Where have the trees gone
By Tissa Jayaweera
Disaster after disaster is taking place in mother Lanka. Droughts, floods and now earth quakes and land slides When we were kids and used to travel to various parts of the country as our father was a public official who served in numerous locations of the country. In the mid country and hill country, we did many mountain / jungle treks and could remember all mountain tops covered with trees and jungle. Many birds and wild life were present on the high elevation approximately 1000 meters above sea level. Our father retired from service in 1960.
In 1976 our father went on a holiday to Nuwara Eliya to meet his old buddies. He sent me a Post Card which said “All trees on top of mountains are gone, very soon Nuwara Eliya will be prone to landslides and will be a desert”. I was serving in Matale at that time and an assistant of mine very much younger to me who felt very sad after reading his Post Card kept it as a souvenir.
May be he still has it or remembers. In the good old days when the British ruled the economy and grew tea / rubber plantations on the hills there was a ban on felling of trees above 3000 feet or now let’s say 1000 Meters if I remember correct. Tea was not planted at this high elevation and in some areas there were patches of jungle left over to maintain the natural habitat.
Assume when locals started to manage the estates these norms were thrown aside as usual and money making became the norm of officials and politicians encouraging squatters on reservations When arriving by air on a day time flight which is very seldom as most of the arrivals are after dark. That flight was from East to West.
As we entered Paradise Isle from the East and moved over the Hill Country, I was saddened to notice that most of the high mountains were minus trees. There were large extents of mountain tops cleared for various reasons. What was most shocking was to see a dirt track at a high elevation. Its assumed to be the Fox Hill race track. A large extent of land at such a high elevation has been cleared to build a race track to be enjoyed once a year by the elite, which the Military boast about. There were also golf courses at this high elevation.
What was further shocking was to see a haze as well as patches of pink clouds at various points. Pink clouds denote polluted air congested in the sky All Presidents of the country start with a big bang to state a million trees will be planted. The President too said so and started a campaign to plant a million trees. There should be 40 million trees added by now from 1978. Do we see this? Each time I pass a Timber Mill I feel so sad to see majestic tree trunks lined to go in the mill. In this country there is talk and no walk.
There are countries that grow trees to be used as timber and they have a planned cycle. In this country is there planned growth to maintaining the forest cover at 23 per cent. Feeling of trees in Jungles should be banned with immediate effect. Only trees from Plantations that have grown trees for timber should be allowed. It is high time State Authorities looked at past regulations. Start growing trees on all mountain tops above 1000 Meters and above to prevent future calamities. It is the innocent public that eventually pay for political blunders.