the present day politicians, who are a direct product of the colonial rulers and who are only carrying out the colonial agenda for their masters in England.  

2 The wanton destruction and devastation a) done there in history and b) at present in the name of development and ethnic reconciliation.

The devastations done in history

Large scale unlawful criminal devastation and wanton destruction of the millennia old forest cover and the environmental harmony in the hill country was first started by the Colonial British planters in mid-19th century after taking over all reserved forest and our ancestral lands by force under the Land Encroachment Ordinance No 40 of 1840, the Temple Land Ordinance of 1853 and finally the Waste Land Ordinance No 1 of 1897. Opening up of the central highlands by removing the forest cover amounting to about 600 000 acres of virgin forest going up to 8000 ft above sea  level was the first crime they did. The land so opened up for coffee and tea includes not only farmsteads and paddy fields of peasants but also temples and Devala lands. Coffee and Tea plantations was started under these colonial invasion to enrich their coffers in Britain at the peril of our motherland, while the displaced ancestral legal owners of these lands were desperately looking up helplessly from the valley bottoms as to how the invaders were destroying their reserved forest and farms and hena lands and how they are being converted to coffee and later to Tea plantations sprawling all over these highlands. (Read the writings by Moire, (1889) Le Mesurier, Samuvel Baker (!885), F.D. Vincent, PM Lushington, and Kelani Valley Railway Commission Report (1894) for more details)

This devastation was followed by construction of roads and railway lines cutting across mountains all over the highlands and constructing factories and buildings to house the million odd Indian slaves they brought from South India to work on the plantations, who have today apparently become the de facto owners of these lands mainly due to the fault of the politicians who were supposed to have ruled this country since Independence up to date. The fact that the proposed Act for the Kanda Udarata Urumaya Surakime Authority has made it compulsory to obtain the concurrence of the Minister in charge of the Subject of Hill Country Village and Infrastructure Development (who is always an Estate Tamil)  further proves this point.

 Nationalization of Sterling Estates with land reforms in early 1970s followed up by the neglect of most of those estates dawned a welcome period of returning most of these lands in to natural forest as predicted by  John Still, a planter and an antiquarian (1930).  But that hope and the dream are now gone forever in the light of the ongoing land alienations and the settlement projects implemented by the Hill Country Village Settlements and Infrastructure Development programme started by the last Government under the Hill Country Village and Infrastructure Development Ministry (created only for Estate Tamils) with huge Indian and other foreign aid packages even going up to almost 8000 feet above Sea level. If we fail to arrest this Indian neo-colonial invasion on the heartland of the motherland of the Sinhale immediately, that will speed up the swan song of a once glorious Sinhala nation and the country as a whole.

b) The haphazard and wanton devastations done at present

The Yahapalanaya Government started a large scale housing program on this land under a Ministry called The Hill Country New Village and Infra structure Development Ministry” under the direction of the Indian Government funded by India and other foreign agencies like the Asian Development Bank. This process include house building and providing other infra- structure facilities like  land, roads , water  supply schemes and other facilities like schools, hospitals and  community centers.

All these activities involve removing the existing vegetation, (tea and forests) and digging and disturbing these  highlands and exposing such open land to elements of weather resulting in heavy soil erosion and serious land degradation, landslides and gully erosion on these fragile and steep lands and heavy floods and river silting in the downstream lowlands leading to human misery there.

In this backdrop, Just imagine the scale of the danger and the crime of Building 63,000 houses, as it is being done today, on this HEARTLAND of the nation on the fragile steep slopes going up to 7700 ft MSL haphazardly and settling an army of Indian Tamils who consider India as their motherland and have both their hearts and minds firmly rooted in India, with no love what so ever for this country and are scheming to build up a Malayanadu on the HEARTLAND OF THE SINHALA NATION”, right at the center of this country. The latest report in the press is the decision to hand over 300 acres to squatters in the Pidurutalagala reserve.

The following news item also further highlights this criminal devastation that is going on in the nation’s heartland

Indian invasion

India hands over 155 houses in Bridwell, Bogawantalawa, Hatton

25 February 2019 00:00

In a special ceremony held on 24 February, at Bridwell Estate in Bogawantalawa, Hatton, 155 houses built under the Indian Housing Project were handed over to the beneficiaries jointly by Prime Minister of Sri Lanka Ranil Wickremesinghe and High Commissioner of India to Sri Lanka Taranjit Singh Sandhu in the presence of Minister for Hill country New Villages, Infrastructure and Community Development Palani Digambaram.

The information given below further shows the numerous agencies established for the benefit of the plantation sector

The Plantation Human Development Trust (PHDT) was first established on 18th September 1992 as the Plantation Housing & Social Welfare Trust (PHSWT) and incorporated in Sri Lanka under the Companies Act No 17th of 1982. The Organization was later re-named as the PHDT on 10th Oct. 2002.

The PHDT is a Tripartite Organization consisting of the Government of Sri Lanka (GOSL), Regional Plantation Companies (RPCs) and Plantation Trade Unions (TU) formed by the GOSL to implement social development programmes to enhance the quality of life of the one million Plantation Community in the Estates managed by the RPCs.

The PHDT functions under a Board of Directors comprised of representatives from the GOSL, RPCs and TUs spearheaded by the Director General who is supported by Internal Directors, Heads of Divisions, Management and the staff attached to the Main Office in Battaramulla. The Main Office team is strengthened by seven (7) Regional Offices located in the Plantation areas with Regional Directors, Management and staff in every office to implement the many initiatives undertaken by the PHDT to improve the quality of life of the Estate worker.

Our Vision Our Mission Values Quality Policy

 Our Vision

To be the leading human development Organization trusted for excellence, providing sustainable development programs to continuously improve the quality of life in the plantations”       

Our Mission

To improve;

* Integrated services beneficial to plantation sector and its environs

* Social economic and spiritual well being

* Knowledge and self-confidence

* Occupational health and safety dimensions

* Talents and capabilities of the beneficiaries by bench marking against the best practices

* Productivity of the sector”

Values

We will adopt an open door policy

We will ensure equity and fairness to our stakeholders

We will make people feel valued and demonstrate integrity

We will promote our team work through dedication and active listening

We will work and achieve our objectives as one family

We will ensure the stakeholder satisfaction through our dedicated activities

Quality Policy

We as an organization facilitating services to the Plantation sector are committed to;

Ensure that our organization be customer oriented in providing a quality service and enhance the quality of life in the plantations while adhering to the applicable guidelines and regulations.

Motivate our staff by developing their skills and competencies whilst promoting teamwork.

Use ISO 9001:2008 standard as our guideline to continuously improve all our activities and function

Available information on some of the housing projects is given in the table above. You will notice that some of these houses are built on land above 7700 feet msl. Also notice how houses are built in clusters like urban ghettoes where enormous social problems are bound to arise in the future.                                                                                                                                                                 

Looking at the way how haphazardly these projects are carried out by India under the directions of Indian High  Commissioner, completely disregarding the long term environmental disasters that are bound to arise both in the hill country and the lowlands and ignoring the authority of the Government of the country one wonder whether the central hill country has already been vested in the Indian Government by the Sri Lankan Government? The Indian Government in collaboration with the Tamil politicians representing the plantation areas decides what land to be taken over and where the houses are to be put up and where the roads are to be constructed. Only after the completion is over the local politicians including the President, Prime Minister and the Minister of lands and sometimes even the Finance Minister and local Government Officials like the GAA and DSS are invited just to witness how the Heartland of the nation is ‘vested in the Indians” and are being vandalized and destroyed by these Indian elements. Looking at this crazy drama I begin to wonder whether the Central Hill Country and its surroundings have already been handed over to India by the Sri Lankan Government? Also I begin to wonder whether there is a Government in this country at all concerned with the future of this Island nation. No one seems to be least concerned no politician or national leader and not even the press about the impending ominous dangers and the disaster looming before the nation.

I am also greatly surprised as to why none the NGOO so vociferously campaigning for Wlpattuwa in the coastal low lands speak a word about this wanton devastation that decides the survival of the entire life system and the destiny of the civilization of the whole Island, going on for decades on the nation’s HADABIMA right at the center of the Island. I kindly invite the immediate attention of people like Rev Pahiyangala Ananda Sagara and national papers like Divayina and Mavbima to draw their immediate attention on this most important tragedy. As for me I consider this issue as the top most crisis our country is facing today.

3 The serious consequences of this ongoing wanton destruction will have on the physical stability of the country’s HADABIMA its forest cover, water resources, quality of land, climate, entire life system and the civilization in the Island in the long run.

The serious consequences it will have on the country and it’s entire life system in the long run, its climate, water resources, quality of land, life system and civilization are disastrous This aspect seems to have been completely ignored by the government in the name of a political day dream of ethnic reconciliation for their illusive votes.

4 What should be done to arrest this criminal devastation and finally an Appeal to the Government and the whole nation to protect it?

What should be done to arrest this criminal devastation?

 Assuming the latitudinal position of this Island and the global climatic conditions will remain unchanged and therefore the annual rainfall pattern will also remain constant and the present weather pattern will remain unchanged the above changes taking place on the hills of this country has to be seriously noted as a very big threat not only to its future survival as a nation in future but also to its immediate effects on political, social and economic spheres arising from droughts, landslides, floods, ethnic conflits and social tention.

4 What should be done to arrest this criminal national devastation?

I propose the following steps are taken immediately to arrest this national devastation

1 Stop the all ongoing land alienation, housing Projects and all infra -structure development activities in the hill country in land above 3500 ft MSL immediately

2 Disband the Ministry of Hill Country Village and Infra structure development Ministry (A Ministry set up only for estate Tamils, a gross discrimination against the native Sinhalese and a violation of their fundamental rights and Human rights as well) forthwith and all other agencies such as The Plantation Human Development Trust (PHDT) as they are set up to confer special privileges to Plantation sector people of Indian origin as it constitutes a blatant discrimination  against the fundamental rights of the native Sinhalese bhoomiputras.

3 Declare all land above 5000 ft as strictly reserved and protected Forests and remove all settlements above this elevation (may be except the Nuwara Eliya Town)

4 Also remove all settlement above 3500 ft MSL and prohibit any human settlements above this limit, except the Tea factories and allied buildings. The land between 3500 ft and 5000 ft msl may be confined to large scale plantations managed by State agencies such as STPC and JEDB

5 Settle all displaced Tamils who get qualified to be citizens of this country only under the Nehru/Koyalawala Agreement of 1954 and landless Kandyan peasants in mixed settlement schemes of 2 ½ acre farm lots on land between 1000-3500 msl  (all other  Enactments regarding Citizenship to these people  must be repealed forthwith)

5 An appeal to the Government and the whole nation to protect the HADABIMA as your heart and observe the concept of HADABIMA as a Religion and include it as a subject in school curriculum from Grade 1 in school to University final Degree level.

In the name of the motherland and the Sinhala nation, I earnestly request the government and all those in authority to inculcate this message to every man; woman and child born in this country as a top priority, lest the Heartland of the nation is converted in to a sterile barren desert with no trees, no rivers, no water, no soil, making the whole Island a barren sterile desert without any life.

The concept and the subject of the HADABIMA” and its critical role in sustaining the entire life system in this country and its civilization should also be included in school curriculum as a compulsory subject from kindergartens to University Degree levels in order to build up a strong nation that fully realizes the critical importance of protecting the Central Hill Country for the future survival of the entire life system and it’s civilization of the country for posterity. This should be followed by a nationwide vigorous publicity campaign to create a lasting awareness among its people on the crying need to protect it at any cost.

That in essence is the importance I assign to the need to protect the HADABIMA of Sri Lanka, the Geographical Heartland of the nation, lest it is completely destroyed beyond recovery by vote hunting self-centered and unpatriotic Sinhala politicians and communal minded Estate Indian Tamils who are dreaming an Indian Malayanadu right at the center of this country and therefore the need to protect it as you protect your own heart.

I must very clearly state that this clarion call for the nation has no ethnic, religious, racial, linguistic or political overtones. Its prime aim is to stop this gift of Nature to humanity being converted to another sterile hot desert like in Africa or some Middle East countries and finally to stop the extinction of civilization on this legendary land.

This open letter calls all patriotic people to launch a vigorous nationwide agitation campaign to make this dream a reality in the name of posterity. This appeal is made in the backdrop of the alarming manner in which the Central hill country (THE HADABIMA) of this Island nation is been parceled out and destroyed by a group of both Tamil and Sinhala shortsighted politicians who love their votes than they love their country and also who have no understanding of the geography and the history of this Island nation.

This destruction programme is carried out with explicit vicious International involvements headed by India through the ongoing programme of housing and land alienation for estate Tamil labour, started by the previous Government and continued by the present as well. Under this programme both marginal and productive tea lands going up to almost 8000 feet above sea level on highly critical and environmentally sensitive area are being currently destroyed haphazardly in large scale by disturbing the mother earth to  build mono-Indian Tamil villages on fragile and steep slopes without any approval from the CEA or the NBRO.   Few examples are given below for the readers to understand the scale and magnitude of this destruction right at the Heartland of the nation.

 I also learn that neither the Government Agents nor the Divisional Secretaries of these regions, who are supposed to have legal authority over crown lands within their Districts and Divisions have any say beside having any control, over these land alienations and house construction programmes carried out, disregarding the law of the land. Watching this criminal devastation one begins to wonder whether the nemesis of this Island nation is already come to our door steps. In addition to the dangers paused to the physical stability of the heartland such as exposing the critical lands to serious soil erosion, land degradation and landslides on the upper reaches and other eminent calamities like silting of the rivers and recurrent flood havocs in the downstream areas causing human misery have never been evaluated..

In my opinion the importance of the protection of the Heartland should be inculcated , I repeat, to every man and woman starting from the President of the Republic to every school going child in this country if we want to preserve this beautiful land for posterity. In that context the message of the value of this Project and its objectives should be passed down to every man, woman and child. I strongly believe the protection of the Hill Country, the geographical HEARTLAND of the nation, is the golden key to our future survival and prosperity of this Island nation. It should be taught to everybody in schools and universities to be observed as a RELIGION”, in this country, I demand.

As you will agree, more trees on the Hill country means more rain, more water, less erosion and less land degradation and better soil, better physical stability with their anchoring root systems, more waterfalls, more hydroelectricity, more industries and more agriculture, more bio diversity, more flourishing paddy fields, more food,  more people and more prosperity.

In the event the Government does not take immediate action to Protect the Island’s HADABIMA as I have suggested, I predict all the devastation I have outlined in this paper will begin to appear before the passage of another ten years.

My Dreams  

I had three dreams in my youth. They were

1To become a DRO – conceived at 10+10 months years

2 To marry my first love Ira conceived at 15+3 months

3 To develop my village with a trans-basin irrigation canal to Meemure oya from  Naranatte Ela on the other side of the hills (I conceived when I climbed the Kalupana peak (5341) in August 1959 and stayed night on its top)  – the Head stream of Kaluganga  on the other side of the Kalupana-Lakegala ridge,  building two reservoirs at 1) Dalukgolla  and 2) Wekade and two irrigation canals from Dalukgolla (R&L banks) and  a motorable  road to my village- conceived at 21 years and finally

The fourth conceived at the age of 48 years as the Director of NADSA  

4 To protect the HADABIMA (The Central Hill Country of the Motherland) to save the entire life system and the civilization of my Motherland.  

By now the first two have come true and the other two, still dreaming but I am, determined to be done at least before I die.

References

1.            Professor Kularatnam K. (1954) The Face of Ceylon’ 9th Association of the Ceylon Advancement of Science

2.            Mackinder, H.J. Democratic Ideals and Reality. Washington DC. National Defense University Press 1996 Pp175-194.

3.            Wikipedia, The True Encyclopedia-Jump to Navigation Search

4.            Huntington Samuel, Clash of Civilization and the Remaking of the World Order 1997.

5.            Gunasekara Sudath. The Central Hill Country; Geographical Heartland of Sri Lanka. Concept        Paper. 1991

6.            Gunasekara Sudath Indigenous Technology and Sustainability of Peasant Agriculture in Sri Lanka                                                 my        PhD Thesis

7           Maddumabanda,  C.M. ( 1984) ‘Mahaweliya Saha Sinhale Hadabima’  Vol.1 Mahaweli Vansaya

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