Please give us responsible officials to oversee the Sinharaja rain forest.
This petition had 289 supporters
Save Sinharaja Rain Forest from Development Devastation
Sinharaja Rainforest is a stunning area of lush green jungle that is steeped in island lore. According to legend, the Sri Lankan race is the result of the union between a King's daughter and a mighty lion who lived in the forest. The legends say that the forest was royal territory belonging to the ancient Kings (rajas) of the country and the forest was the last refuge of the lion, no longer found on the island. It’s very name meaning Lion (Sinha) King (Raja), Sinharaja Rain Forest is the island’s last remaining area of tropical rainforest and in 1978, it was declared a biosphere reserve – a UNESCO World Heritage Site - due to the sheer importance of the flora and fauna within it.
Sinharaja Rainforest covers over 11,000 hectares and is home to around 50% of Sri Lanka’s endemic wildlife including mammals, butterflies, birds, reptiles, amphibians and insects. It is also home to many beautiful trees – most of which are rare and only found in the country. The trees and plants that grow in the forest provide villagers and islanders with its well-known ingredients such as palm (used as a sugar substitute), cardamom as well as herbs for ayurvedic remedies such as weniwal.
Over the years, sadly, this land is being taken over despite there being laws to protect the sacred rainforest. Areas that were once covered by protected trees, flora and fauna are now being replaced by estates producing tea, as they slowly cut away at the land, delving more into the forest as well as other industries seeking to profit from this World Heritage site.
Since the end of the war, Sri Lanka has been free to expand its industries, improve its infrastructure and start to take a bigger role in global trade. With tourism as one it’s primary sources of income, this is one area that the government is keen to improve on so they have set new figures - by 2016 Sri Lanka’s government are looking to increase the tourist footfall to 2.5 million. With such a huge leap in expected numbers, hotels are going to need to be constructed meaning more areas of natural habitat being destroyed and more footfall will mean more forest will be vulnerable.
Nature needs boundaries from big corporate hotel chains
In order to protect this magical, historical and beautiful land boundaries are crucial to be put in place that will prevent any new constructions from developers or abuse from existing properties. The rainforest must be preserved at all costs.
Right now, a very well known brand name chain hotel has a property right in the forest itself in Ensallwatta deniyaya a prime spot and one that comes with great responsibility. In 2009, locals complained about the development and the impact of this on the forest. With officials present, the hotel chain promised open disclosure about its actions and an agreement was made to set up boundaries that would protect the nature reserve. Yet it has come to the attention of the locals that this hotel is not fulfilling its promises it made back in 2009 as an eco hotel and is abusing its position as a high end well known name. So far, despite the agreement made nearly 5 years ago, no boundaries have been set and people have learnt that guests are being taken into the forest without paying the entrance fees – and with no money being paid to the Forest Commission in lieu of individual guest payment. This is unacceptable behaviour from a company that is so well regarded on the island and one that professes to be ‘eco friendly’.( Eco lodge, ensallwatta, deniyaya)
As a resident living close by, I am witnessing on a daily basis the ongoing destruction. I would insist on immediate action regarding the following points:
Despite the forest looking full from the outside, in fact, within the forest, there are huge areas where logging has taken place. This is taking place on such a large scale that it is impossible that the forest rangers and officials are unaware of this. The officials are simply turning a blind eye to what is going on.
The forest borders are constantly changing due to the tea plantations encroaching on the forest boundaries with tea planting within the forest. This is done in such a subtle way that it is is hard to notice. The tea is planted within the forest boundaries and then when he tea plants have matured and are seen to be part of an existing plantation, the trees are then cut down. If checked it is possible to see that the existing forest boundary today does not correspond to the official boundary map.
Illegal trapping of wild animals around and within the forest continues to take place despite the widely publicised incident of 5 rare black leopards being killed about 5 years ago. Extremely illegal wild bush meat is blatantly being sold in Deniyaya shops and other shops bordering the forest. These traps also create serious hazards to researchers and other explorers. Why are the shops selling illegal meat not punished for selling illegal meat and used to name the trappers who should be prosecuted?
The search for precious stone or gems is a serious problem. Often well organised gangs financed by wealthy gem merchants are responsible for the activity. Large marshy areas are dug up and the vegetation destroyed. The open pits left after gemming are a danger to both man and wildlife.
Irresponsible behaviour of guides and Forest Rangers
Guides are constantly being accompanied by dogs on tours within the forest. One day I witnessed 15 dogs within the forest!! As representatives of the forest, these guides and rangers should know better than to enter the forest with dogs that undoubtedly cause damage to the wildlife. These guides and rangers also smoke within the forest and leave cigarette butts and rubbish in the forest. If we cannot trust our guides and rangers to act responsibly then we can hardly expect them to take on the responsibility of reporting others who cause damage. They are untrained and basically just accompany the tourists along the trails.
Actions of villagers
Villagers continue to use motorbikes on forest trails despite having access to a proper road. They also cut trees and gem mine at a level, which is beyond home use. This cannot be allowed to continue.
Illegal tracks and entry to forest
Since the Deniyaya Rainforest Eco Lodge has been built, new unauthorised forest trails have been created for the Lodges guests to gain unauthorised entry to the forest. Once again the guides used to lead the tourists along these trails are acting irresponsibly and should be punished as well as the Lodge who organises these illegal treks into the forest. Since this entry point is not official, it enables the Lodge to take illegal entry fees from the tourists who are unaware that this is not an official entry point. These fees of course which should go toward the forest are entering the pockets of the hotel owners.
Where are the funds received from foreign aid, government and local council funds and entry fees, going to? They are certainly not going to fund training or programmes to educate the local guides, rangers or villagers who are a big part of the problem.
It is a shame that the local community is not being used to help solve the problem instead of causing damage. Without the cooperation of the local community to monitor and report on illegal and /or irresponsible actions, the forest will remain vulnerable. Another problem: to whom should they or anyone else should, address complaints?
Despite officials knowing about the illegal activities that are taking place, no one has ever been fined or prosecuted for any illegal activity in the forest. It therefore makes no sense to complain to the existing officials under the present circumstances.
Call to Action:
Please give us responsible officials to oversee the Sinharaja rain forest. To protect our endemic species of fauna and flora from exploitation, bar all people conducting research in Sinharaja with the pretext of ‘Conservation' who are actually engaged in Bio-piracy. Those who enter Sinharaja should be closely monitored and supervised by officials of Forestry department.
We are asking you to sign a petition that will make sure that companies such as these do not get away with abusing the system and ultimately destroying the rainforest; we are asking you to sign a petition that will ensure no future development takes any more of Sri Lanka’s last remaining tropical rainforest. It must be preserved and the nature and beauty remain intact for future Sri Lankans to enjoy and explore and continue to attract tourists as a place to visit and experience the wonders of the land.
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Sidney Karunawardana needs your help with “IUCN: Put the boundry which people cant change and map it”. Join Sidney and 288 supporters today.