“The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”
Trees are the life of every human being, every animal, simply the earth. It is not a strange fact that plants, animals and other organisms must coexist in harmony. No life could survive without these amazing nature creations.
In a world where humans are destroying our trees and forests, there are also people and organizations that selflessly make an effort to counterbalance the damage. Reforest Sri Lanka is one such organization which is contributing towards the worthy cause of Reforestation as its name suggests. This organization through its slogan “Protect tomorrow, today” is a perfect example for all of us who are responsible for the future of the world. I was fortunate enough to meet Mr. Achala Arunalu, President of Reforest Sri Lanka and get an insight into this inspiring organization.
Tell us your opinion about deforestation in Sri Lanka.
It’s a daily sight, more regular each day. As we plant a few hundred, on the trip back home, we see 10 times as many trees loaded and transported from the same forest area to logging mills. Back in 15 years, the climate was very different. We had such a rainy and cool climate in Peradeniya. We never left home without an umbrella as kids. Today it’s only in the monsoon months we need them. The dry spells span months. As we go into a more connected world, we get more and more reports of damage done by humans encroaching and enriching themselves by depleting forests. The sad truth is that the politicians and many corporations are those who are the most responsible. As a result, this generation is now reaping its rewards.
What is Reforest Sri Lanka and what measures have you put forward towards reforestation in Sri Lanka and are they at a satisfactory level?
Reforest Sri Lanka is a citizen driven tree planting society made up of patriotic citizens. We are a non-profit organization working to fight climate change by actively reforesting. Trees are fundamental to life as they oxygenate the world and play crucial roles in the Hydrological and Nutrient cycles as well as act as a megastore of Carbon.
We have 03 goals at Reforest Sri Lanka.
- Actively reforest land
- Create awareness about the importance of trees for life
- Create a culture of tree plantation at home, office and at large
Through active reforestation, people who we talk to and interact with, people who come to help us, or a shop owner who asks about why we are carrying mamoties and plants, think twice before damaging the nature. 84,000 is nothing compared to the existing plants in a given forest. As we plant, we realize we can sit about 1000 saplings per Hectare perhaps even less. So the area we cover with 84000 saplings is not much compared to the destruction. So our strategy is to make people feel better about protecting the nature and bad about killing it off. Our empathy also rejuvenates a link with wildlife as people see how important they are to our own continuity in this blue and green planet.
We have a Youtube channel with videos from experts such as Prof. Gamini Hitinayake and Prof. Janendra De Costa. We have a website at www.reforestsrilanka.com and our Facebook page at facebook.com/reforestsrilanka to help disseminate knowledge and news.
As I mentioned before, we have divided various sectors such as reforestation, policy planning to submit to the government, analysis of potential threats such as unsupervised carbon market creation in Sri Lanka, Schools reforestation campaigns, development of micro nurseries with endemic species amongst our volunteers.
We also have partnered with the 40,000 strong Protect Wilpattu group headed by Nilaksha and Dineth and indirectly via members of Shields of nature with Damith, Sriyantha from Rainforest Protectors. Other citizen movements are all congregating on one common objective to protect our fast depleting forests.
We also get help from authorities such as the Forest Department, Central Environment Authority, Local councils etc. to help identify land and plants. We only forest on state owned reservations hence there is no conflict of interest.
What made you lay the foundation of Reforest Sri Lanka?
We started Reforest Sri Lanka last year in June, 2015 during our Postgraduate studies at the University of Moratuwa. It was me, Nilushi, Harshaka, Lasanthika, Bavatharani, Nishantha and Prashanya who started this as a CSR. But we never stopped planting trees. We saw the urgency of the requirement as we travelled around our little island pearl. What was most astonishing was that we saw very little was being done to avert this crisis. People talked but very few were turning the words into action.
Who are involved in Reforest Sri Lanka today?
Today many people regardless of their positions and the field they work have joined this worthy cause. Manjari, Theshantha, Dr. Diroshan, Vinod, Dinushi, Bimal, Sameera, Madhura, Padmasiri, Dharmadasa, Dr. Chandana Gamage, Dr. Dilum Bandara, Mohan, Dinanja, Malitta, Leilani, Bhanuka, Chanu, Thushni, Prasad, Chandima, Yomali, Chullaka, Vithya, Sanka, Nilanka, Lakmali, Heshan and Isuru are names of some of the most amazing people and kind hearted souls who have taken it to be peaceful heroes. We have a membership of over 50 and nearly 200 people have worked with us to plant over 10000 saplings since May, 2016 when we started a new campaign to reforest 84,000 saplings in Sri Lanka. Today we are one of the truly citizen driven movements in Sri Lanka which encompass patriots from all walks of life, all faiths and social strata. We are strictly apolitical and have a flat hierarchy.
Photographs courtesy of Reforest Sri Lanka
What are the projects your organization has done so far?
Numerous projects have been done and resulted in planting trees at the following sites: 1000 saplings in Kottawa – Galle, 131 Mee and Kumbuk saplings in Viharamaha Devi Park, over 2000 Mee and Kumbuk saplings in Ingiriya along the River Kalu and Mawak oya, 850 saplings by Bernards, 1000 saplings by the OGA of HFC, 400 saplings in Dikwella, 300 saplings in Sobhitha School, Makola, 673 saplings in Meerigama, 500 saplings in Batalanda Army Camp, 100 saplings in Kolonnawa School, 100 saplings in Anuradhapura, 50 saplings in Crow Island, 1700 jack saplings in Welioya and 2000 saplings above Riverstone, Matale.
Do you believe this initiative would start a trend in the society? If so, could you elaborate more on that?
Yes, it already has. When we started, people were voicing their opinions. But we were able to take this movement to larger numbers than ever before. Although some people claim figures such as 1 million or even 1 billion tree plantations, we know how hard it is to plant 100 saplings. We can plant about 600-1000 saplings a day with the use of machines in hand and a team of 40 volunteers. But we make sure to tell the truth of the matter.
So yes, a social trend has come about. The other movements, people voicing about this initiative and individuals who post on social media after planting a tree have made people become more environmentally sensitive. It has become a little fashionable too even though that was not our intent.
Any project or an incident which Reforest Sri Lanka can be proud of?
We get a little self-satisfaction for each and every plant we have planted and especially when we see them growing well after a few months. We recently donated 1700 saplings including Jack to people in Welioya. On 13th of November, we are planning to plant 2000 saplings in Raththota above Riverstone which will be a large catchment of the Mahaweli river.
Partnering with state and private corporations would make us even stronger and thereby we would be able to make a considerable impact on the society. This will also assist us to bring back the forest cover in Sri Lanka to a sustainable level, help to protect it and empower the citizens to be a part of the change they believe is right for the nation.
Tell us about you
I am 29 years old and schooled at Trinity College, Kandy. Since I did not do well in Maths in the first shy at A/L, I started working when I was 18. I was a quick study and I self-learnt a lot of web technologies and thereby ended up doing many freelance projects. Using work experience, I finished a Higher National Diploma and completed a BSc in Computer Science as well. I was given a job at the University of Peradeniya as a Coordinator and managed a World Bank funded project in Automation and Climate Change. By the age of 26, I was appointed as the CEO at ESOFT Technologies. Currently I am following a postgraduate degree at University of Moratuwa.
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Contact Achala on +94 772834561 or email us at [email protected] for future details.
Account No: 102961001491
Account Name: ReForest Sri Lanka
Bank: Sampath Bank
Branch: Corporate Branch
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