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Alternative methods to enhance tree cover at national level



by Eng. Mahinda Panapitiya

M Sc, (Department of Agriculture and Biological Engineering) Utah State University, Utah, USA,

When we talk about new forestry programs we think planting trees only in isolated locations in rural areas. However reservations along streams and roads in urban areas are also potential locations for planting trees. Following pictures show how similar interventions were done in Mahaweli Areas in 80s.

Concept behind the Proposal

Road Reservations & Stream corridors which extend to about 10 to 20 Meters in either side are not actively protected in Sri Lanka though it is very common in other countries. Reservations of roads and streams are owned by the government. Therefore public use of this land can be considered as a fair use of the land. Main purpose of this proposal is to introduce an intervention to connect the Forest Patches in urban areas using the reservations of streams and roads by planting trees so that those strips act also as Bio Corridors while enhancing the tree cover at national level.

Hidden Benefits

In addition to forest cove at national level, other ecological benefits are as follows

1. It serves as a roof for pedestrians using public roads while adding aesthetic value. In developed countries this is a specialised job done professionals called Arborist

2. It is also possible to develop stream banks as cycle tracks to use as Environmental Sustainable Transport (EST) system. This is very relevant to Sri Lanka because our road designs have not included such tacks in their design.

3. Those tree belts also play the role of corridors connecting isolated forest patches in urban areas supporting enhancement of urban wild life which is being badly detonated due to unplanned Land Use practices

4. It is also possible to develop stream banks as nature trails for people who enjoy the nature. Those tracks could be developed even to attract eco tourists like in other countries.

Historical Background of similar interventions

In Sri Lanka, the concept of Bio Corridor was introduced in 1988 under a Project called Mahaweli Agriculture and Rural Development project implemented in System B under an USAID funded program. Similar to highways which connect main cities, in this case the Bio Corridors were introduced as “Bio Highways” connecting fragmented forest patches (“Bio Cities”). At the same time those corridors were improved as Cycle Tracks for local farmers. In 2010, similar intervention was introduced in Gampaha District in parallel with a flood mitigation project implemented by the Provincial Road Development Authority (WP). For example when Uruwal Oya running adjacent to Gampaha Urban Area was improved to mitigate floods, when it runs adjacent to urban areas, those riparian tree belt areas were introduced. In this project while streams were improved to mitigate floods, riparian tree belt was also introduced using Bio Engineering Technologies to strengthen the stream banks structurally, instead of using gabions. Latter, part of that stream running adjacent to Gampaha Town was improved as Recreational purposes such as Jogging Track for urban communities. According to this intervention, as an additional benefit, it was expected that the shades provided by riparian tree cover would discourage growth of invasive plants such as Japan Jabara which clogs the drainage outlets resulting in floods in Urban Areas. Note that a technical paper published highlighting those achievements under Uruwal Oya, won the First Prize in a competition held by the Institution of Engineers Sri Lanka (IESL)-2012 on Water Related Bio Engineering Interventions in Urban Areas.



Based on measurement from Google Maps indicated above the Total Length of selected streams and roads are about 36 KM. Data available with the PRDA in implementing already completed similar interventions in 2010 was used for estimation. Assuming 500 Trees / KM, Planting & Maintaining a tree including fertilizing at least for 1 year till it reaches a height of at least 8 Ft is 3000. Therefore the Rough cost estimate is about 1.5 MRs/ KM.


Mahinda Panapitiya – Envisioning Respect for Natural Environment – Published under Member Profile in the Monthly Journal of American Society of Agriculture Engineers. May 1995 edition

Widyarathna. H.M.P.B, Dr. Hemanthi Ranasinghe, M.Sc Dissertation submitted to University of Sri Jayawardenepura, 1996 Survey of existing bank reservations of major natural streams in System B of Mahaweli Project

Establishment of Urban Recreational areas with Flood Mitigation Programs, presented at IESL Authors: Suniil Bnadaranayak (GM of PRDA of WP_

Hidden benefits related to Bio Diversity aspects of jogging track project

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Online education – an alternative



By Dr. Rasanjalee Abeywickrama

Education is a weapon that can improve one’s life. It is a most important tool that helps to spread knowledge in society, which is a most noteworthy benefit of Education. Furthermore, it acts as a medium that transfers knowledge from one generation to another.

Education helps to boost a country’s economy and society; therefore, it is a milestone of a nation’s development. It offers knowledge and skills to the populace, while shaping the personality of the youth of a nation. Education is generally considered the foundation of society which beckons economic wealth, social prosperity and political stability. Economic and social status depends on individual education, since it contributes to individual capability in managing the quality of life. The main purpose of education is to prepare and qualify them for work, to play their part in a country’s economy, as well as to integrate people into society by teaching them the values and morals of society.

Education, for a child, begins at home. It is a lifelong process and determines the quality of an individual’s life. Education improves one’s knowledge and skills, and develops personality and attitude. Students must be equipped with knowledge and skills which are necessary to participate effectively as members of society and contribute towards the development of shared values and common identity.

The COVID-19 pandemic is still haunting the human race and it will be completing its horrible journey of two years within another five months. It has changed the whole world and lives of each and everyone around the globe. There cannot be anyone who has not been affected by this virus at least once, economically, physically and psychologically. While man is busy planning to go to Mars, this microorganism is busy taking the lives of millions on earth and taking away all the freedom which man had on earth, including the freedom to breathe. While it has affected all the sectors and trades, education is one of the most affected sectors.

There are several ways this virus has affected education. The loss of livelihoods of thousands of parents has caused a financial crisis and education of their kids has been affected, dramatically. Schools remained closed for much of the time, since March 2020. Kids were unable to go to school continuously, at least for one to two months, for over 15 months now. Physical engagement with peer groups and teachers is completely hampered due to shifting to online education, where kids will only be able to talk to each other and to the teacher through a screen which looks so artificial. It does not provide the actual interaction, which is essential, especially for kids in primary grades and early childhood education.

Some kids are at least fortunate enough to gather some knowledge through online platforms as they have access to relevant electronic equipment and network connections. Sadly, kids in low income families are not fortunate enough to obtain such facilities. Some kids who were supposed to be in Grade 1, during the year 2021, have not yet been to school for at least one day, but applications are already called for year 2022 Grade 1 school admissions, which shows how much time, from their early childhood education, has been wasted. This would adversely affect all of them as early childhood education is not solely about developing learning and writing skills, but about social engagement and social development, via engaging in activities with peer groups.

Education should enhance cognitive, social-emotional and behavioural dimensions of learning. It should also ensure inclusive and equitable quality education for all, wherein no one is left behind. This has become a challenging task with the ongoing pandemic situation. Though online education is not the best option, it is the only option available for kids of this generation. But there are many practical issues related to access to laptops, desktops, smartphones and internet connections. In many areas, kids have to climb trees to get internet connections. Huts have been constructed on tree tops to enable kids to follow online classes. Therefore, we need to look for better and more effective ways to continue the education of kids.

The most effective way to handle this issue of online learning, at the moment, is to telecast educational programmes, in the morning or afternoon hours instead of repeat telecasts of teledramas, TV shows or any other entertainment programmes. If all the national TV channels can work towards this, it will offer a practical solution to the problems associated with online education. Since all children are at home these days, it is an efficient way not only to educate them, but also to reduce the damage caused to their brain development due to watching unsuitable content on TV. Even radio stations can help in this regard.

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The country they saved



Many YouTube videos are accessible on the Internet, which show interviews with retired/injured soldiers who were with the Sri Lanka Army during the period 2005-2009. They proudly talk about how they fought, how they got injured, how they re-joined the battle, after recovery, and how they saw their friends and higher officers get killed. Without any sadness in their voices, they show their wounded limbs and blinded eyes. Most of us who were not in the battlefield, too, can be somewhat satisfied by thinking about our much lesser contributions – donation of blood, donation of money towards various funds such as “Api Wenuwen Api” (although not sure what happened to those), helping families of soldiers, etc.  

Many would now feel sad about those injured soldiers and the ones who made the ultimate sacrifice to safeguard this country, when seeing how this country is managed by some politicians, who claim that they were the people who saved this country.



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Special rules for UK-SL MPs cricket



The High Commissioner of Sri Lanka to the UK, Saroja Sirisena, responding to a call by the Speaker of the House of Commons, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, met the Speaker on May 24 at his office at the House of Commons, while the Lion Flag fluttered in front of the House of Commons on the occasion. Our lady diplomat, as per The Island report on 31st May, proposed and, ‘…both agreed that a friendly exchange of cricket between the members of the two Parliaments would be a fine opportunity to celebrate there shared love of cricket.’

Being concerned of the risk of conversion of the gentlemen’s game into a “Parliamentarian’s one”, shall we propose an amended 13-point set of rules applicable only to our legislators.

1. “Scrap retired hurt” phenomenon altogether as they will never dream of ‘retiring’, worse they do not understand what ‘hurt’ means.

2. Out!, and back in the pavilion, can be re-called by the Captain under “National team player” to the middle, to continue batting.

3. Ministers, who rush Bills for speedy enactments are best suited as Pace bowlers, but they will have to compete with ‘swing both-ways’ experts.

4. Talented ‘googley’ bowlers are in abundance, but English MPs are good readers of the googley; more prudent choice would be a specialist ‘Chinamen’, [there is no dearth of them either], further, the opponents do have little experience in facing them and would naturally be extra nervous to hear the first syllable of the word.

5. Sixers should be banned altogether, for they being highly skilled masters of the art will effortlessly hit every ball for a ‘SIX’.

6. Sledging, supported by familiar un-parliamentary vocabulary can be used excessively, as the opponents will not understand them, however, as a precautionary measure, the stump microphone should be disconnected from commentary.

7. Media should be allowed in the field to get voice cuts blaming the opponents, after every bungling by themselves.

8. English team has done their ‘home-work’ using freely available data : will demand free access for Agents of Bookies at the Lanka dressing room, with the idea of winning the game easily. However, such motivation can be countered by displaying 11 ultra-luxury SUVs on the grounds [as prizes for the winners]

9. A special sitting of the House prior to the match, to propose and pass a handsome match-fee for the players, would be an added incentive.

10. To compensate for their lack of experience and knowledge in playing on a level field, a ‘20%’ [a familiar numerical] bonus of runs or wickets can be granted.

11. In fairness to the Englishmen, any attempt to play a Dil-scoop using more familiar hands, minus the bat, should not be allowed.

12. The two field umpires plus 3rd, 4th umpires and match referee should be provided with special security in the event of a loss to the local team.

13. The moment the English side appealed against a Lankan batsmen, before the Umpire delivered his verdict, the bodyguards should rush to the field to prevent untoward incidents happening.




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