Current global challenges confronting humanity include consequences of climate change, such as the escalation of temperatures and sea levels, unpredictable weather patterns, increase in severe weather events, degradation of land, and decline in biodiversity. As a response, there is a rapid evolution of ideas related to sustainable development and environmental preservation, aimed at adapting and mitigating the impacts of climate change.
The forest cover of the Hantana Environmental Protection Area (HEPA) contributes to many ecosystem services including conservation of aquifers, carbon sequestration, regulation of local climate, soil protection, biodiversity conservation, and preservation of aesthetic value of the landscape. The Regreen Hantana Project was proposed by Prof. M.D. Lamawanasa (Vice-chancellor, University of Peradeniya) in 2022, aiming to restore degraded lands, thereby improving ecosystem services provided by the HEPA as an investment for the future of the planet earth. The initial phase of the project involved in transplanting seedlings of three native tree species (Kahata/Careya arborea, Mee /Madhuca longifolia, and Nika/Vitex negundo) along with one endemic tree species (Atamba /Mangifera zeylanica) in a degraded site near the Agriculture Farm at Mawalawatta, Uda Peradeniya, on the 18th of December, 2022.
Later, on the 6th of August 2023, a Shramadhana campaign took place at the site to clear the weedy regrowth near the transplanted seedlings. This event was organized by the Student Conservation Leaders of the Regreen Hantana Project, under the guidance of Prof. Thilanka Gunaratne (Team Leader) and Mr. Saumya Bandara (Student Coordinator). Sixty-six volunteers representing the university community and villagers living around the restoration site participated in the event to clean weeds around the transplants, install covers to prevent herbivory and transport native tree seedlings from the site to the Department of Botany, UoP.
Prof. Tilak Hewawasam (Director/Center for Environmental Sustainability), Prof. Rupika Rajakaruna, Dr. Nadeesha Koralegedara, Dr. Chaminda Wijesundara and Dr. Priyanga Wijesinghe also participated in this event. Moreover, Grama Seva Niladari, Mr. H.M. Navarathne Bandara (present) and Mr. U.G.R. Pushpakumara (former Grama Seva Niladhari) along with 20 villagers participated in site maintenance activities.
The Regreen Hantana community intends pursue their social and environmental endeavors aimed at rejuvenating the forests within the Hantana Environmental Protection Area, ensuring its conservation for generations to come.
Photo credits: Malith Mewanga and Sahan Wijethunga