Sinharaja Forest: A natural, national treasure | Daily News


 

Sinharaja Forest: A natural, national treasure

The Sinharaja Forest is the only wetland forest in Sri Lanka and it is also a World Heritage Site. It faces destruction due to various reasons and due to acts of unruly elements. Valuable trees in this forest reserve were felled in alarming proportions in early 1971 and 1972 to obtain timber for the production of plywood. A road was also constructed during that period for the transport of logs of trees felled at this world-renowned forest reserve.

In 1989, the Sinharaja Forest was declared a World Heritage by the UNESCO. Then the Sinharaja Forest had an extent of 13,108 acres, but now it has shrunk to a great extent with the encroaching of unruly elements.

The road inside Sinharaja was developed further and a bridge was also built. According to officials, this road was developed for the transport and convenience of tourists. This road paved the way for the gradual destruction of the Sinharaja Forest. This road also paved the way for the tourists and others to take samples of endemic species back to their countries illegally.

They produced various products utilising the flora, keeping with them the patent rights and even exporting them to Sri Lanka. The authorities in Sri Lanka had turned a blind eye while these activities were going on.

In 2018, the World Bank also provided aid for the conservation of the Sinharaja Forest. Environmentalists say that another road was set up utilising World Bank funds. According to them, this road led to further losses in the Sinharaja rain forest cover. Environmentalists staged a protest campaign against the setting up of this road because it could be detrimental to the Sinharaja rainforest’s biodiversity.

The environmentalists had called for regulating tourism in the Sinharaja Forest due to fears that more endemic species could be taken out of the country. During this period, environmentalists formed an association known as Sinharaja Surekeeme Janapawra (Public Force for Protecting Sinharaja) for the protection of the Sinharaja rainforest.

About one kilometre away from the Sinharaja Forest, there is a rock in extent of about 12 acres which is known as the Rajuvangala, which literally means ‘rock resembling a king’. There are ruins of an ancient building here. According to the chronicles, it was at this location that King Walagambahu hid from marauding enemy forces. There is a pond here in which water remains right throughout the year without the pond ever getting dry. This rock has been vandalized by treasure hunters, according to the residents in the area.

There are 120 species of birds here and 25 of them are endemic to Sri Lanka according to environmentalists. Two waterfalls known as Anagimala and Narangasella are found in the Sinharaja rainforest.

 

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