Simply put, deforestation refers to a permanent removal of trees that are driven by multiple factors underlying socioeconomic conditions to industrial activities. This has been recognized as one of the most pressing environmental issues of this period. The removal of trees and destruction of forests not only threatens the rich biodiversity and ecosystem but drastically impacts on the livelihoods of many communities globally. (Southey, 2022)
From a scientific standpoint, trees function as carbon sinks, absorbing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere and regulating the Earth's climate. When forests undergo destruction, stored carbon is released into the atmosphere, leading to an accumulation of greenhouse gases and contributing to global warming. (Baghdjian, 2023) It's crucial to comprehend that deforestation significantly plays a role in climate change, making it an urgent concern in today's context.
In order to address this issue, it is crucial to identify the causes and the potential solutions to deforestation.
Deforestation is often driven by industrial and economic activities such as urbanization, mining and agriculture. The expansion of the increment in population therefore often comes at the expense of forests, which lead to extensive forest destruction and tree cutting. (Baghdjian, 2023) Taking a look at the impact of tree cutting, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization points out that an estimate of 10 million hectares of forests are lost annually which is equivalent to the size of Iceland. (Forest Planning and Management , n.d.)
As Sri Lanka is known for its unique geographical placement and biodiversity, it plays a major role in providing homes for over 3000 species of flowering plants and numerous endangered species. (Tharuka Dissanayake, 2021) It is also vital to consider that it also serves as a home for a wide range of fauna including various species of birds, mammals, butterflies and insects. However, due to the extensive rate of deforestation, both flora and fauna have been subjected towards a significant decline.
Through this, both indigenous communities and local populations often bear the burden of such environmental changes. As many people in various communities have well rooted connections to the forest, the destruction of trees not only threatens the way of life but impacts on their traditional practices that have been practiced for generations.
Nevertheless, it is important to consider that the Sri Lankan government has also taken proactive steps to minimize deforestation whilst safeguarding its rich biodiversity. Statistically speaking, it has been seen that between the years 2000-2020 Sri Lanka has minimized the deforestation dates by 50% by implementing policies such as enforcing penalties in relation to acts that hinder the environment. (Dissanayake, 2022)
It is also vital to consider that many organizations have taken steps in relation to reforestation, which is a crucial aspect in relation to environmental restoration. We, the Forest Healing Foundation too actively engage in various forms of impactful conservation projects, as we aim to contribute towards the rejuvenation of ecosystems and preservation of natural habitats.
The Forest Healing Foundation therefore aims to preserve the Kandyan Forest Garden whilst operating hand in hand with the community to actively restore and preserve the environment. Recognizing the pressing need for environmental protection and sustainability, we as a foundation address the detrimental impacts on tree cutting and forest destruction that have adversely affected both the community and the ecosystem.
It is also essential to consider the relationship between reforestation and eco-tourism where the Polwaththa Eco- Lodges generate economic incentives for rainforest preservation. This sustainable practice not only supports the local economy but also plays a pivotal role in maintaining the ecological balance and promoting coexistence between nature and human activities.
We as a foundation have also actively engaged with the community through impactful initiatives such as constructing sluice gates to aid farmers in managing water for their paddy fields. It is also our sole priority to engage in meaningful conversation with the farmers and landowners, fostering discussions on striking a balance between biodiversity conservation and income generation. Our commitment also extends to initiatives such as Eko Land Produce, where farmers receive 10-40% higher payments for their produce when preserving the Kandyan Forest model.
Through such collaborative efforts, the Forest Healing Foundation ensures on engaging the community in various restoration initiatives emphasizing the shared responsibility of safeguarding our natural resources. We also ensure that the community not only contributes to the restoration process but is also rewarded for their dedication and efforts.
We believe that this inclusive approach fosters a sense of environmental stewardship, promoting a harmonious relationship between the environment and the community for a sustainable future.
Southey, F. (2022, February https://www.foodnavigator.com/Article/2022/02/09/deforestation-what-are-the-challenges-and-unintended-consequences-of-government-action). Deforestation : What are the challenges and 'unintended consequences' of government actions ? Retrieved from foodnavigator.com.
Baghdjian, A. (2023, October 01). Can Planting trees really help us tackle climate change ? Retrieved from zurich.com: https://www.zurich.com/en/media/magazine/2021/can-reforestation-uproot-climate-change
Tharuka Dissanayake, D. W. (2021). Not Seeing the Forests for the Trees. GroundVies Journalism for Citizens .
Dissanayake, D. (2022). Challenges before forest conservation in Sri Lanka : comparatively analyzing the laws against illegal timber logging.