The Rape of a Virgin Rain Forest
After written the first part of this article I have got an unprecedented backup, collaboration and
encouragements from many good hearted people who really care the Sinharaja forest and her exceptional
natural heritage. So, I gather this very occasion, to thanks them all. May the blessings of God Sumana
Saman; the protector of the sacred Sripada Adaviya -Rakwana- Sinharaja jungle range, be always with
On last December 2010; I was able to mount an exploration into the Sinharaja jungle toward the Sinhagala
sector also covering the Kolonthotuwa, Lankagama and Watugala hamlets with the help of some villagers.
During that trip I could found out some information relevance with the Sinharaja Western block and I was
so fortunate to well understand the social –cultural relations between the native people and the jungle
much better than what I found in my earliest expeditions.
However, unfortunately; due to many unexpected events, I had failed to explore parts of the Eastern
Sinharaja block . Anyhow I managed to get at least something of which now I am going to tell you about.
So this 2 part of the article entirely focuses on the Eastern Sinharaja section.
In parallel with my own observations herewith, I would try to analyze the Eastern Sinharaja issue by
extracting some documented sources which available to us in this very moment. Among them , the first
one is the article “Diversity, Threats and Conservation of Herpetofauna in and around the Eastern
Sinharaja _. by Thilina D surasinghe & Ravindra L Jayarathna; published on Sabaragamuwa University
journal in 2006. And the second one is a research paper , “Plant Biogeography and conservation of the
south-Western hill forests of Sri Lanka”, prepared by Prof I.A.U.Nimal Gunatilleke. The affiliation with
the source is numerically shown by [-1-] and [-2-] respectively. I suppose that the contributions of these
two academic resources would be important since both of them have made an in-depth study into the
eastern- Sinharaja conservation issue beyond the conventional frames of approach. Apart from those two
documents I have used other two foremost inputs. One is the “Sinharaja management plan “ a work of
Mr E.A.P.N Edirisinghe, Assistant conservator of forests, and published by Forest department in 2009. And
the other one is the NCR or well known National conservation Review; Technically named “Designing an
optimum areas system for sri lanka’s natural Forests-Volume 1. This was a project of the forest department
of the Ministry of Forestry and Environment and has been prepared by IUCN- the world conservation union
and the world conservation monitoring centre for the food and agriculture organization (FAO) of the United
Nations-July 1997. (15)
Again let me express my profound gratitude to all of whom' helped and encouraged me on this effort.
The Eastern Sinharaja- “ Identifying the Problem”
What is this “Eastern Sinharaja” portion?
The Eastern Sinharaja is the name used to identify the far eastern section of the Sinharaja WHS, which
lies between the Mathara and Rathnapura districts. And the major part of this forest is composed with the
Sub-Montane forests. The core of eastern Sinharaja belongs to the category of Bio-Region “Wet Highland”
in where the montane evergreen forest dominant with geographic altitude 1500 -2500 meters and annual
rainfall is between 2500-5000 mm. No Dry Months. Also Being in linkage with Sooriyakanda-Handapan
Ella- Gonagala and other Rakwana- Deniyaya Hill Range forests, the Eastern Sinharaja NHWA
represents undeniable part of the entire forest system in this region. However, it must be noted, all of
these forest fragments once stood together and formed an unique jungle with perhaps more than 100 000
hectares. The well-known “Sinharaja Maha Mukalana” .
What is the so-called “Morning Side” sector [ “Himidiri Pedesa”- in Sinhalese] ?
“…The most reputed and the main part of the Eastern Sinharaja is the Morningside proposed forest
reserve. Apart from Morningside, this part of the Sinharaja MAB reserve lies in close proximity to forested
regions such as Caledonia, Abbey Rock, Poddana, Lauderdale, Sooriyakanda, Silverkanda, Gongala,
Kadamuduna, Kurulugala, Handapan Ella plains, Ensalwatta and Thangamalai plains (Survey Department,
1996). However, the total area of Morningside forest region is nearly 10km (Bahir and Surasinghe, 2005).
Considering the entire land area (taking into consideration all areas under natural vegetation, abandoned
plantations, other state-owned unused lands, encroached lands) in and around Morningside reserve of
eastern Sinharaja, the total area would be approximately 30km . The Eastern Sinharaja is geographically
' ' ' '
positioned between 6º22 to 6º26 N and 80º31 to 80º31 E (Survey Department, 2001)..” [ -1- ]
.The Morningside Cloud Forest is located east of the Sinharaja WHS and it is one of the hot spots of
higher Biodiversity in the world. Recently, the IUCN SSC Amphibian Specialist Group has identified this
1,000-hectare cloud forest as a top priority because a total of 11 globally Threatened amphibians, three
endemic lizards, and three species of endemic freshwater crabs are native to this threatened forest. Five
species out of these 11 endangered amphibians found nowhere else in the world.
Here above, satellite map shows widespread deforestation on-going in the areas of proposed Eastern
Sinharaja Block. In addition, it overviews ever increasing human settlement patterns around the forest
reserve in an alarming state. Based on Data provided by Google sat:2010
Most of the southern portion of the morning side has been deforested beyond the limits of natural
recovery. Soil layer is destroyed with the compaction and moved away by erosion . Academic studies
shown that threatened woody species is poor in selectively logged forest even after eight years ( de soysa
et all 1990). And as ICFCanada noted in their project paper : “The 1000-ha Morningside property located
just east of Sinharaja World Heritage Site was identified as a priority target for conservation, along with
several nearby forest parcels. These lands are home to eleven globally threatened species (of amphibians,
lizards and freshwater crabs) that are restricted to them. In addition, several globally threatened species
with wider distributions also occur there. The headwaters of the Nilwala and Walawe Rivers originate on
Morningside, and these forests serve to reduce flooding and erosion at lower elevations. .“ [ -19 ]
What is a “Protected Area”?
“An area of land and /or sea especially dedicated to the protection and maintenance of biological diversity
, and of natural and associated cultural resources, and managed through “legal” or “other” effective means.
What are the Legal and administrative issues related with the Eastern Sinharaja?
why the Govt. institutions are failing to apply the solid solutions to protect this portion of
the forest? And, Legal designations and the Forest boundary.
Here below a photo taken by me during the 2010 December expedition.
It must be noted that Sinharaja Forest was surveyed and Demarcated in 1998 under Wet Zone Forest
Conservation Program and also in 2004 under Forest Resource Management Project (FRMP). However,
complete periphery of the forest is not yet surveyed and demarcated. Under such circumstances the
Eastern Sinharaja forest area has not been demarked properly and does not currently benefit from ANY
conservation interventions or assurance of the security of the borders.
Let us check the main legislature properties of the Sinharaja Rain Forest. . The total of 11,187 Hectares
were declared as Man and Biosphere reserve (MAB) in 1978. In addition the area of 8,864 Hectares within
that MAB has been declared as Natural World Heritage Site (WHS) in 1988 (as notified in the Gazette
paper 528/14) of which 6,092 Ha being forest reserve and 2,772 Ha a proposed reserve. Both MAB
reserves and Natural World Heritage Sites are considered as “Protected Areas” according to IUCN
Protected area definition. Again, in 1992 the state party included an adjoining forest extension within
WHS, creating the Sinharaja National Heritage Wilderness Area (NHWA) of 11,187 Ha , formerly the
Sinharaja Forest reserve and coterminous with the Biosphere Reserve . It does NOT yet form an extension
of the World Heritage site (- Forest department -2003) (this source has been extracted by the UNEP-
WCMC Paper page 1)
But the sections of Eastern Sinharaja were declared only as the Proposed Forest reserves thus do not
covered by any credible protection. As noted in NCR, “..Proposed reserve is an administrative rather than
“Legal Designation “ for forests originally intended for notification as forest reserves. Boundary
demarcation as a prelude to notifications, never took place due to the tide of events over recent decades
when forest land was released for use outside the forestry sector at an increasingly rapid rate-.” (NCR-
it is also known that' a conservation plan has been officially approved (Forest Department, 1986),
implementation of which is being carried out under a cooperative agreement between IUCN and the Sri
Lankan government, with additional funding from the Norwegian government (Hails, 1989). In order to
ensure the strict protection of the reserve for scientific and aesthetic reasons, a scheme of zonation and
management is proposed for areas outside the reserve. The creation and propagation of essential forest
products, for sustained utilization, in areas outside the reserve is intended to meet local needs and thereby
eliminate former dependence on resources within the reserve. Alternative strategies are either to establish
a 3.2km-wide buffer zone round the reserve or to enlarge the area protected to about 47,380 ha, with the
reserve forming a strictly protected core area and surrounding areas set aside as buffers for various uses.
But at this moment I have no details about this older plan.
Here below; some extracts from early mentioned sources in relevance with Eastern Sinharaja.
. “Despite the exceedingly small land coverage, the Eastern Sinharaja is extremely rich in biodiversity and
endemism. Even though Eastern Sinharaja, especially Morningside is an important habitat for endemic
herpatofauna, this part of the MAB reserve has not received conservation attention. Besides, the eastern
Sinharaja is confronting threats due to unprecedented human activities”……[1 ]
Because of the absence of physical protection and legal measures, the reserve is heavily encroached
upon. Unlike the lowland section of the Sinharaja MAB reserve, the high-altitude forest has been subjected
to human induced disturbances for a significant period. Part of the reserve has been replaced with tea, and
most of it under-planted with cardamom (Elettaria cardamonium). Once the tea and cardamom cultivations
are abandoned, the forest ecosystem does not regenerate. Instead, the sub-montane forests will be
replaced by grasslands (Manamendra-Arachchi and Pethiyagoda, 1998).
“The inhabitants that live in contagious villages of the reserve constantly set fire to these grasslands. This
not only destroys the habitats but also directly kills the reptile and amphibian species. Moreover, burning
would hinder the development of the secondary successions. In certain situations, fire spreads even into
the core-forest areas causing significant degree habitat destruction. Illegal gem mining is also proving to
be a severe problem. Although, the gem pits turned out to be breeding grounds for species, the land
degradation accounts for modification and destruction of many other natural amphibian niches (de
Rosayro, 1954). “
The Eastern Sinharaja protection and conservation matter is not a separated issue from the complex
paradigm that of Sri Lankan backward Political- Economic situation. As US congressman Rob Portman
noted in US congressional record in 12 June 2001 for the reauthorization of Tropical forest conservation
“Regrettably, tropical forests are rapidly disappearing. The latest figures indicate that 30 million acres [---]
were lost each year. The heavy “debt burden” of many countries is a contributing factor because often they
must resort to exploitation of timber, oil and precious metals to generate revenue to service their external
debt. At the same time, poor governments trend to have few resources available to set aside and protect
“The main reason behind the majority of the conservation problems is the lack of a governing authority.
Although The Forest Department is in custody of the entire Sinharaja MAB reserve and world heritage site,
no protective measures have being taken so far concerning the eastern section (Wijesinghe and
Dayawansa, 2002). Despite the fact that the Forest Department incorporated the Morningside area
into the Sinharaja protective network, a significant but unapprised part of Morningside is still under
private ownership. Such regions are still being deforested for cultivations. A significant, but
“unassessed” proportion of this small extent of forest belongs to the Land Reforms Commission (LRC) of
the government. In 2004, this authority sought to lease out this section for the purpose of complete
clearance of the forest and plantain of tea. From the viewpoint of biodiversity conservation, fortunately this
destructive program was aborted. (Bahir and Surasinghe, 2005)”. [-1-]
Professor Nimal Gunatilleke underlines in his research paper that’
“In early 2004 there was an even more sinister threat to the relict forest fragments adjoining the eastern
boundary of the Sinharaja WHS, despite repeated requests and recommendations made to annex them to
the the Sinharaja WHS to increase its conservation value. Instead, these state-owned forests land were
blocked out and sold for tea and cardamom cultivation. This irresponsible act, amidst public protests,
including those of scientists familiar with the biological wealth of the region and its conservation value, has
irreparably damaged this fragile ecosystem, critically endangering some of the threatened animal and plant
taxa exclusive to the Rakwan-Deniyaya hills”. [-2-]
it was with the assistance of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the World Conservation Union (IUCN),
the first conservation plan for Sinharaja forest and its buffer zones was introduced in 1986.
As a part of the forest was logged between 1971 and 1977, about 65% of this area was under high forest
while about 34% was modified and comprised with secondary forest and fern lands ( Banyard and
The Sinharaja forest is part of a group of forests called the “Sinharaja Adaviya” which is about 47,350 Ha:
Includes the Kudumeriya, Dellawa, Morapitiya-Runakanda, Diyadawa, Walankanda and Delgoda forests. (
Periodic review report of the Sinharaja Biosphere Reserve- December 2003-Sri Lanka Man and Biosphere
Committee. By Jinie D S Dela, prepared for National Science Foundation-)
Sinharaja WHS has been declared as a National Heritage wilderness Area (NHWA) under the National
Heritage Wilderness Areas Act. Any excision to such an area is permissible only with the concurrence of
parliament and the President of the country.
The 11,187 Ha of legally protected forest is the “core Area” of the Biosphere Reserve, while there is an
external buffer zone outside this area (IUCN-1993)
Dawn of the Eco-Mafia. – Sinharaja
Any singular gang or wider network committing “Organized crimes” that cause damage to the environment
or engaged in any lucrative activity related with the environment, represent what is currently known as
The term "Eco- mafia" is not rhetorical exaggeration. Indonesia has one of the world's largest areas of
remaining Virgin Rain forests, but are being deforested by the timber mafia or by other mafia gangs
working hand to hand with Palm oil corporations. The deforestation rate of the Indonesia-Borneo rain
forests is something devastatingly increasing only ranking behind the Brazil . A Sophisticated Eco-mafia is
highly prevalent in Brazil where the murder, forceful grabbing of lands, deploying threats, intimidations and
even the terrorist acts are being used by the Eco-Mafia gangs. The killings of number of environmental
activists including comrade Chico Mendes and the recent cases of forceful forest land grabbing by Beef
Barons funded by the cattle ranching companies are the dramatic examples of how dangerous Eco-
Mafia can be.
The Eco-Mafia pressurizing on the Sinharaja and expanding all over the country is a MAFIA organization
in a very precise meaning of this word. The illegal constructions, underhand land acquisitions and wider
networks made up with powerful businessmen for environment related lucrative activities further forecast
the ever increasing power of these local eco-mafia gangs.
The Mafia at its core is about one thing ; the money . Like in a typical Mafia network there is a hierarchy,
with higher-ranking person (politician, businessman or a village leader) making decisions that trickle down
to the other members of the network. And its policies are always about oppression, arrogance, greed, self-
enrichment, power and hegemony above and against all others . This is a system, in where' the looters
can’t function without corrupt politicians, a complacent propagandizing mass-media, or complicit enabling
academics. Without doubt Sri Lankan Eco- mafia has been perfected of combining all these three sections.
However, around the core of any mafia gang, there is a gravitation of other elements like jobless village
youth, monks, local businessmen, government officials or in some cases even the school children. They
are simply identified as the associates. They are servitors of the core willingly or unwillingly and are
systematically being manipulated by the core. To machinate all these elements any mafia gang must have
knowledge in politics. In above paradigm it is clear to us that Eco-Mafia is also in concomitance with the
political forces; so in given occasions metamorphosing into a politico-mafia outfit and vice versa . The
recent attempt to construct road across the Sinharaja between the Sooriyakanda and ILumbekanda areas
was a good example of involvement of Politico-mafia at its best.
There have been number of “politically involved acts”, which given access to these Eco tourist or
plantation company networks into the Sinharaja region. The first was the granting of state owned lands to
private ownerships under so-called 99-year lease agreement. One report has revealed that out of a total
land extent of 408,487 hectares taken over by the Land Reforms Commission (LRC) under the Land
Reforms Act of 1972, the 211,651 hectares been handed over to 20 'private plantation companies' on a
99-year lease agreement . And it is well known most of these leased states are bordering to the country’s
most important Forests like Sinharaja, Knuckles and Peak Wilderness. Apart of these leased forest lands,
It is supposed that also the hidden corrupt practices have facilitated the land acquaintance. So, It need to
be that proper investigation carried out on these cases and identify the culprits and recover back the land
portions they had illegally exploited.
Second , in years 2003- 2004 then Land Minister has allocated land blocks from the Eastern Sinharaja
forest that came under the Land Reform commission, and given to his friends. These forest lands were
located in the Kolonna District secretariat in Rathnapura district and Nildeniya in Deniyaya -Mathara
district. . Behind these corrupt land deals there were politicians, their sons and even a high ranking Police
officer now promoted to a DIG. Some of these forest lands were cleared and later would have been
changed to the organic tea plantations. Most of these areas are un-accessible to outsider who interested
on investigation. It is also suspicious that forest fires , especially in and around the Eastern Sinharaja have
been set by these criminalized nexuses to hide their illegal land-grabbing. It was in early 2003; Rakwana
LRC office at Embilipitiya had tried to alienate 502 Acres of forest lands to private entrepreneurs
Third was the infamous SRP or the Sinharaja Rain forest project (Rainforest Lodge Hotel Project)
masterminded by the same individuals whom were behind the Kandalama Hotel construction. SRP was
based in Ensalwattha-Viharahena area in Kotapola division bordering the Sinharaja Rain forest. This
project had two targets. First was the setting up an Eco-Lodge network and the second, the most
gruesome one was the construction of one Genetic Lab with in the Sinharaja forest. It was in year 2006
there has been signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU ) among Ceylon Chamber of commerce
and the number of international organizations to carry this project ahead. And on 17 March 2009 the
perpatuators were able to get permission for construction from the Central environmental Authority
(CEA) with undercover involvement of the higher chair person in the CEA at that time. About 506 Ha of
forest and tea estate bordering to the Sinharaja NHWA has been reserved for this project . And into above
506 Ha it has illegally been included the 436 Ha of the Ensalwattha forest that has to be taken under
Sinharaja main protective network according to the Cabinet order No: PS/CS/26/2004 and President
directives made in year 2004. However due to opposition of the Environmentalists proposed Genetic Lab
was never built ; but Eco-lodges were set inside the lands now owned by a private Plantation Limited.
Now someone would ask, How could all this work in Sri Lanka? It is a big combination, sophisticated. Just
examine how did SRP worked. They have developed the Partner networks, meaning a cluster of various
NGOs, companies and even the academics in the name of “promoting the eco-tourism for sustainable
community development . Even the donations of various international organizations like of USAID (United
states agency for international development) directed or locally re-directed for their objectives. But
,perhaps most alarming fact is that the involvement of certain academics and environmentalists . it is
observed that also a famous Zoologist behind the SRP. Apart of this, some environmental related
individuals were behind the money scams, especially directing the international donations toward above
networks or by neutralizing the opposition of genuine environmentalists. Then the cover-ups are handed
over to the certain mass medias, where the lucrative deeds are being justified with Gobbles type counter-
propaganda . The State owned mass media has unethically been used under political pressure.
However, it is like that Sri Lankan Eco-Mafia is formulating its' Modus Operandi quite same as the
neighboring Indian Eco-Mafia rather than copying the Eco-Mafias in western hemisphere. Because of
social-cultural habitat assimilation between both countries, where the underlying feudalistic ethos and
Racial or religious bias can be manipulated to cover ups or even to justify the environmentally destructive
activities with ease . The road construction across the Wilpatthu National Park, granting of state owned
forest lands to foreign Agro-tech companies in Somawathiya wild sanctuary , using of certain Buddhist
monks as they did in Ilumbekanda or in Digamadulla can be taken as examples. Also the high ranking
Police officers have been involved as they tried in Morning Side area in years 2003-2004.
.A University of Indonesia study last year (2010) concluded that the Indonesian military acted as
coordinator, financier and facilitator for illegal loggers in Borneo, where deforestation rates are among the
fastest in the world. Reports underlined that Mafia activity in the environmental sector generated a turnover
of 20.5 billion euros (24.7 billion dollars) in 2009 alone in Italy
Not just Sinharaja but also Knuckels, Muthurajawela, KDN Rain forest complex and Peak Wilderness (Sri
Pada Adaviya) have been subjected to ruthless exploitation. If we let the Eco-Mafia to spread like a
cancer, it would devour not only the environment, but also the academics, intellectuals,
investigative journalists and environmentalists as it did in many other countries. Just look at what
happening especially in Brazil, Indonesia and in Italy. Recently number of environmental activists and
journalists whom investigated on illegal timber felling, waste managment and illegal plantations, have
been killed by hired killers.
It says that’ prevention is better than the cure. But the inability of Sri Lankan legal jurisdictions, negliance
and ever increasing inflation means the Eco-MafiA can flourish unabated. It had been several media
reports, complains made on illegal land grabbing around the Sinharaja and knuckels range and the
involvement of elected politicians. Despite such emphasis placed on this dilemma, Sri Lankan citizens are
actually little known about the Eco-Mafia and politicians involved in the first place. Let us wish that
masses would make a strong stand before it would be too late.
“The most important thing is that violations should be made public,The public should be allowed to know
what is happening with our forests and who the perpetrators behind the violations are”
-Bustar Maitar- An Indonesian Environmental Activist.
Sinharaja and the Accumulating Thermal Variations. An invisible threat!
Among all these tragedies, My preoccupation and fears rise not only seeing the cases of deforestation,
species extinction and the alien interference of the Eco tourist and plantation sector mafia networks, but
also the increasing thermal variation patterns around a sensitive rain forest reserve like of Sinharaja. . In
fact, the <Thermal Variation> is a reaction caused by the increasing human settlement and agriculture
patterns around the reserve itself and further an effect of being isolated from the adjoining forests. .
Globally, temperate broadleaved forest is considered to be the most disturbed biome, with small, scattered
natural fragments. In theory, it is often assumed that any nature reserves have heavily exploited
surroundings is prone to a dangerous thermal exposure . ( The standard temperature variation within the
Sinharaja forest ranges from 19C to 34 centigrade. )
According to the researches done in other tropical regions around the world, it is observed that’ even after
the removal of forests upper canopy , those plants that have thrived within the shade of that canopy, have
been seen to stop photosynthesis and die due to changes in rainfall and solar radiation. some studies
have shown that the temperature of a deforested area actually increases by 5°F? (citation needed) over a
year. An increase in surface temperature will lead to warm air which will rise, leading to low, cooler
pressure areas. So the case with Sri Lanka ,within a shorter time these effects will trigger kind of cycle
which will disastrous not only low country agriculture and tea cultivations but entire climatic system. For
example ; by year 2080, rainfall in Costa Rica is expected to decrease by 5-10% and temperatures to rise
by around 2.5ºC. what would be in Sri Lanka?
It says that the humidity is almost constant for most of the year within the closed canopy cloud forests
(citation needed). But, it is clear that any change in temperature and cloud cover would have a serious
effect on the ecosystem. If temperatures increase, the clouds will rise to a higher altitude, and thermal
variation with an increase of even 1-2ºC over the next decades would have a substantial impact on the
diversity and composition of species in these kind of tropical cloud forests. Even in areas that experience a
relatively low rise in temperature, some species will be threatened with extinction as they are unable to
migrate further .
When I approached this issue to Dr Ivan Amarasinghe; a noted plant Biologist and a reputed ambassador,
he has expressed his very concern on these thermal variations as “This can be potentially extremely
serious not only to existing biodiversity of the Sinharaja and the nearby areas but also kick start a
Meso-climatic change in the region that will completely devastate the area with time”.
At the moment of writing this article I have no Thermo- graphic data available on the region. Since the no-
one has raised this “thermal variation” issue relative with the Sinharaja before; I guess that there may be
no any such data base to use at present. So it is better to do an aerial or a satellite thermo-graphic
survey ( Using Infra-Red thermal Imaging ) which records and illustrate the measurements of HEAT
EMISSIONS pouring into the atmosphere by Human interferences near by the forest (Tea factories, High
ways, towns) and by other atmospheric factors like dry winds or high solar radiation. Further, such survey
would also provide a region’s thermo- geographic spatial image which can be used for many other
purposes including the agricultural development planning.
Here below sample image of 3D thermal image .Variation in temperature and relative humidity with aspect.
For these twenty years, time to time, I have observed systematic extinction of mosses , lichens aquatic
ferns and of epiphytes from the nearby areas of the forest. All these plants are very sensitive to thermal
exposure. So the variations of their habitats or the survivability can be used as the indicators.
It says that’ Dominant species do not exist in tropical rainforests. Lowland Dipterocarp (Hora) forest can
consist of many different species of Dipterocarpaceae, but not all of the same species. Trees of the same
species are very seldom found growing close together. This bio diversity and separation of the species
prevents mass contamination and die-off from disease or insect infestation. In most cases wild orchids
grow in a bunch as a community.
The habitat of wild orchid species varies greatly, but they have some unifying characteristics . Some
species depend on a specified Biome only. And generally there are blending habitat among some wild
orchids and insects. If a specialized pollinator insect of a specified orchid plant has been removed from
the eco-system by use of pesticides or by habitats lost that' would affect the orchid specie as well. It is
well known that tropical insects habitat depend on an average temperature and on average of humidity.
The increasing thermal effect will cause oscillations of the values of moisture. In that case the insects may
be incapable of completing their molting process having lost sufficient moisture in the air. Also some wild
orchids depend on their fungal partners hence their seeds can not germinate until they have been infected
by a fungal species that supplies nutrients for the seed. And some other fungal species inhabiting right on
the orchids roots help the plant by condensing the moisture and by fog interception.
But, most devastating effect on Orchids could have been caused by the thermal exposure and by dry wind
hit direct on the plant tissues. Being an Orchid lover from my childhood, I had a great collection of orchids.
About twenty years ago, one of my friends brought about 12-15 species of jungle orchids from the
Sooriyakanda . There were some rare Dendrobiums, Cymbidiums and even few Coelogynes. When I
asked how he got these, he just said me that he was able to collect them within two hours in close
proximity of the Sinharaja boundry near the construction site where he worked. But now neither Single
plant of Dendrobium Maccarthiae can be found in that area. And, I think also the rare orchids like
Agrostophyllum Zelanicum gone extinct except in some most remotest angles within the Rakwana massif.
Both of these orchid species were endemic to Sri Lanka.
Other indicator was the “yield drop” in local Tea cultivations . Number of villagers, including the veteran
and one of Sinharaja icons, Warukandeniye Liyana Mahatthaya- Mr Kumarage told me that their local tea
yield is declining since 15 -10 years even though they are using the modern methodologies in their
cultivations. The Temperature affects tea yield by influencing rate of photosynthesis and controlling growth
and dormancy, but very higher temperatures are unfavorable for optimum photosynthesis more so if it is
accompanied by low humidity as now happening in the Deniyaya, Neluwa, Rakwana and Kalawana areas.
The impact of climatic variations on the tea industry was studied by Dr: Wijeratne (1996). He found that
tea yield is sensitive to temperature, drought, and heavy rainfall. An increase in the frequency of droughts
and extreme rainfall events could result in a decline in tea yield, which would be greatest in the low-country
regions (<600 m).Under these circumstances, the low country tea industry in Sri Lanka is clearly
vulnerable and subsequently will drag country toward greater economic, social, and environmental
I predict that, unless action is taken, these thermal effect will continue to increase to an Omega Point ,
from where there will be no way recover back.
( 10- October -2010- updated in September 2011 )
Sri Lanka has been classified as a biodiversity hot spot, which means, it is one of the 25 richest and most
threatened reservoirs of plant and animal life on earth. According to one research the Sri Lanka’s
primary rainforest (virgin forest) total value has been reduced to approximately 6% of its original
size and also the remaining 188 forest patches are small and fragmented – putting a huge strain on the
animal populations that reside in rainforest areas.
It is clear that' If the <Buffer zone> was properly implemented/ extended, and the proper jungle corridors
were setup , the damage caused by above thermal variations and species habitat alterations could have
been minimized and even avoided. For a forest reserve with the extent of Sinharaja forest, it is generally
suggested a Buffer zone ranging minimum of 500 meters width from the edge of the reserve. (citations
needed) . “Since some of the lands edging with the reserve are private properties, the suggested
extensions of buffer zone in such places could be partly managed by both Government and private
ownership to whom could be provided a compensation, or in best way these private lands can be acquired
by the Forest department” as suggested by the Sinharaja Management Plan  . Further as an additional
step, it is better the promotion of agro-forestry in surrounding villages thus accumulating the so-called
“green mass” around the Reserve itself .
Apart from proper Buffer zone implementation, it is necessary to set well designed jungle corridors
network between and among the forest fragments located in this whole region , thus atleast virtually
providing the lost status of “Sinharaja Adaviya” to these scattered and now almost disappearing small
forests again. These jungle corridors would provide ”foraging habitat” for many different species. For
example, if we can link up Sinharaja with Suriyakanda reserve through the Ilumbekanda forest and from
there to Veddagala vast jungle tracks those are in contact with Adams Peak Sanctuary (22,380ha), that
option will facilitate movements of the Elephants as well.
Unfortunately, the Handapaan Ella ,Sooriyakanda, Kabaragala, Abbey Rock , Gongala-Caledonia forest
block and even the entire Eastern Sinharaja WHS were excluded from the NCR. So the entire Rakwana-
Deniyaya forest complex has been ignored. All of these forest fragments composed with Sub-
Mountainous forests and sub-mountainous Grass Lands and represent unique Bio-climatic features and
host exceptional number of biotic species endemic only to these forest patches .
Some of imminent and most necessary solutions are already given in the paper “Sinharaja Management
Plan “.prepared by Mr. E A P N Edirisinghe. But since that plan has not taken to account some sections , I
would like to include them here as following.
1-Annex the entire Handapan Ella- Sooriya kanda and Gongala forest areas to the Sinharaja forest
complex. (The Gongala Hills –peak reaches at 1,358 meters, is the easternmost edge of the Sri Lanka
wet zone and the Gin Ganga river originates from there.)
2- Exercise the strict regulations and limitations on the proposed Eco-tourist projects. (The above
Sinharaja Management plan has not foreseen the possible negative impacts of the Eco-tourism)
In conclusion, what we need here is an genuine “political will” and a correct and “realistic” policy for the
Sinharaja forest and her surrounding cluster rain forest conservation by demarking and legalizing all of
them into a single contiguous forest Network. Since these Governmental- institutional actions will take
place on the ground, we “the environmental friendly masses” must push our “Direct Action” through the,
1- Mass education- Propaganda activity covering the Schools, Universities, villages. Use the Internet,
Newspapers and other electronic media for that objective. This must be carried on not only in national level
but also internationally.
2- Pressure the institutions, politicians and officials toward the ground solutions, especially to activate the
solutions acquainted by the cabinet paper No: PS/CS/26/2004 Dated 22 July 2004
3-Complain the crimes and illegal activities those have been carrying out by Eco- tourism , corrupt
Politicians, Commercial agriculture companies or any other to the local authorities and especially to the
International organizations like IUCN, FAO, UNESCO etc.
4- Getting Donations / funds for the research, conservation and reforestation and directing them to the
universities, Government institutions, village communities and to NGOs those are genuine in the effort.
The time is stretching the vital space and very existence of the Sinharaja Rain Forest. When I have been
there in last December , villagers told me that there is a small herd of three wild Elephants; two adults and
one jumbo wandering in the jungle. But sadly one of them have been shot dead recently . Ancient
Sinhalese had worshiped this magnificent Sinharaja with adjoining sacred Sri Pada Adaviya jungle with
much respect, and believed both of forests are being presided by the God Suman Saman; according to
some legends the younger brother of King Ravana who ruled Sri Lanka long ago . It says that the
Elephant indeed the revered sacred vehicle of the God Saman and those of whom carry misdeeds in the
forest would be cursed upon .
Even in her impenetrable deepness, among the kisses made of perfume of the wild orchids; that attractive
vivid green has a kind of tone that’ you can get lost in. Then, you would not be able to stop falling in love
with her. All hail the queen of Sinharaja…!!
References and my notes--
1- 2006 Sabaragamuwa University Journal. Diversity, Threats and Conservation of Herpetofauna in and
around the Eastern Sinharaja _. By Thilina D surasinghe & Ravindra L Jayarathna
2-Forestry policy, non timber forest products and the rural economy in the Wet Zone forests in Sri Lanka
by Cyril Bogahawatta.
3-”Sinharaja Management Plan” by E.A.P.N Edirisinghe. Published by Sri Lanka forest department in 2009
4- NCR ( National conservation Review); Technically named “Designing an optimum areas system for sri
lanka’s natural Forests-Volume 1. This was a project of the forest department of the Ministry of Forestry
and Environment and has been prepared by IUCN- the world conservation union and the world
conservation monitoring centre (WCMC) for the food and agriculture organization (FAO) of the United
Nations-July 1997. (15)
5-Forest resource extraction by Local communities a comparative dynamic analysis by Herath M
Gunatilake and Ujjayant Chakravorty
6- 64% of sinharaja trees are endemic and many of them are rare. This reserve is also home to 23% of Sri
Lanka’s endemic animals, including 85% of country’s endemic birds and over 50% of its endemic
mammals, reptiles and butterflies. [ Report :United nations Environmental Programme-World conservation
7- World Heritage Nomination-IUCN summery 405; Sinharaja Forest Reserve (Sri Lanka) Summery
prepared in April 1987.
8-Please Compare historical image map with the updated Sinharaja satellite map to understand the
deforestation of Sinharaja.
9--Coordinating research and management to enhance protected Areas-by David Harmon
10- News Release- “Fighting for Forest Frogs” (26-April-2009). The IUCN Red List of threatened species
11- Ensalwatta and Sellakanda estates are in Kotapola DS Division. Most of residential people are the
labors working in these Estates.
12- There is also an additional scientific nomination to this kind of forests. as “ Closed Canopy Cloud
13- the copies of this article has been sent to UNESCO,CAO (Compliance advisor Ombudsman) and to
FAO as well to media networks
14- Contreras- Hermosilla, A. 2000, The underlying causes of forest decline , Centre for International
Forestry Research (CIFOR)
15- A “riparian forest buffer” is an area of trees and shrubs located adjacent to streams, lakes, ponds,
and Wet lands. Riparian zones are ecologically diverse and contribute to the health of other aquatic
ecosystems by filtering out pollutants and preventing erosion. Also a system to mitigate nutrient flow to soil
16- Sri Lanka –Biodiversity Chapter 17 : by Ranjith Mahindapala.
17- please refer to the original research papers for additional and complete information.
18-WCMC- World Conservation Monitoring Centre
20- About 420 million years ago, during the Silurian Period, ancient plants and arthropods began to occupy
the land. Over the millions of years that followed, these land colonizers developed and adapted to their
new habitat. The first forests were dominated by giant horsetails, club mosses, and ferns that stood up to
40 feet tall.
Life on Earth continued to evolve, and in the late Paleozoic, gymnosperms appeared. By the Triassic
Period (245-208 mya), gymnosperms dominated the Earth's forests. In the Cretaceous Period (144-65m
mya), the first flowering plants (angiosperms) appeared. They evolved together with insects, birds, and
mammals and radiated rapidly, dominating the landscape by the end of the Period. The landscape
changed again during the Pleistocene Ice Ages — the surface of the planet that had been dominated by
tropical forests for millions of years changed, and temperate forests spread in the Northern Hemisphere.
21-Adaption to the threats of climate change- plantation crops with the special reference to Tea.-Dr
Wijerathna et all.