Sri Lanka being a tropical island located in the Indian Ocean, has been home to a varied number of animals and plants for millions of years. In fact Sri Lanka is a bio-diversity hotspot. But, over the past 200 years or so, deforestation has become a critical threat to the island’s bio-diversity. Every year Sri Lanka is losing 3500 hectares of its forest cover due to logging, agriculture, colonisation and illegal exploitation.
Reforest Sri Lanka, a citizen driven non-profit society has stepped forward to take on the challenge of reforesting the natural habitats of the country back to its ancient glory. Under the leadership and guidance of Achala Arunalu, Reforest Sri Lanka is an organisation founded by a group of MBA in IT students from the University of Moratuwa, Sri Lanka. Starting from May 2016, they have set up an ambitious milestone of planting 84,000 trees by May 2017.
One of their recent focuses was Maha Oya river basin near Mirigama. Mirigama is a small resort town located in the Western Province of Sri Lanka. About 10 kilometres from the town lies Maha Oya river basin, which is the ninth longest river of the country. Surrounded by small scale forest reserves, Maha Oya river basin provides sustenance to both wildlife and the nearby human residents alike.
As part of the 84,000 tree planting project, Reforest Sri Lanka decided to initiate on planting 500 saplings along the river basin on the 25th of June 2016. Although their initial target was 500 they managed to plant 673 saplings thanks to a dedicated team of volunteers who turned up on that day. Among the trees planted were Jackfruit (Artocarpus heterophyllus) Sri Lankan ironwood (Mesua ferrea), Honey tree (Madhuca longifolia) and Indian gooseberry (Phyllanthus emblica), which were all native species. Just as their previous projects Reforest Sri Lanka will keep tabs on the progress with regular visits to the site, which include the removal of parasitic weeds and watering the plants if necessary.
Why River Basins?
Rivers basins are usually located at lower elevations, which allow them to gather water from its original sources such as surface water streams, underground water or rain. In turn the basin connects to rivers, lakes or reservoirs as a major supplier to the water bodies consumed by both humans and wildlife alike. The low forest coverage surrounding these areas means both surface and ground water, which feed the basin are vulnerable to direct and rapid evaporation by sunlight. Therefore having thicker vegetation, more water can be retained and absorbed into earth. Additionally large trees can strengthen the soil by supplying humus and preventing soil erosion or landslides in the surrounding areas, which in turn provide a perfect habitat for the local wildlife as well.
Thulitha is an IT professional from Auckland, New Zealand. He is enthusiastic about wildlife and nature. In his spare time he takes interest in volunteering to write online articles on wildlife and environmental conservation.