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Expert warns wet zone forests fast disappearing


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Author Topic: Expert warns wet zone forests fast disappearing  (Read 378 times)
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« on: July 27, 2011, 06:37:17 pm »

Sri Lanka’s wet zone forests are alarmingly disappearing at a rapid rate for a country which is regarded as a bio diversity hotspot, according to a leading bio diversity expert.
Dr. Devaka Weerakoon, a zoologist attached to the University of Colombo, who pointed out that today, there were alarmingly fragmented forests in Sri Lanka and said, “The wet zone forests are disappearing at a rapid rate and there is only 4 per cent of bio diversity left with only a ‘few forest patches’ harbouring 75 per cent of Sri Lanka’s bio diversity.” Dr. Weerakoon was speaking on ‘Fragmented Wet Zone Forest Patches’ at a workshop on the key theme, ‘Sustainable Bio Diversity and Economic Development,’ at the Cinnamon Lakeside Hotel last week.
One key reason, for this progressive erosion of this very essential life sustaining component was due to these bio diversity hotspots becoming inhabitant with people which cast that changing shadow over forests, according to Dr. Weerakoon who best described the scenario in the words, ‘the protected network is out of place.’ The protected area of bio diversity network in the dry zone was 36 per cent whereas in the wet zone it was a staggeringly low 15 per cent, he said observing that Sri Lanka was globally considered a bio diversity hotspot because of its high species richness. But 71 per cent of plant was extinct and 21 per cent of rock as well while most of the fresh water fish had become extinct. One out of three species of birds and one out of five species of mammals faced the threat of extinction while three fourths of freshwater crabs faced the risk of extinction. Significantly, critical species were in the wet zone.
Dr. Weerakoon cited the above causes and figures in support of his argument as to why the wet zone forests needed to be conserved where the topmost priority of the authorities should be given to this burning environmental issue. The key reason for this malice was the fact that Sri Lankan forests had been remodeled by people. The entire dry zone was scattered with tanks. A reason the wet zone had been invaded by people was due to invasions caused by the Northern war.
Meanwhile, another expert, Shamen Vithanage of the IUCN, stressed that there was a major role the private sector could play in the restoration of degraded forests and wet lands in the country.
Touching on the topic of ‘Responsible Tourism,’ Nishad Wijetunge stressed that three fundamental factors, namely economy, society and environment were the pillars around responsible tourism. There had been a major shift from the tourism Sri lanka had in the 1960s and 1970s where today, tourists were more interested in educating themselves and meeting people during their visits to Sri Lanka than enjoying the tropical beaches. Therefore, more stringent policies were necessary to be in place in places like Yala where as of now there were no strict regulations enforced in respect of jeep drivers who ruined the place and whale watchers in Mirissa who raped the bio diversity.

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