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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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Mrs Paripooranam Rajasundaram- A Gracious Lady



I first came to know Mrs Pariapooranam Rajasundaram, who was born in Singapore on October 25, 1935 while serving a short stint in Jaffna with police intelligence. Her late husband who called her “Pari” was my very close friend, Mr. Vaithilingam Rajasunderam, the former principal of Victoria College, Chullipuram who was introduced to me by my friend and police batch mate, late Tissa Satharasinghe, who was the Personal Security Officer, to the late Mr T.B. Ilangaratne in 1971.

Mrs Rajasundaram was blessed with three sons and a daughter and several grandchildren and can be truly described as a very faithful spouse and dedicated mother, mother-in-law, grandmother and a great grandmother to the family of which she was matriarch.

My short spell in Jaffna in 1973 brought me closer to the Rajasunderams who celebration their 25th wedding anniversary in 1974. Theirs was an open house and my wife and sisters too came to know them well.

Mrs Rajasundram and her husband were good hosts and his assassination was a shock to all of us. It was then she became part of our family as she lived with us briefly till she obtained a UK visa to join her daughter and son-in-law there.

Many years later when she was living in England, I had joined KLM Royal Dutch Airlines and my family used to spend vacations with them in Cockfosters in North London. Mrs Rajasundaram treated us to sumptuous meals lavishing attention on us. She was very fond of my wife and two children and had a heart of gold. A devout Hindu she never failed in her religious obligations, lived within her means and was never greedy for what she could not afford. She firmly believed in being patient and willingly gave to those in need.

She was a lady who was selfless, full of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, very virtuous, and full of love and character. I can say of her: “People may forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel!”

My prayer as a Christian is that God grants you eternal rest.


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Independence celebrations for whose benefit?



Celebrating what? Bankruptcy, corruption and nepotism to name a few. Surely isn’t there one MP among 225 who feel we have nothing to celebrate. We say we cannot pay govt. servants’ salaries in time, the pensioners’ their entitlements. A thousand more failures confront us.

In our whole post-independence history such a situation has never arisen. We should be mourning our lost prestige, our lost prosperity our depleting manpower. Our youth in vast numbers are leaving the country for greener pastures. We should be conserving every cent to live, not to celebrate a non-existent independence. We should be mourning, walking the streets in sack cloth and ashes in protest at this wanton waste of money by an irresponsible government.

I can’t understand this mentality. The forces are also our young men who feel for their fellow men and women. Maybe their lot is a little better than the rest of us. But how can you order them to go parade? They cannot refuse. It is an unwritten or written code that they have to obey orders without question. I feel sorry for them. All that spit and polish – for whose benefit? Definitely not ours. We will be mourning in silence in our homes.

Padmini Nanayakkara.

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Aftermath Of Mr. Ranjan Wijeratne’s Assassination



It was on Saturday March 2, 1991 when that fateful LTTE bomb blast shattered the life out of Mr. Ranjan Wijeratne, Minister of Plantations and Deputy Minister of Defence, in front of the Havelock Road University Women’s Hostel opposite Keppetipola Mawatha.

Mr. Wijeratne used to take the same route from home to office every day. The LTTE had monitored his movements and found that it would be easy to target him on his way to office from a strategic point after receiving the information of his departure from home.

The LTTE targeted his vehicle right in front of the University of Colombo Women’s Hostel opposite Keppetipola Mawatha. The suicide bomber crashed into the Deputy Minister’s vehicle and killed the Minister instantaneously.

I had dropped our elder son at Royal College for scouting and then went to the public library to return some books and borrow new ones. After having done that, I was returning home when I saw a large cloud of black smoke going up from somewhere on Havelock Road. As I neared Thummulla junction, a university vehicle (I was Registrar of the Colombo University) was going in the opposite direction.

I stopped it and asked the driver what had happened. He said the Shanthi Vihar restaurant at the Thummulla had been set on fire. The police did not allow vehicles into Havelock Road from Thummulla. I parked the car on Reid Avenue between Thummulla and Lauries Road and walked down the Havleock Road to see what exactly had happened.

As I got onto Havelock Road, a policeman accosted me and told me that I cannot be allowed to proceed. Fortunately, at that moment the OIC of the Bamabalapitiya Police station, Mr. Angunawela, came to that spot and recognizing me told the police constable to allow me to proceed.

As I walked down I saw the damage caused. But there were no signs of any vehicle or any dead bodies as the police had got everything removed. There was a large gaping hole on the road where the blast had occurred. But immediately this was filled up and that section of the road carpeted.

I do not know who had ordered it and why it was done in such a hurry. There were pieces of human flesh hanging from the overhead telephone wires. The blast had also affected the house in front where there was a P& S outlet and a lady who had come to buy something had got her eyes blinded by the shrapnel thrown by the blast.

The parapet wall and the Temple flower (araliya) trees that had been grown just behind the wall were all gone. As I went into the hostel, I saw that the front wall of the hostel building badly damaged. When I went in the girls in the hostel were looking terrified and shivering with fright.

Two of the undergraduates who had gone out of the hostel as they had to sit an examination in the university had got very badly injured and they been rushed to the national hospital. Later one girl who was from Kobeigane, a remote village in the Kurunegala area, succumbed to her injuries. The university paid for her funeral. The security guard who had been close to the gate was thrown up and landed back on the ground. Fortunately, he had no injuries other than feeling groggy.

The next job was to evacuate the hostelers from the building. I telephoned the university office and found the Senior Assistant Registrar in charge of examinations was in office. I told her what had happened and to come to the hostel in a van. Thereafter both she and I packed all the hostelers in the van and sent them to the Bullers Lane Women’s hostel. This was done in three trips.

On inspecting the damage done to the hostel I thought the building would have to be demolished and a new building constructed to replace it. However, I contacted an Engineer, Mr. Upasena, at the Central Engineering Consultancy Bureau (CECB,) who came, inspected the damage to the building and stated that he will get it repaired to be stronger than what it was.

He stated that it might cost around Rs, 20,000/- to get the repair done. I contacted NORAD and they agreed to give the funds required for the repair and renovation. Mr. Manickam from NORAD came and inspected the building and agreed to get much more done than what we wanted repaired and renovated. The repair and renovation were done very quickly and the hostelers were able to move in again.

The reopening ceremony was attended by the then Ambassador to Norway, Mr. Manickam and the Vice-Chancellor. The Vice- Chancellor thanked the Ambassador, Mr. Manickam and the CECB for getting the hostel repaired and renovated to be used again. He never mentioned what I had done to get this hostel repaired and habitable again. That is gratitude!


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