Birthing of Reforest Sri Lanka and why 84,000 trees for Vesak

Hanthana burning - 02.2016

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.

DSC_2790

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. 1. Actively reforest land
  2. 2. Create awareness about the importance of trees for life
  3. 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.

Donation Account - 84,000 trees for Vesak
Please donate – 84,000 trees for Vesak

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.

Sign up to our society via http://www.reforestsrilanka.com/membership-form/    to be in the loop.

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.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/reforestsrilanka
You tube: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLBwLMLC4hgnDwCV9_vV_fWl8mekbXEN26
Society Constitution: https://goo.gl/KYKPjn

Finally here are we:

Name: Harshaka Hettiarachchi (Founding Member | Green shirt planting tree)
Lecturer, University of Kelaniya

harshaka

Name: Ansumal Kumarage  (Founding member)
Software Engineer

ansu

Name: Pirashanya Karunanandarajah (Founding member)
Associate Agile Project Lead

prashanya

Name: Nilaksha Rathnayake
Senior Software Engineer (UI)

nilaksha

Name: Dineth Mallikarachchi
Air Traffic Controller

dineth

Name: Nilushi Weerakoon (Founding Member)
Business Analyst

nilushi

Name: Lasanthika Munasinghe (Founding Member)
Senior QA Engineer

lasanthika

Name: Nishantha Bandara (Founding Member)
Project Manager/ IT

nishantha2

Name: Bavatharani Iyer
Telecommunication Engineer

thaaru

Tharindu Kandewatte
Entrepreneur/ Student

kande

Name: Achala Meddegama (Founding Member)
Senior Manager/Software Architect

achala

13 thoughts on “Birthing of Reforest Sri Lanka and why 84,000 trees for Vesak”

  1. While I think this initiative is extremely commendable, I would like to ask one simple question. It’s very true that we need to plant trees and help increase the forest cover of Sri Lanka and, I understand, hence is your nation-wide project of planting 84,000 saplings. As I think, it is more challenging to take care of the sapling till it becomes a big tree and the task requires constant dedication of a caregiver. How have you thought about this? I would like to know your plans for making sure this happens. Thank you.
    – All good wishes, Osanka

    1. Hi Osanka, great question and one that we’ve been getting allot from the people we meet and social media. If you read through you know where we stand. We will try our utmost to ensure the plants are watered till the rain starts and the plants take root. But we cannot guarantee it. At some places we planted, there were people who pledged to look after them or responsible entities. At some others, there were not. And by May some parts of the country should start receiving rains. We cannot expect all 84,000 plants to grow up safely, but if we stop trying for the sake of not having ways to ensure their growth, citizen efforts like ours cannot be attempted. But we will try as we proceed to get places where there would be someone to look after them. For instance we are giving a 400 plants to the Leo club, and they have asked schools and their students to look after these plants (They are planting 1500 plants islandwide). Like so we will also try to get care givers. But im sure there will be places where this will not happen. Hope to see you at one of our upcoming meetings or at a venue.

      1. If you are planting any in towns and cities, one option is for a house or a shop owner nearby to give the ownership of a sapling. That way it will be cared for until it grows. I have seen this at Nugegoda between the Supermarket and the Highlevel road junctions. Shops near the sidewalks were asked to water sapling and they did diligently as the shade of a tree in the vicinity did benefit them directly.

  2. And the act has wider implications than just planting of 84,000 trees. We have seen that our actions have made people who come to know about us also care more about nature. I hope the above answers why we are still forging ahead. We’ve seen good actions are adopted faster in society too. We are very optimistic.

  3. Can we join u to help u. ,,please contact me from my above email and there is a group called young zoologists association they do a lot of good work to join them if u life,,
    Thank uu

  4. If we can join hands with you for this reforesting project, it will ne great. If you can update me how to join with you for planting sessions, I also can come amd join with you… not only donating money make happy on this… pls get back. All the best for this mission…

    1. thanks alot vimanga. we need your help with this. perhaps this is a life long commitment to protect the trees also. there is a meeting on saturday, 02 of April at Royal College skills union, Colombo at 6pm. If possible please come since we will finalize our activities then.

  5. I am impressed with the project can you give me indications of the plants that are being distributed (types) and which areas are you concentrating on. I like to be involved.

  6. Hi guys, congratulations on this great initiative. As a keen proponent of tree planting myself, it’s heartening to hear about this venture and the continued good work that your group has committed to. I have in some years past, bought over 200 plants from an organization called Ruk Rekaganno for planting up my own immediate neighborhood, but I’m not sure if they are still operating. Do let me know where you need any planting help on the event date and I will be happy to participate. Also, how about making plants available to us for planting in our own spaces too, or are you only hoping to do planting en masse in forest areas?

    1. Hi mam, yes for now we dont have the resources to offer plants as you describe. But it would be a great way to sustain the societies efforts so people can purchase plants at a very low price, much lower than conventional nurseries and also provide funding for us to sustain our efforts.

      So right now the donations we receive will go into purchase of plants, for logistics, land preparation and subsequent planting and care taking. Since we are all citizens and volunteers no administrative or such expenses will be paid out. It is heartening to see your effort and read your kind thoughts. We are really motivated and hope citizen driven reforestation will become a part of our culture…

  7. Great initiative. A few of us at work would like to volunteer if you need help planting these trees. Let us know how we can get involved.

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