Tomorrow (march 21) is International day of Forests: Sinharaja: Mother Nature’s precious gift
Posted on March 21st, 2020

H.P. Gunawardena and H.M.P.R Wijebandara Courtesy The Daily News

Forests cover one third of the Earth’s land mass, performing vital functions around the world. Around 1.6 billion people—including more than 2,000 indigenous cultures—depend on forests for their livelihoods, medicines, fuel, food and shelter.

The fact that Sinharaja forest reserve is a precious gift to us from the nature is nothing new. It is an evergreen tropical forest located in the Wet Zone of the country, stretching across the Districts of Galle, Matara and Ratnapura with an extent of approximately 1,185 hectares.

Considering its importance as a catchment area, its biodiversity, socio economic importance and the immense contribution made to the environmental system of the country, as per the recommendations of the Department of Forest Conservation, it was declared as an International Man and Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 1978 and subsequently, considering its significance to the nation and its importance as a scarce natural resource, it was proclaimed as a National Heritage in 1988. It was also declared as a Forest Reserve.

Taking all of the aforesaid factors into account, a special management staff has been appointed for its proper management and safety. However, during the recent past, an incident which led to controversy was the circulation of a news item revealing the construction of a roadway dividing the Sinharaja forest reserve.

What really transpired was the reconstruction of a roadway which was in existence for over 50 years. How did it happen, what is its history? When probing the history of Sinharaja forest reserve, it is revealed that an entrance has been built only in 1963. This entrance is from Waddagala to Kudawa. Thereafter, the potential of the reserve to manufacture wood was examined and according to the information gathered from such study and through the recommendations made by UNDP/FAO in 1968, the capacity for selective felling was recognized and wood cutting was permitted by the Government at the time.

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