Over 5000 visitors from the different locations in the Eastern Province of Sri Lanka learnt about the importance of forest during the two day Youth Environment Camp organized on the 5-6th June 2011. Center for Environmental justice (CEJ) with Friends of Earth (FOE) Sri Lanka and the Dehiattakandiya Division Secretariat have organized an essay completion, art competition and a debate on the themes related to forest protection observing the world environment day in the youth camp. More than 30 stalls in the Environment Day exhibition at the Mahaweli ground in Dehiatakandia near Mahiyanganaya exhibited the traditional farming equipments, local seeds, paddy varieties and more.
The UNEP theme for the World Environment Day in 2011 is “Forests: Nature at your service” in complementary to the UN year of Forest which is celebrating in this year. Forest is the home for millions of species. It cleans air and conserves water. It provides food, seeds, timber and many other natural and human needs.
Today forests are in a great danger. More than 12 million to 15 million of hectares annually converted to agricultural lands and destroyed for the roads, dams and other infrastructure projects. Forest grabbing is a major problem today for monoculture plantations; agro fuel production etc reported FAO.
Hemantha Withanage, Executive Director at CEJ informed that Sri Lanka has 19 % natural forest coverage today that has been reduced from 24% in 1982. The deforestation in Sri Lanka is highly alarmingly he highlighted. Therefore, this camp has been very strategic in raising awareness in the area and to bring respect to the forest in their livelihood activities.
Dehiattakandia is located between two wildlife national parks i.e. Wasgomuwa and Maduru oya which have been protected during the Mahaweli River Multipurpose project. However, both parks are now facing many threats including poaching, illegal logging, gem mining and land grabbing.
“This has been quite successful event in creating awareness on the forest conservation and mobilization of youths,” told Dilena Panogoda, event coordinator at CEJ. We had an overwhelming response from the youths especially from the schools and colleges.
FAO states that to the 11.3 million hectares of tropical forest lost annually through deforestation caused essentially by population growth and subsistence agriculture a further 4.4 million hectares of closed forest affected by new logging activities must be added for a total of 15.7 million hectares annually. Since forests are being cleared principally by agriculture at a rate of 0.6 percent per annum and logging affects an additional 0.2 percent per year, the total annual rate of tropical forest reduction and disturbance is 0.8 percent. Although this is smaller than other estimates, it is still a heavy loss. Furthermore, as has already been mentioned, new logging roads open up hitherto undisturbed closed forests to even more unplanned, uncontrolled subsistence farming. The causes of forest destruction vary among regions and in the countries within those regions. Only a small part of forest loss is due to planned projects.