Nat­u­ral A Nat­u­ral Re­serve

Sri Lanka’s Sin­haraja Re­serve is fa­mous for a wide va­ri­ety of plant and an­i­mal life.

Southasia - - CONTENTS - By Madiha Bi­lal Ka­pa­dia

The Sin­haraja For­est Re­serve in Sri Lanka is lo­cated in the coun­try’s south-west low­land wet zone. It is Sri Lanka’s last vi­able area of pri­mary trop­i­cal rain­for­est. Orig­i­nally de­clared a for­est re­serve in 1875 un­der the Waste Lands Or­di­nance and no­ti­fied in the then Cey­lon Govern­ment, the for­est re­serve was de­clared a World Her­itage Site in 1988. The Sin­haraja For­est Re­serve is home to many en­demic trees and wildlife, with more than 60 per cent of the trees in the re­serve cat­e­go­rized as be­ing rare. There is other unique wildlife in the re­serve as well, in­clud­ing birds, mam­mals, but­ter­flies, in­sects, rep­tiles and rare am­phib­ians.

The links be­tween the Sin­haraja for­est and the Sin­halese in Sri Lanka is rife with leg­ends and lore. Both the for­est and the peo­ple de­rive their name from the word ‘Sinha’ mean­ing lion and ac­cord­ing to lo­cal le­gend, the race is the re­sult of the union be­tween a king’s daugh­ter and a mighty lion who lived in the for­est. The Sin­haraja for­est, there­fore, oc­cu­pies a spe­cial po­si­tion of im­por­tance for the peo­ple of Sri Lanka. Le­gend also claims that the for­est was royal ter­ri­tory be­long­ing to the an­cient kings (ra­jas) of the coun­try and in some early colo­nial records, the for­est is re­ferred to as the ‘Ra­jas­inghe For­est.’ Yet an­other le­gend claims that the for­est was the last refuge of the lion, no longer found on the is­land.

At present, the Sin­haraja Re­serve cov­ers an area of 8,800 hectares of na­ture and mod­i­fied forests. The re­serve lies in the south-west of the is­land and mea­sures 21 kilo­me­tres in length. The Sin­haraja rain­for­est is now a World Her­itage Re­serve and fa­mous for a wide va­ri­ety of plant and an­i­mal life that are en­demic to Sri Lanka as well as a va­ri­ety of shrubs and medic­i­nal herbs. The Bata Na, which is found in the mid­dle ranges of the for­est, has unique flush, deep red and drop­ping leaves. Of Sri Lanka’s 217 en­demic wet low­land trees and woody climbers, 64 per cent have been recorded in the Sin­haraja re­serve, of which 16 are con­sid­ered to be rare.

Al­most 95 per cent of the coun­try’s en­demic birds (about 19 species) are found here, in­clud­ing the rare red-faced malkoha, green-billed cau­cal, blue mag­pie and Sri Lankan spur fowl. Di­ver­sity among the rep­tiles and am­phib­ians is re­mark­ably high. The en­demic green viper, en­demic hump-nosed lizard and horned lizard are com­mon here. Small trib­u­taries and rivers of the for­est sup­port the fish such as striped Ras­b­ora, walk­ing cat­fish, Gal Pandiya (Doc­tor Fish) and en­demic Comb Tail. Out of the 12 en­demic mam­mal species of the coun­try, eight can be found in the re­serve. Gi­ant squir­rels, dusky-striped jun­gle squir­rel, pur­ple-faced

leaf mon­key and the torque macaque can be fre­quently seen in the for­est.

In 1840, the for­est be­came Bri­tish crown land and ef­forts were made to­wards its preser­va­tion. How­ever, in 1971 log­gers moved in and be­gan se­lec­tive log­ging. Log­ging roads and trails snaked into the for­est and a wood­chip mill was built. Fol­low­ing in­tense lob­by­ing by con­ser­va­tion­ists, the govern­ment called a halt to all log­ging in 1977. Ma­chin­ery was dis­man­tled and re­moved, the roads grad­u­ally grew over and Sin­haraja was saved. Much of the rest of Sri Lanka’s rain­for­est stands on moun­tain ridges within a 20km ra­dius of the for­est.

The cli­mate in the Sin­haraja For­est Re­serve is di­vided into sea­sons. Th­ese sea­sons are called the Yala mon­soon and the Maha mon­soon. The Yala mon­soon oc­curs be­tween May and June, while the Maha mon­soon oc­curs be­tween De­cem­ber and March. In a trop­i­cal cli­mate, th­ese are re­ferred to as wet and dry sea­sons. Changes in cli­mate in­clude the dis­rup­tion in rain­fall and also rain­fall pat­terns af­fect­ing crop cul­ti­va­tions, and this leads to a rise in tem­per­a­tures af­fect­ing com­fort lev­els. For­est cover needs to be main­tained to ame­lio­rate the ef­fects of cli­mate change. With forests get­ting con­fined to smaller ar­eas, a cas­cade of harm­ful events can oc­cur if the de­for­esta­tion con­tin­ues. De­for­esta­tion has also lead to other en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sues such as flood­ing, land­slides and soil ero­sion. Poor nat­u­ral re­source man­age­ment and land use pat­terns has re­sulted in the marginal­iza­tion of lands, loss of pro­duc­tiv­ity and de­ple­tion of non-re­new­able re­sources.

De­for­esta­tion is one of the most se­ri­ous en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sues im­pact­ing the Sin­haraja re­serve. Sri Lanka, ac­cord­ing to the IUCN has the high­est de­for­esta­tion and wildlife habi­tat loss rate in south­ern Asia. The ma­jor cause of this degra­da­tion is the re­sult of pop­u­la­tion pres­sure, in­ap­pro­pri­ate land use and lack of ef­fec­tive man­age­ment. Sri Lanka ranks 52nd in the world for pop­u­la­tion den­sity and most of the com­mu­ni­ties sur­round­ing the rain­for­est are en­gaged in mono­cul­ture tea, rub­ber and co­conut plan­ta­tions lead­ing to en­croach­ments and il­le­gal re­source ex­trac­tion.

Many steps have been taken by the govern­ment to help con­serve the Sin­haraja For­est re­serve. Rain­for­est Res­cue In­ter­na­tional (RRI) is a non-profit or­ga­ni­za­tion based in Galle, Sri Lanka, that works to pro­tect vul­ner­a­ble en­vi­ron­ments through eco sys­tem restora­tion, de­vel­op­ment of sus­tain­able liveli­hoods, ed­u­ca­tion, re­search, and ad­vo­cacy. RRI is help­ing to achieve the con­ser­va­tion by cre­at­ing a rain­for­est cor­ri­dor be­tween the two largest re­main­ing rain­forests in Sri Lanka, the Sin­haraja and the Kan­neliya for­est. This link­age will help stop ex­tinc­tion by cre­at­ing more habi­tats, main­tain mi­gra­tory path­ways, and en­cour­age breed­ing to help main­tain vi­able pop­u­la­tions. Be­sides this, RRI is sup­port­ing pur­chase of rain­for­est and buf­fer zone lands at risk of clear­ing for agri­cul­ture, es­tab­lish­ing nurs­eries to sup­ply seedlings for restora­tion projects, ed­u­cat­ing chil­dren in en­vi­ron­men­tal mat­ters in schools and train­ing farm­ers in or­ganic agri­cul­ture to as­sist them in de­vel­op­ing sus­tain­able liveli­hoods thereby re­mov­ing pres­sure on the rain­for­est.

Sri Lanka has, within its folds, an abun­dance of en­demic species which have taken many of years to evolve; and for this rea­son, the same lever­age that is given to pro­tect­ing cul­tural her­itage should be given to pro­tect­ing the coun­try’s nat­u­ral her­itage. There are only a very few such forests left in Asia, and if en­croach­ment on them were to con­tinue, it would af­fect wa­ter sources. This can lead to loss of wa­ter, which, in turn, can im­pact agri­cul­tural pro­duc­tion and shake the very foun­da­tions of the econ­omy. Madiha Bi­lal Ka­pa­dia holds an MBA in Mar­ket­ing from IoBM and free­lances for var­i­ous pub­li­ca­tions.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Pakistan

© PressReader. All rights reserved.