Category Archives: Sinharaja Rainforest

Rainforest Protectors Chronicle – November/December 2018

Below is a quick summary of our many campaigns and projects carried out in November/December 2018.

Permanent Protection of 4 acre privately held riverine forest patch in Sinharaja Buffer Zone

Rainforest Protectors Trust scored the first major victory when it successfully purchased and permanently protected a 4 acre privately held highly biodiverse riverine forest patch in Sinharaja Buffer Zone on November 30, 2018. Having mapped the Northern section of Sinharaja Buffer Zone, the Trust is currently working towards protecting hundreds of more pristine rainforest acres currently under private ownership before they are gone forever.

http://www.RainforestProtectorsTrust.org

Action against deforestation at Nochchiagama Andarawewa Forest Reserve

Took action against illegal construction activity within Nochchiagama Andarawewa Forest Reserve in Anuradhapura District which has been causing wild elephants to move to surrounding villages increasing human-elephant conflict. A press conference was successfully held along with the village leaders to expose the issue.

 

Rakwana Reforestation Project – November 24/25

Rakwana reforestation project was successfully carried out on November 24 & 25, 2018 with more than 30 students from University of Colombo participating to plant hundreds of endemic and native saplings to extend the planting area to 10 acres and growing.

https://www.facebook.com/pg/RainforestProtectors/photos/?tab=album&album_id=2252049774808255

 

Continued community empowerment against ecologically destructive Oil Palm plantations

Throughout the last two months, we worked with the affected communities in the wet zone of Sri Lanka where expanding oil palm plantations have wrecked havoc the sensitive ecosystem and created many social issues. To read more about the issues surrounding the oil palm expansion in Sri Lanka and our work to help the villagers and protect the ecosystem, please read the article below.

http://counterpoint.lk/oil-palm-goes-rancid/

 

Joint community action and protest campaign against dumping Colombo garbage in Puttalam Lagoon/Aruwakkalu

As part of a large protest campaign organized by religious and community organizations in Puttalam against the Government plan to dump Colombo’s garbage in the ecologically sensitive Wilpattu Buffer Zone and subsequently bordering Puttalam Lagoon, gave a speech with details of the current garbage crisis and the Government’s inaction towards Waste-to-Energy initiatives despite many companies submitting proposals to setup at no cost to the Government/Taxpayer (on Build-Own-Operate basis) during the last 4 years. Due to corruption, unfortunately the option chosen by the Government (transport/dump garbage by train on a daily basis) at a cost of US$ 107 million, is a massive burden to the taxpayer and disastrous to the ecologically rich Puttalam lagoon and Wilpattu buffer zone.

Watch the video below:

 

Educating the public on deforestation and ecological issues through media

Participated in the Open Mic program on Ada Derana to educate the public on deforestation and ecological issues currently faced by our country. Watch the entire episode via the link below.

 

Action against destroying Core Zone of Sinharaja Rainforest using heavy machinery

Led a large media campaign to stop the destruction carried out by Forest Department using JCB machines within core zone of Sinharaja Rainforest to create a road for tourist vehicles which would have a devastating effect on the sensitive ecosystem. As a result of our timely action, the Conservator General made a statement that vehicles will not will be allowed.

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Additionally, action against destruction of Muthurajawela wetland and private mini-hydro projects which are drying up of hundreds of streams, rivers and waterfalls are ongoing through community mobilization, media exposure and meetings with respective authorities.

While a lot of progress was made this year towards conservation and protection of our natural heritage, the ever increasing threats demand us even more in 2019.

We are looking for volunteers who can help us in the field and donors who can help fund our monthly expenses. Please call 0777771348 or email RainforestProtectors@gmail.com for details.

 

Rainforest Protectors of Sri Lanka

Web: http://www.RainforestProtectors.org

Android App: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=org.rainforestprotectors.rpslapp

Donate: http://www.rainforestprotectors.org/rainforest/Donate.aspx

 

Protecting the Last Two Elephants of Sinharaja World Heritage Rainforest

About a century ago Sri Lanka’s sprawling rainforests were home to thousands of elephants roaming freely. However, with the introduction of tea and subsequent expanding plantations which resulted in severe deforestation in the wet zone and central hills of the country combined with game hunting during the colonial period rapidly dwindled the elephant population within the rainforests. Since gaining independence, situation has become worse with increasing encroachment by tea plantations resulting in once contiguous and massive wet zone rainforests being decimated into small forest patches. As a result, only around 8 rainforest elephants remain in Sri Pada (Central Hills World Heritage Rainforest) and while 3 elephants were known to live within Sinharaja World Heritage Rainforest only 2 have been recorded in recent years. These two rainforest elephants of Sinharaja are known to be siblings and middle aged. Genetically, behaviorally and structurally different from their dry zone cousins, the rainforest elephants of Sinharaja have been observed travelling approximately 15km to 20km daily, frequently moving between the fragmented rainforests within Northern Sinharaja, namely Delwala-Walankanda forest reserve, Kudumeeriya forest reserve and to the east the Rakwana hills.

 

These two rainforest elephants play a major role in controlling illegal activities within Sinharaja and adjacent Kudumeeriya and Delwala-Walankanda forest reserves as those who engage in these illegal activities greatly fear the elephants. Without these two elephants, poaching, illegal logging and mining activities within the protected reserve will quickly gain pace. Unfortunately the Forest Conservation Department has not been successful in preventing illegal activities in protected reserves and while the Department of Wildlife Conservation is better at patrolling, it is a pity that only two wildlife rangers are stationed to look after the entire Sinharaja World Heritage Rainforest!

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To protect the rainforest elephants of Sinharaja while protecting the property and lives of villagers, it is important to establish Wildlife Conservation offices within the elephant migration routes in northern Sinharaja along Kudumeeriya forest reserve, Delwala-Walankanda forest reserve and Rakwana hills to the east. These wildlife conservation offices should be provided with adequate rangers and equipment. Additionally, GPS collars should be attached to the last two elephants, monitoring their movement and alerting the rangers/villagers appropriately. Agri Fences and Village Fences should be installed to reduce Human-Elephant conflict. Through studies conducted by Ministry of Environment in Sri Lanka such as ECAMP (Ecosystem Conservation and Management Project) during the last few years, use of Agri fences and Village fences have been successfully tested.

 

The recently appointed Minister & Deputy Minister of Wildlife Conservation initially orders to Department of Wildlife Conservation to immediately capture these last two rainforest elephants of Sinharaja and move them to Horowpathana Elephant holding grounds, which would be a jail sentence for them. These rainforest elephants cannot survive in the dry zone Horowpathana enclosure. Even holding the elephants captive in nearby town of Kalawana mean the extinction of rainforest elephants from Sinharaja World Heritage Rainforest. Such action will soon result in a collapse of the entire ecosystem as illegal activities including poaching and deforestation would increase rapidly.

 

Many experts have studied the human-elephant conflict in Sri Lanka and have produced valuable reports and action items. Experts including former director of Wildlife Conservation Department Sumith Pilapitiya, Dr. Prithiviraj Fernando, Deputy director of Department of Wildlife Mr. Manjula Amararatne attended one such workshop held on January 24, 2017 at Sri Lanka Foundation. During this workshop, several important decisions and action items were taken to combat human-elephant conflict.

 

The reasons for these two rainforest elephants to clash with humans is due to them being abused by humans especially those who conduct illegal activities and hence do not want the elephants around them. Poachers and those engaged in illegal logging have attacked these elephants using acid and shot several times. While a few villagers have used fire crackers to scare the elephants away. These activities have caused tremendous anger among the elephants towards humans. Since many villagers prefer to have these elephants live in the forest, timely action should be taken to educate all the villagers as to what and what not to do. Many of these villagers have been hit hard by changing weather patterns and their tea crops have suffered as a result. With the tourism sector in Sri Lanka expanding rapidly, many of the villagers could benefit in the future as a result of conservation.

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Destruction of Elephant Habitat @ Kudumeeriya forest in Sinharaja Rainforest Complex

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Therefore, we urge the relevant Government authorities to protect the last two rainforest elephants of Sinharaja World Heritage Rainforest using in-situ strategies identified by the experts, such as GPS/GSM collaring the elephants, monitoring their movements, expanding the number of wildlife rangers and officers, providing better equipment and installing agri fencing/village fencing.

 

Rainforest Protectors of Sri Lanka

http://www.RainforestProtectors.org

Environmental Impact due to Destruction of Rainforests for Mini-Hydro Projects

Rainforest Protectors of Sri Lanka – February 11, 2016

Rainforests in Sri Lanka play a major role in regulating climatic conditions of the island nation, removing harmful greenhouse gases and ensuring adequate rain that feed the streams, rivers and over 400 recorded waterfalls. According to climate scientists “Tropical forests, particularly the undisturbed moist and rain forests, play an important role as carbon sinks in the global carbon cycle. These forests store about 46% of the world’s living terrestrial carbon pool and about 11.55% of the world’s soil carbon pool.”1 Therefore, any response to climate change must recognize the role of rainforests in mitigating emissions.
Rainforests are also among the most readily available and cost-effective tools for adapting to a changing climate as they provide critical ecosystem services, such climate-resilient food sources and buffering of severe weather impacts.

Despite the leaders of Sri Lanka pledging to reduce deforestation during the climate summit, rainforests in Sri Lanka continue to be destroyed at an alarming rate. The newest threat coming in the form of hundreds of mini-hydro projects currently in construction with government approval within protected reserves and environmentally sensitive highly biodiverse catchment areas. Each mini-hydro project constructed within protected rainforests destroy hundreds of mature canopy trees such as Hora (Dipterocarpus Zeylanicus) to give way for penstock (concrete channel) from weir to the powerhouse that stretch for several kilometers. Further clearings take place at the site of the powerhouse, forebay, buildings constructed as labor quarters and roads built as access paths. The loss of forest watersheds and overall disruption of the hydrological flow which regulate the forests and its functions can exacerbate the current climate situation. This could further increase the frequency and intensity of natural hazards in the near future. Details of some of these projects and their environmental impact are given below.

1. Koskulana Mini-Hydro Project along the border and buffer zone of Sinharaja UNESCO World Heritage Rainforest

Koskulana river forms the northern boundary of Sinharaja World Heritage Rainforest. This 0.6 MW mini-hydro project approved by Central Environmental Authority and Forest Conservation Department directly affects 0.5 km stretch of Koskulana river which will run dry due to the weir and intake of water for the project. Many fish species which live in the river such as Long Finned Eel, Giant Danio, Carveri Rasbora, Stone Sucker and Mahseer may go locally extinct due to this project. Further, the penstock, powerhouse, workers quarters, bungalow and access road has been built within the buffer zone per 2013 UNESCO Sinharaja WHS map. During construction, many giant endemic and endangered rainforest trees such as Hora (Dipterocarpus Zeylanicus) have been cut down within the buffer zone.

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2. Anda Dola Mini-Hydro Project within Dellawa Protected Rainforest

Anda Dola is a tributary of Gin river, one of the major rivers in southern Sri Lanka. This 0.7 MW mini-hydro project consists of a weir constructed at Anda Dola within Dellawa rainforest which is ecologically part of Sinharaja Rainforest Complex. Additionally, 2.5 km section of the penstock (concrete channel) has been constructed within the protected rainforest reserve. Similar to Koskulana mini-hydro project, this has also been approved by Central Environmental Authority and Forest Conservation Department violating the National Environmental Act and Forest Ordinance. Many mature endemic and endangered trees such as Hora (Dipterocarpus Zeylanicus), Thiniya Dun (Shorea trapezifolia) and Yakahalu (Shorea dyeri) have been cut down during construction at the weir and along penstock to the powerhouse. Many of these endemic trees in the region are listed in the IUCN red-list of endangered species and in danger of going extinct. The mini-hydro project will destroy a total 6.5 km stretch of Anda Dola stream, due to the diversion of water. This will result in local extinction of many endemic and endangered fish species such as the Barred Danio (Devario pathirana) and Ornate Paradisefish (Malpulutta kretseri) which has
been recorded in Anda Dola.

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3. Seven Falls Mini-Hydro Project in UNESCO World Heritage Central Highlands of Sri Lanka

Seven Falls “Eli Hatha” is a picturesque collection of 7 waterfalls within “Sri Pada” Peak Wilderness Sanctuary that is part of UNESCO World Heritage Central Highlands of Sri Lanka. This beautiful rainforest has the richest in biodiversity with the highest number of endemic species in the county. Construction of the weir, four-bay tank, powerhouse and the water transfer tunnels has caused severe damage to this nature reserve and Seven Falls “Eli-hatha” waterfall. The weir has been constructed at the foot of the third waterfall and once the waterway is diverted towards the four-bay tank through the water transfer tunnels, the four remaining waterfalls effectively go dry causing irreparable damage to the ecosystem. In addition, large amount of endemic and endangered trees have being removed to enable the cranes to lift the concrete tunnels from the downhill towards the weir.

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Above is just a fraction of the mini-hydro projects currently causing massive environmental destruction in Sri Lanka. More than 100 such mini-hydro projects have been approved and currently in construction phase across the wet-zone rainforest habitat. Therefore, the collective ecological damage arising from the 100+ mini-hydro projects is unimaginable and neither the approving government authorities nor the non-profit environmental organizations in Sri Lanka have resources to monitor the total environmental destruction.

With the continued destruction of rainforests and diminishing groundwater reserves, many of these streams and waterfalls are in danger of completely drying up even during a short dry season which will further reduce the practical capacity of these projects. It is puzzling why Sustainable Energy Authority and Ministry of Power and Energy in Sri Lanka are continuing to push destructive mini-hydro projects within protected rainforest reserves, instead of promoting environmentally friendly and drought tolerant alternatives such as rooftop solar, waste to energy and offshore wind. Ironically, these environmentally destructive mini-hydro projects are carried out using the term “Sustainable Energy” with the backing of Government with assistance from UN, ADB and World Bank. Therefore, we urge you to take immediate corrective action to stop further environmental destruction due to these mini-hydro projects and ensure the national policy on renewable energy focuses on technologies that do not cause ecological destruction to our vital catchment areas and climate resilient rainforests.

Rainforest Protectors of Sri Lanka

http://www.RainforestProtectors.org

ලෝක උරුම සිංහරාජය නැවතත් වනසයි

වැසි වනාන්තර සුරකින්නෝ – පෙවරවාරි 8, 2016

සිංහරාජ ප්‍රේරක කලාපය තුල කොස්කුලන ගඟ හරස් කර ඉදිකෙරෙමින් පවතින කුඩා ජල විදුලි බලාගාරයක් නිසා ලෝක උරුම සිංහරාජ වැසි වනාන්තරයට බරපතල හානියක් සිදුවී ඇත. මෙම ඉදිකිරීම් සිදුකරන ප්‍රදේශය සිංහරාජ කුඩව පිවිසුම් මග සිට කිලෝමීටර් 3.5ක් නැගෙනහිර දෙසින් සිංහරාජ මායිමට යාබද ප්‍රේරක කලාපය තුල පිහිටා ඇති අතර කොස්කුලන ගඟ හරස් කර ඉදිකරමින් පවතින බැම්ම හා ගඟට යාබද ප්‍රේරක කලාපයේ බැකෝ යන්ත්‍ර දමා එලිපෙහෙලි කිරීම නිසා මෙම සංවේදී පරිසර පද්ධතිය දිනෙන් දින විනාශ වී යමින් පවතී. ඊට අමතරව මෙම ඉදිකිරීම් සඳහා ගෙනැවිත් ඇති බැකෝ හා අනෙකුත් විශාල ට්‍රක් රථ ධාවනය සඳහා සිංහරාජ ප්‍රේරක කලාපයට අයත් කුඩා ගුරු පාරක් භාවිතා කර තිබේ. මේ නිසා ගුරුපාරට යාබද උතුරු ප්‍රදේශයේ රජුවන්කන්ද වැසි වනාන්තරයෙන් ඇරඹෙන දියපාර ගනනාවක් විනාශ වී ඇති අතර සිංහරාජයට යාබද එහි ප්‍රේරක කලාපයේ පිහිටි මෙම වැසි වනාන්තරය සිංහරාජයෙන් සහමුලින් වෙන්වී යාමේ දැඩි අවදානමකට පත්වෙමින් පවතී.

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යුනෙස්කෝ ලෝක උරුම වැසි වනාන්තරයක් වන සිංහරාජයේ ප්‍රධාන පිවිසුම් ස්ථානයට සමීපව සිදුවන මෙම වන විනාශය සම්බන්ධව වන සංරක්ෂණ දෙපාර්තමේන්තුව කිසිදු පියවරක් නොගැනීම ඉමහත් ගැටලුවකි. ම්ධ්‍යම පරිසර අධිකාරිය මෙම ඉදිකිරීම සම්බන්ධයෙන් පරිසර බලපෑම් ඇගයීම් වාර්තාවක් හා මහජන අදහස් විමසීමක් කර නැත. ලෝක උරුම වැසි වනාන්තරයක් තුල පරිසර නීති අමු අමුවේ උල්ලංඝනය කර මෙවැනි විනාශකාරි ඉදිකිරීම් සිදුකිරීමට ඉඩ දීම අදාල බලධාරීන්ගේ අසමත්කම, අල්ලස් හා වංචාව මනාව පැහැදිලි කරයි. මෙම විනාශකාරී ක්‍රියාවලියට ඉඩ දීම නිසා සිංහරාජය ලෝක උරුම ලයිස්තුවෙන් ඉවත් කිරීමටද බොහෝ සෙයින් ඉඩ තිබේ.

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මධ්‍යම පරිසර අධිකාරිය විසින් ලෝක උරුම වැසි වනාන්තරයක් තුල වනසත්ව හා වෘක්ෂලතා ආඥා පනත හා ජාතික පරිසර පනත උල්ලංඝනය කරමින් කුඩා ජල විදුලි බලාගාර ඉදිකිරීමට අනුබල දී ඇති දෙවැනි වතාව මෙය වේ. මීට ප්‍රතම ශ්‍රී පාද අඩවිය තුල “ඇලි හත” කුඩා ජල විදුලි බලාගාරයක් මහජනතාව හා පරිසරවේදීන්ගේ විරෝධය නොසලකා ඉදිකිරීමට අනුබලදී එම ලෝක උරුව වැසි වනාන්තරයටද බරපතල හානියක් සිදුකරන ලදි. මෙම කුඩා ජලවිදුලි බලාගාර වලින් ලැබෙන ඉතා සුළු මෙගාවොට් දෙකට අඩු විදුලිය වෙනුවෙන් ශ්‍රී ලංකාවේ රැකගතයුතු ජල පෝශක ප්‍රදේශවල පිහිටි දිය ඇලි හා ගංගා විනාශ කිරීම ජාතික අපරාධයකි.

මෙම ව්‍යාපාරය පරිසර ප්‍රේරක කලාප තුල ඉදිකිරීම් පිලිබඳ නීති උල්ලංඝනය කිරීමට අමතරව ගංගා ප්‍රේරක කලාප තුල ඉදිකිරීම් සම්බන්ධ නීති රීති කඩ කිරීමක්ද ඊට අමතරව ලෝක උරුම වැසි වනාන්තරයක් විනාශ කිරීමක් ද වන බැවින් ම්ධ්‍යම පරිසර අධිකාරිය, යුනෙස්කෝ සංවිධානය, වන සංරක්ෂක ජනරාල් අනුර සතුරුසිංහ, පරිසර ඇමති ගරු ජනාධිපති මෛත්‍රිපාල සිරිසේන මහතා ඇතුලු සියලු බලධාරීන්ගෙන් අප මේ වන විනාශය වහාම නවත්වන ලෙස ඉල්ලා සිටිමු.

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වැසි වනාන්තර සුරකින්නෝ

http://www.RainforestProtectors.org

 

 

Ecological Disaster at Sinharaja World Heritage Rainforest due to Koskulana Mini-Hydro Project

Rainforest Protectors of Sri Lanka (RPSL) – February 4, 2016

Massive damage has been done to Sinharaja World Heritage Rainforest due to construction of an illegal mini-hydro project blocking Koskulana River which forms the northern boundary of Sinharaja. This construction is being carried out in the Northern Sinharaja Rainforest buffer zone at Koskulana, approximately 4km East from Kudawa main entrance. A weir is been built blocking Koskulana river and several acres of rainforest cleared by heavy machinery and concrete laid out along the pristine and protected river bank. Large trucks and machinery utilized for this construction has cleared through what was once a small footpath in Sinharaja buffer zone, between Kudawa and Koskulana. Along this small path to the South is core protected Sinharaja Rainforest and to the North a hilly primary rainforest named Rajuwankanda that is a proposed reserve to be annexed into Sinharaja. Due to the footpath being expanded by the heavy trucks, the rainforest has been fragmented resulting in permanent damage. Hundreds of pristine water streams that originate from the hilly Rajuwankanda rainforest and flow towards Koskulana river through the buffer zone declared by UNESCO has been destroyed due to heavy truck movement.

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With such destruction happening just 4 km from the main entrance of Sinharaja World Heritage Rainforest, Forest Conservation Department failure to take appropriate action is questionable. Central Environmental Authority has not done a proper Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) available for public comment nor information about such a project communicated to respective organizations in charge of protecting Sinharaja World Heritage Rainforest. Questions have been raised about the involvement of these authorities to hide this destructive project from the public.

This is the second instance where Central Environmental Authority has allowed destructive mini-hydro projects within a World Heritage Rainforest, after allowing to continue “Eli Hatha” mini-hydro project in Sripada (Central Hills World Heritage Rainforest) in total violation of the Flora and Fauna Protection Ordinance and National Environment Act. Koskulana mini-hydro project will generate just 0.6 MW, a minuscule amount of power compared to 1 MW rooftop solar panels installed recently by a private firm on their factory. However, the ecological damage to Sinharaja World Heritage Rainforest and Koskulana river is massive, due to more than half a kilometer of Koskulana river that will go dry due to the weir and intake of water.

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This project violates the environmental laws set forth to protect buffer zones of forest reserves, buffer zones of rivers and UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Therefore, the responsible authorities at Central Environmental Authority, Ministry of Environment and Forest Conservation Department should immediately take action to stop this illegal project and restore the affected area. Investigation should be made into how approval for such a project was granted bordering a World Heritage Site without following proper procedures. Failure to take timely action will result in further destruction and total mockery of the environmental laws in Sri Lanka and ruin the Sinharaja UNESCO World Heritage Rainforest.

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Rainforest Protectors of Sri Lanka

http://www.RainforestProtectors.org