Felling of 70,000 tress in the Central Highlands


According to news reports State Resources and Enterprise Development Ministry is planning to cut nearly 70,000 tress in three State-run estate companies- Janatha Estates Development Board (JEDB), Elkaduwa Plantations and the Sri Lanka State Plantations Corporation (SLSPC), to raise 1.74 billion to pay the outstanding EPF, ETF and gratuity dues.

The total number of trees to be felled is 67,132. They are distributed across 36 estates in Matale, Nuwara Eliya and Kandy districts. These districts are in the Central Highlands of the country. It is the watershed feeding major rivers in Sri Lanka that immensely contribute to agriculture, power generation and water for human consumption.

Considering severity of the land degradation problem, the Sri Lanka Government in 2008, declared the entire central highland as a conservation area under the Soil Conservation Act of Sri Lanka.

Felling nearly 70,000 tress in three districts indicated above would promote soil erosion, which will result in siltation of water reservoirs down stream . This process reduces the carrying capacity of the reservoirs and their capacity to generate electricity. It also will result in pollution of water in the reservoirs and also promote landslides in the area. All these will result in irreparable losses to the environment and to the economy.

The Minister of State Resources and Enterprise Development in justifying this action of the ministry has said that "The trees were planted not for environmental purposes but for commercial needs and should be harvested within seven or eight years, but failure to fell them on time would affect their commercial value," Selective felling of trees is done in commercial forests but not in tea estates. The Minister appears to be unaware of the important role played by trees on the environment and water supply. .

Dr. C. S. Weeraratna


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