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‘Relocating’ trees for development

By Sarah Hannan

The Ministry of Environment is to look at employing hightech environment conservation methods, with a method to relocate trees from their original position to make way for development projects being considered first.

Speaking to The Sunday Morning, Minister of Environment Mahinda Amaraweera said: “We are looking at relocating trees to pave the way for development. Felling prized matured trees for development work would create an adverse impact to the ecosystem of an area. Therefore, we are looking at a technique that is widely used where the tree can be relocated.”

Amaraweera further claimed that the technique is called tree transplanting, where a matured tree will be carefully uprooted with the entire root structure of the said tree intact and moved out of the path where, for instance, a road, a bridge, or a rail road will be built.

“Sri Lanka does not have the technical expertise or the machinery that is required to carry out such a task. Therefore, we are seeking expert foreign advice on this matter. In the weeks to come, we shall discuss at length with Forest Department officials and experts of the field to be part of this innovative programme,” he added.

Amaraweera also stressed that rather than protesting over the country being rapidly developed in the coming years, concerned entities and environmental activists could provide constructive feedback on how to strike a balance between conserving wildlife and forests and paving the way for the country’s development.

Apart from that, Amaraweera also noted that a cabinet paper was drafted to protect the 103 main rivers of Sri Lanka, where he requested the Government to look at appointing a presidential task force to conserve the river network of Sri Lanka. The task force will have to ensure that the rivers are cleaned up and any pollutants or garbage is moved out from them, so we have clean freshwater flowing through the country through the “Surakimu Ganga” programme.

The cabinet paper is currently being drafted by the Central Environmental Authority (CEA). Amaraweera noted that once the rivers are protected, the lagoon will be protected, which will make all the difference in conserving the environment.

The Ministry also issued directives to conduct a series of beach clean-up programmes to coincide with World Coastal Cleanup Day that took place on the 19th, covering the entire coast of Sri Lanka with about 70 beaches. A meeting between Coca-Cola officials and Amaraweera was held on 21 September, where they discussed the major environmental problem that the country is facing due to the increasing number of plastic bottles being dumped. The company was asked to implement a suitable recycling system to assist the Ministry in reducing pollution.