Today at this forum I intend to approach this problem from four angles.
1. What blessings does nature and the environment offer you and me? 2. What is the extent of damage and harm the government has done to the environment. 3. What are the reasons that have led the rulers to take such vicious and harmful steps to harm Mother Nature? 4. What immediate steps can we adopt to stop this wanton rape and destruction?
“Comrade V.I. Lenin has said that the worker sans knowledge is a loser and the one enlightened will morph in to a force to be reckoned with and therefore will organize himself to protect his interests!… If we are to protect nature and our environment we thrive in we have to first acquire the knowledge and knowhow and the dire need to protect it…. We all gained some knowledge about this matter to some extent from our wise parents and teachers in school… Is this enough to face the calamity that is now staring us in the face?”
“We are a society used to consuming three meals a day and can you deny it is Mother Nature that provides us this luxury!… If you were to think of your situation seriously you have to admit that an adult human needs a minimum of two and a half liters of pure water a day!… In addition to the above what about the need for oxygen without which we can barely last for a few minutes! …It has been revealed that a full grown human need 550 liters of oxygen a day!”
“All this, lest you forget it friends! …. Comes to us….Nay! …. Is given to us by Mother Nature! .. All of this largesse! ….Mind you is free of charge! …She does not charge you a cent! …. One might think all this is dependent on money one has at his or her disposal… It is time we all realized that it is Mother Nature that is the real supermarket! …. Not the building down the lane that you visit every day… All that science is doing is maximizing the use of what she provides… Let us take heed of the fact that in some countries on this globe where the environment has been so shamelessly denuded some of their cities have had to provide special cubicles to provide enough oxygen to breathe!”
“As of now it has been estimated that a liter of oxygen is as high as Rs. 80/=. We have as it is … A free supply of this commodity… Rs 44000/= per person in this little island. All repeat for free…. Now that this free source from Mother Nature is in jeopardy are you not prepared to raise a finger in protest? …. In your workplace you have formed a union to fight for your rights and privileges! ….. Have you not done so comrades?… Each and every time your rights are threatened you have not hesitated to launch counter action to safeguard your rights…..Can these mighty age old trees launch such action? …. Can they be expected to come on to the roads to protest?…. The majestic forests of Sinharaja,…. the Knuckles range,… Nilgala conservation reserves are hamstrung and cannot fight for themselves!.. If we …the people who benefit from their labor are reluctant to come to their aid …what kind of cowards are we?”…”It is our bounden duty to protect this land, the forests, the creeks, streams and rivers that silently give us succor!”
“The world at large is heading towards an unattainable false goal which will bring on a cascade of problems for the globe which has set politicians into panic mode. Roundtable conferences regarding environmental disasters, the depletion of the ozone layer and melting glaciers are to name a few. Our leaders have also attended some of these seminars which were held all over the world.”
“Former President Maithripala Sirisena stated at a recent forum that by the year 2022 our forest cover would be increased to 32 %. From all available sources the indication is that we have no more than 22% cover at this moment.”
“Be warned!…To increase the forest cover by 1% we have to reforest 65000 hectares and with the devastation that is going on right now we are eroding the 20% cover we have. According to the findings of our eminent environmentalist the rate of depredation is in the region of 8000 hectares annually. Under these dire circumstances you and I are duty bound to get down to action for the sake of our future generations. That is 30 000 acres being lost every year! The Rajapaksa family used the abuse of Mother Nature to grab power and raped the Wilpattu national park as the launching pad!”
“When the treasure of Wilpattu was being desecrated the leaders now i power created a hue and cry saying that once in power the damage would be reversed and the perpetrators would be punished. They brought about declarations to usher in a new era of conservation and now that they are in power the reform has promised has turned to a dream. Callous neglect and negation of responsibility, all confined to a document of false promise never intended to be implemented!”
“In the first page of their manifesto they said ‘ Due to the wanton destruction of the environment occurring all over the world we have become a nation that is constantly depraved by repeated floods. Give us the power to rectify this situation and there by ensure your safety and prosperity.”
“Sixty nine lakhs of voters took the bait and brought them to power… Do you now see the colorful picture they painted?… Are you experiencing the reforms they promised? …The statements were enticing and beautiful!… The actions now are horrendous!… You have to have the wisdom to see this Capitalist system so common in the world is rotten at the core!… The system is all manicured and made up and blown up to look beautiful on the outside but festering on the inside!… The highways are visible…. The towers are visible…. The odd park is visible here and there…. But try to see the mountain of debt!… The deteriorating state of the culture!… The escalating promotion of the use of narcotics and there by theft and petty crimes have gone up by leaps and bounds!… Can you not see that we live in a country limited to beautiful manifestos only!… Yes only ugly corrupt actions are the order of the day!”
“A certain section of society called the “Viyathun” worked hard to bring the Rajapaksa clan to power!… They even made a “Viyathmaga”… “Viyatha” means a small distance and those of the Viyathmaga saw only a short distance ahead…. Now the clan of short sited Viyathun has been cut loose!… They even said that to protect a tree a leader akin to a solid tree…. Have we now got such a leader? …Are the trees being saved?… Are the ancient archaeological sites safe?….Nay !… Friends! …They are all at the mercy of the bulldozer!… The way the present rulers see the environment and the way cultured folk see Mother Nature is different!”
Permit me to share with you how the poet Rathna Sri Wijesinha saw the environment and the activity of Mother Nature.
With crowns of beautiful blooms on top
Colorful bouquets held in the arms!
Come the rainy season
The wonder of our forest trees
Play the role of brides!
The wafted breeze
With the flavor of ripening fruit!
And the mirth of bird song aloft
Invites the seasonal wind
Partake splendour of nature’s wedding!
These forest giants are the champions!
What wonder it is?
The large drops of rain
Taken in hand
To break the speed of descent,
Only to let go gently to leave
Mother earth unhurt!
The torrent of water
From the sky
Rendered harmless by the trees!
Gently absorbed by the living earth
To give birth to gin clear springs
In the valley below!
“It is not the announcements made by the rulers in their manifestoes with great fanfare that matters!…. It is their actions that we need to look at….. Rathna Sri describes how the forests with their living cover protect the bare naked earth. We need mother earth to be clothed in trees, bushes and creepers of every description…. The rulers are now busy rendering the earth naked by stripping the land of its protective clothing…. Who do you think welcomes the torrential, copious and life giving rain that fall on the Sinharaja Knuckles and Yala forests?… When the large drops fall on the leaves they are broken up into little droplets and released down to lower levels with the venom of kinetic energy dissipated!… But no less importantly it is the layer of decaying leaves that welcome this precious water to be stored up and held back to be released gradually. In this country most of the water is not stored in manmade reservoirs. That is a mistaken notion trotted out by politicians!… Most of the water that falls as rain is stored in the humus rich soils of the forested slopes of our hills only to be released in gradual stages later…. It is the root systems of our forests that embrace our land that binds the soil together. It is when this water seeps to lower levels that the springs appear. This is what the poet meant by his last verse I quoted.”
“Now I draw your attention to what is happening now…. In the rainy season our rivers run like chocolate! All the topsoil of the central hills is being taken down to the reservoirs and the bottom of the sea. They call this progress!… Harbinger of a happy future!… Friends!… It is none other than the murder of our Mother Earth!”
“The way we see the environment and mother earth and the way the rulers of this island see this is diametrically opposite…. Permit me to share an experience I had about the attitude of the rulers with regard to this subject…. When I was a member of parliament some time ago I had to meet the then speaker over an official matter….He saw me in the audience ‘Ah! Ha!… The fellow from Mahiyangana… Come here man tell me… How do you see the reservoir and its importance?’… That was his question to me.”
“I tried to evade the question by engaging in another matter and but when I found he would not relent I ventured to answer his question…. “Sorabora” is the closest reservoir to me… Not only that, it is the one that is closest to my heart!… When I go to the top of the dam which was built 2200 years ago …my heart misses a beat when I see the splendour of the ancient trees and vegetation that surrounds me…. The distant view of ‘Ieththawa’, the sluice gate, the stretches of paddy below and I even feel the happiness the people who are served by this lake!… As I continued my praise he interrupted me… ‘Sha! Sha!… That is very good!…Then I ventured to ask him how he felt about it…..He said he felt the same as I did… Then I asked him is there anyone else who is inclined to see it differently…. His reply though shocking was not a surprise to me. ‘My boss sees it differently!… His intention is to build a few hotels in the catchment area and told me he was going to work out the cost of such a project’….Up until now all the governments that came to power could not see beyond the nose…. They saw the environment only through the lens of dollars and sterling pounds and no more…They placed no value on blessings of nature and the environment.”
“It matters not who came to power…..But their vision never went beyond this point of bankruptcy! The manifesto of the Rajapaksas promised a programme of reform to protect Mother Nature for our wellbeing and our children…… Not only are we recklessly consuming our assets to be used up in 2021 but we are also plundering what should be saved for the years beyond 2300!….When our mothers allocated the rice to the cooking pot for the day I recall how they put aside a fistful of grain in a special bin saying it is for a rainy day!….. In the present day we are heading down the road of destruction hell bent on disaster!”
“By the end of this year the total foreign debt is bound to exceed 18 trillion!… The very foundation and the base of the treasury have been undermined!… The crisis facing us is not of small magnitude. We have to understand that none of us are immune to the ravages of this terrible situation!… When we visit some towns we have to wear masks to keep out the stench of decay…. Mountain slopes are collapsing and those lost are buried as it is impossible to dig the bodies out for burial!.. This happened in the Samasara hillside and the Meeriabedde collapse…. It is not only the natural mountain sides that are collapsing….. Even the artificial stinking hell created by incompetent politicians named the Meetotamulla refuse heap also collapsed killing people…. Water has to be bowsered into villages…. These are unprecedented happenings…. On the one hand drought relief and on the other flood relief, not forgetting to mention drought relief that has to be doled out on and off…. We live in a country like that… All dolled up on the outside and rotting in the middle!”
“In the past the elephants lived in the jungle…. We occupied the villages and the cities!… There was no conflict to the extent we now have to cope with…. It has now become a tragedy…. Let us face reality….Is it only the humans that have problems?… Don’t the elephants have problems?… Is it only human rights that has to be ensured?… Should not the rights of other fellow creatures be secured?… Let us face facts! When the rights of all creatures are not ensured homosapiens will also vanish in the end…. In the present elephant human conflict the message given by the rulers is that the elephant is the offender!… What do you think the answer will be if an elephant were to be questioned by you? ..Let me quote Savithri Dissanayaka the poetess who wrote the poem “Ali Veta” or Electric Fence!”
For the next meeting
Of our exalted committee
Let us invite
An elephant mighty!
Let us afford him
To state where he wants
Fence to limit his liberty!
If it is a problem so mighty!
Let us build the
But be aware
No way will you dare
To enter our domain sacred!
The water of the lake
We will divide
But the jungle dear humans
Will be ours to rule over!
Not for us elephants to free hold or frolic!
Let it be known
Death is reserved,
For gun toting humans!
When our kids
Had naught to eat,
We raided your domain.
In early dawn of day!
For we were hurting
If you must erect a fence
Our justifiable Wrath!
In one voice
The very walls of the
Room in which the committee sat!
Do not touch the reserves
Which should be holy
To us all!
*To be continued……..
*“Against the Dozer” Campaign: Speech delivered by Samanatha Vidyarathna Central Committee Member JVP and Convener Right to Life