Let's protect our flora
The tree planting month began on October 15th and there's no
better time for us to think about the importance of trees and plants in
the lives of everyone because throughout the years trees have become an
important and inseparable part and parcel of the lives of all human
beings as well as animals irrespective of whatever country or climate
they live in.
"I am the heat of your hearth during the cold
I am the friendly shade which you find when
you walk in the sun,
My fruit quenches your thirst on the road,
I am the table in your house,
The bed on which you repose, the wood of your
I am the handle of your spade, the door of
The wood of your cradle and your coffin,
You who pass; hear me well, do me no harm."
As a part of an islandwide campaign to conserve forests and trees it
is really encouraging that the State has selected this month to spread
the noble message of the advantages of preserving trees and the need to
grow more and more trees throughout the country specially by creating an
awareness among the younger generation about the great value of growing
and preserving trees.
It cannot be denied that Sri Lanka is fast acquiring desert
conditions due to the wanton destruction of our trees. When we travel on
the highways of Sri Lanka the huge heaps of logs piled near timber
depots, to be taken for sawing later, reminds us how fast we are
destroying the work of nature by cutting down trees for the service of
man. During some religious and cultural festivities many lovable trees
such as arecanut and bamboo are completely destroyed to put up pandals
and to serve decorative purposes. However, no one takes care to plant
other trees to replace them. This is the very case with all other kinds
of trees that are ruthlessly cut down to satisfy our economic and other
Drawing schoolchildren and teachers into the programme to grow more
and more trees in this predominantly agricultural country is a very
thoughtful suggestion as schools are the most suitable institutions that
could bring a change in the nation's attitude towards this all important
aspect of conserving trees. In addition through the network of the
nation's schools the ideas and attitudes of parents and elders about the
important role of flora in our lives could be increased to a very great
As living close to nature and drawing inspiration from trees and
plants have formed an intrinsic part of our heritage we must bring back
our children to live in harmony with nature. The nation's children
should be made to be aware of the adversities of the wanton destruction
of trees and the great benefits that can be derived by the conservation
of trees and plants.
The all important role trees play in controlling the climate, soil
and other water resources and the disastrous effects of cutting them
down is well known. Trees, whether they are timber trees in our majestic
forests or shade and ornamental trees in our cities, highways and
home-gardens are a national asset.
Once any tree is destroyed there is no other force which could
replace immediately the enormous damage that is caused. Even a tree
which has taken a number of years to grow up to its full stature could
be completely destroyed within a short period of time but the loss is
Imagine a forest without trees-what would happen to the flora and
fauna that live under the cover of its trees. We must remember that more
than half of the population of the endemic plants in Sri Lanka will
disappear for ever from the face of the earth once their host trees are
destroyed. In addition to the current tree planting campaign we must
also take every action to preserve the existing trees, be they large or
small, of economic importance or not. Trees are like human beings.
Their environment affects their size, longevity, rate of growth and
even their usefulness. In the human society we have psychologists to
deal with those who go out of tune with their Environment. The problems
we humanbeings face are creations by us but the numerous problems that
trees and plants are faced with are not their own creations. They have
been created for them by man and animals. Thus as much as in the human
personality there are aberrations in the plant world too.
It is unique that at least occasionally we pay attention to plants
and their value to man and the tree planting month should provide us,
specially the schoolchildren of the country, with a golden opportunity
to enlighten themselves about the fantastic world of trees and how we as
intelligent humanbeings could enrich our environment with the help of
Sri Lanka has undergone a drastic climatic change during the last few
years. We have cleared forests and destroyed them in regions where their
presence would have been an asset to the well-being of the country. Due
to the indiscriminate felling of trees periodic drought conditions are
becoming more and more severe thus affecting the economic and living
conditions of all of us.
During the historic past the wise rulers of Sri Lanka left mountain
ranges and river banks enforested and thereby ensured an uninterrupted
rainfall. The ancient people of Sri Lanka knew the value of trees and
planted them by roadways and in forest reserves.
This added to the natural beauty and the coolness of the environment.
In those days it was considered a great sin to cut down any live tree
and those who did so were severely punished, even with death depending
on the value of the tree. Those who harmed the royal forests of the
kings were either banned or their hands were mutilated. Today squatters,
chena cultivators and illicit timber fallers are plundering the
country's flora. There is no doubt that man's interest must predominate
but the indiscriminate extension of agriculture will have a detrimental
effect on our society at large.
Forests play a great role in a nation's economy and climate and they
contribute immensely towards its scenic grandeur. When trees are cut
down springs dry up. the soil gets eroded and the air becomes less
humid. Thus the entire balance of nature is upset. When we destroy
forests, droughts, unfavourable climatic changes, soil erosion, lack of
water resources and even disastrous floods are the results.
The protection of our trees is no folly and the public, specially the
younger generation, must be made to realise the value and usefulness of
trees which form a sound foundation for the economic, cultural and
social development of the entire country. During the tree planting month
when a fresh awareness is being created among the public to grow more
and more trees we should also take action to continue this noble action
throughout our lives and specially the younger generation should be
encouraged to engage themselves in gardening as both a means of
relaxation and as a gainful hobby.
Gardening as a hobby has only a few equals and the pleasure and
satisfaction that could be derived from it is very great. Even poets and
writers have expressed the feelings of humility, reverence, awe and
worship that they have experienced in the serene atmosphere of a
The value derived in the communion of trees and in engaging in
gardening cannot be measured in terms of money. Let us hope that with
the tree planting month and activities connected with it the public will
become interested in growing more and more trees and would become better
enlightened about the usefulness of trees to all mankind.