In case some users have issues downloading the attachments, below is the letter with links.
August 20, 2011
To: His Excellency Mahinda Rajapaksa, President of Sri Lanka. A Fervent Plea on Behalf of our Environment and Wildlife for Your Immediate Attention
As Sri Lankans, we are all excited about developing Sri Lanka into one of the best countries in the world. However, that development needs to come in a SUSTAINABLE manner without harming our environment and rich bio diversity. Sadly, almost every day we see some news of an ongoing or potential development project that could endanger our wildlife or harm our forests. This is a direct and fervent plea to Your Excellency to step in before it is too late.
Forests play a crucial role in environmental sustainability. Large scale deforestation results in habitat fragmentation and the animals’ vulnerability to move freely between isolated forests. These forest patches and wildlife that survive in them will not last long in Sri Lanka if we continue to give priority to development and forget environmental conservation.
This beautiful land was protected and gifted to us by our ancestors. We all have a deep obligation to pass it unharmed to our future generations. In the development rush, we should not copy methods of others, but should learn from their mistakes, and introduce for Sri Lanka, a more sustainable and environmentally-friendly method of development suited for the 21st century. For a few moments, please walk with us and hear our plea - a full-hearted and sincere attempt to seek your understanding and support in preserving this precious land.
We wish to bring your attention to some of the recent developments that will have a negative impact on our environment and wildlife. 1. Hosting 2018 Commonwealth Games in Hambantota
As many experts have pointed out, the plan to build massive games parks, golf courses, hotels, apartments and other infrastructure to support the commonwealth games, close to major national parks will have severe adverse effects on our environment and wildlife. Deforestation will make your already dry home land, much drier, and increase our CO2 footprint (global warming). Recently, Sri Lanka was shockingly ranked 4th in the world in countries that destroy primary forests. Your Excellency, please intervene and stop this destruction of primary forests before Sri Lanka goes further up in this shameful list.
If the Commonwealth Games project goes ahead, there will be a massive loss of wildlife habitats, and natural land “corridors” used by Elephants and other wildlife. This will deepen the human-wildlife conflict, especially the already serious Elephant-Human conflict. Our Elephant population has dwindled from 20,000 at the beginning of the 20th century to less than 5000 now. Almost everyday we hear of unfortunate deaths of Elephants or Humans, most of which are preventable if we do not continue to rob Elephant land. We should not further reduce their habitats if we do not want them to go extinct. This area is also a haven for migratory birds, but habitat loss and increased air traffic might seriously interfere with their migratory patterns, decreasing the total number, thus affecting eco-tourism. Apart from these threats to wildlife, the vast amount of fresh water pumped from ground water reserves to feed the golf courses will drain out important ground water reserves, causing extensive damage to the eco-system and farmers. Increased human traffic will cause environmental issues related to garbage and sewer dumping, to list a few adverse effects.
Any profit obtained from this event will be temporary, but the tremendous damage it would cause to the environment and wildlife will be permanent. Instead, properly planned and implemented Eco-Tourism will bring a steady flow of income for years to come. We urge Your Excellency to hear the pleas of thousands of Sri Lankans and foreigners expressed in the following petition and reconsider the decision to bid for the commonwealth games. http://www.thepetitionsite.com/1/Move-Commonwealth-Games-Out-Of-SriLanka-Wilderness/
If you would instead use that money for the protection of our precious wildlife and forests, the backbone of eco-tourism, many generations will benefit from that. 2. Construction of roads inside National Parks, Strict Reserves and Buffer Zones
In addition to the loss of primary forests, creating major roads inside national parks or buffer zones poses a great risk to its wildlife, due to speeding vehicles (road-kills). In fact, recently a speeding vehicle prematurely ended the life of a well-grown beautiful Sloth Bear (http://sundaytimes.lk/110717/News/nws_79.html
). Roads inside national parks should only be created for trackers and visitors. STRICT speed limits should be enforced on these roads, as well as on the new Highways. Deforestation to make space for roads, hotels and other structures is certainly not wise in the long run. We should certainly not cut roads though buffer zones of our only rainforest World Heritage site Sinharaja (http://www.lakdasun.org/forum/index.php?topic=4424.0
). Some irreparable damage has already been done, for example to Wilpattu, but we urge you to step in to prevent further deforestation in all national parks, reserves and buffer zones. 3. Clearing forest land for Banana Cultivation by Multi National Companies
Thousands of acres of forest have already been cleared in Somawathie National Park by Dole Lanka and CIC also seems to be eying the Chundankadu Reserve and Proposed Reserve for Banana Cultivation (http://www.lakdasun.org/forum/index.php?topic=1949.0
). This is an enormous blow to our wildlife and national park system. These large-scale Banana cultivations not only use up precious forest land, but will contaminate the soil and ground water due to the massive amount of pesticides and chemicals used. Water pollution will increase medical issues like kidney and liver trouble in the people of the area.
Your Excellency, multinational companies are using loopholes to take maximum advantage of our natural resources. Most of our officials supposed to be protecting our forests and park system are turning a blind eye... Please take immediate action to prevent destruction of our forests for such large scale cultivations. If this continues, we won't have any wildlife to show tourists in the near future - our weather patterns will change - more natural disasters will follow - and Sri Lanka will be a paradise no more.
At a time when our planet is facing severe man-made climate and ecological issues, we need to be PROTECTING our environment, replanting the forests and enlarging wildlife habitats, NOT further decrease them. We should leave our Elephants in the WILD to reproduce and increase in number because we only have a fraction of the number we used to have. We cannot afford to give away hundreds of healthy young elephants now. If needed we can do so later, when the numbers have increased, and after systematic, independent scientific studies determine that it’s safe to do so. At this time, the biggest merit is protecting them and letting them live free.
Perhaps short-sighted proposals come up because there are very few educated, qualified, and dedicated experts at the right places to help you look after the environmental needs of the country. This greatly increases the burden on your shoulders Your Excellency, to step in and intervene before it is too late. However, you are not alone. There are many Scientists, Ecologists and Conservation Specialists willing to help you if you ask. With the help of such people who genuinely care about the environment (http://print.dailymirror.lk/opinion1/45998.html
), you can develop an environmentally-responsible and sustainable vision of development, where we do not have to worry about further destruction of our forests and wildlife habitats.
IF YOUR EXCELLENCY TAKES STEPS TO STOP THIS DESTRUCTION, THE ENVIRONMENTALLY-CONSCIOUS INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY WILL HONOR YOU. PEOPLE OF SRI LANKA WILL BLESS YOU, AND FUTURE GENERATIONS WILL PRAISE YOUR WISDOM AND LEADERSHIP. YOU WILL CERTAINLY GO DOWN IN HISTORY AS A GREAT PRESIDENT WHO WORKED TO SAVE OUR ENVIRONMENT. WE KNOW WE CAN COUNT ON YOU TO PRESERVE OUR LAND FOR OUR GRANDCHILDREN AND YOURS.
Lord Buddha preached, “Keles Wanaya Sidinna, Thurulatha Wanaya Nosidanna” (Destroy the forest of greed, but do not destroy the forest of trees)”. We would like to end our fervent plea to you with these thoughts by Chief Seattle, the great North American Red Indian Leader, which also reflects this philosophy - the cornerstones of Buddhist ethics, “metta” and “karuna” - loving kindness and compassion on all living things.
“How can we buy the sky? How can you own the wind?
Every part of this earth is sacred. Every pine needle. Every sandy shore. Every mist in the dark woods..
We are part of the earth and the earth is part of us.
The air is precious. It shares its spirit with all the life it supports.
The wind that gave me my first breath, will also receive my last sigh.
This we know: the earth does not belong to us. We belong to the earth. The earth is our mother.
What befalls the earth befalls all the son daughters of the earth.
All things are connected like the blood that unites us.
We did not weave the web of life. We are merely a strand in it.
Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves.
We BELIEVE you will act, We BELIEVE that you will preserve and protect the fragile nature and wildlife of Beautiful Sri Lanka.
May the blessings of the Triple Gem be upon you!
Concerned Sri Lankan Citizens