Birthing of Reforest Sri Lanka and why 84,000 trees for Vesak
People have been asking us, who we are. People want to help but are worried to trust a faceless society. And we believe its time to respond to these questions (on a side note, we have openly tagged ourselves and our photos on our face book page, but those photos have gone down the timeline)
Let me first introduce myself, I am a tech. guy, I have been a government servant, a banking assistant, a software engineer and now I am a senior executive. I am like all my fellow team mates, a bachelor of science, and now am reading for an MBA in IT at the University of Moratuwa. But in my heart I am a lover of nature having had the luxury of being born and raised in the picturesque surroundings at the University of Peradeniya, learning to appreciate nature and cherish its fast fading memories.
The picture above showing burning of Hanthana (a frame in time of thousands of fires over the years) was what fuelled me to get together with a bunch of like minded individuals and start Reforest Sri Lanka. The picture below is what the slopes of Hanthana bordering the University of Peradeniya looks like during the day from my house. It is so sad, and so much fauna and flora and wonderful nature has been lost to us during the last decade in and around the Peradeniya University Campus. Pinus that were planted during the 60’s and 70’s can be seen here, the pinus is also the only majority tree type left standing, attesting to its resilience. Pinus also reduces other tree growth, reduces ground water levels etc and is hard to destroy due to its hard bark and seeds which flower from thermal melting.
The perfect platform was setup by our lecturers Ms. Vishaka Nanayakkara and Dr. Dilum Bandara via one of our courses where we had to initiate a CSR activity at the MBA in IT, University of Moratuwa. We had our chance, finally we had 08 people who could get together and start something they were passionate about (below are our profile and photos).
Remember we are still quite young, all are below 30 and our passion provides so much energy. Initially we spent our own small saving, pooling a few thousand from our salaries each month for our initial reforestation drives. Then we realized, 100 saplings (plants) could be planted in an area smaller than what someone’s house would cover, or even a large living room. That was how far our own pockets could stretch, once we paid for the transport to locations, local labour for digging holes since we couldn’t possibly dig holes and plant trees during the few holidays we somehow managed to obtain from work and live as usual.
Then we drafted a constitution once we knew we had to expand beyond the initial membership of 8. We formed a society and called ourselves even more firmly, Reforest Sri Lanka. We also took steps to open a bank account at Sampath Bank. We also made sure at least 02 of the 03 signatories need to sign on withdrawals so even one day when we are not here, the society’s funds will not be misused.
03 Goals Reforest Sri Lanka strives for are:
1. Actively reforest land
2. Create awareness about the importance of trees for life
3. Create a culture of tree plantation at home, office and at large
It is many months since the coursework requirement was met, but our real work has just begun. We want all of you to join us and take with you the values we are propagating, the same values our ancient fore-fathers put into practice each day. A society that respects nature, knew to fear its destruction and appreciate its beauty. We have planted over 500 trees in the last few months. We have now raised funds to donate nearly 400 plants to the Leo club.
During our diverse work, we met with a jovial pair and true souls dedicated to nature. Nilaksha Rathnayake and Dineth Mallikarachchi. These were guys who had a following of nearly 40,000 on their social circles and had moved the president to ban illegal deforestation in some parts of the country just last year (2015). We were thrilled because here were others just like us, ordinary citizens who saw the public officials were having a hard time to attend to their good work and to get involved in this kind of work at the same time.
And so far it has been amazing to meet so many others too, for instance I had the chance to visit a meeting of the Butterfly Conservation society where some real environmental scientist are doing fantastic work to protect species by identifying them. Likewise there are so many others including people raising awareness on shipping routes and their destruction on the local Whale Population which is reputed to be the world’s largest gathering of Blue Whales. And they don’t migrate, they stay here. There are so many groups involved in fighting for nature, and we think its time we all unite.
My father was talking with me about nature and stated how great it would be to plant some trees for Vesak. This sparked the idea for the event to come. We had also seen the need to take this to the national stage, and we knew most Buddhists and Sri Lankans of other faiths genuinely love nature. For example one member is Hindu and one is Christian from our initial 08. In our second meeting last month, we met a follower of Islam who was also passionate on the subject.
So we thought about a large reforestation campaign, planting 84,000 trees to commemorate the Eighty-Four Thousand Dharmashkandha of the Dhamma (Dharma/ Doctrine) during Vesak this year, one of the most important dates in the Buddhist Calendar. And yes, we had this idea only 03 days ago. So we are now creating a proposal and planning how this is could be accomplished. One thing we hope is that this activity should change the outlook on nature with a societal change to reforest and replant for recreation. Planting trees is real fun and rewarding. It costs so little to buy a plant and we hope that you would look on this action and at least plant one tree in your backyard soon.
Keep posted to see how the event goes, our plans including where we will plant these trees, how they will be watered and looked after etc. Thank you so much and spread the word.
We are not political. We are a gathering of citizens and we invite you to help us. I’m sure the heat these days give you ample reasons to join this common cause. And if we carry on, the authorities will also see why they need to do more. So you are needed.