Dharmayathra For Forest Conservation


It has been a controversial issue in local arena since the proposal was made for another golf course to be constructed in the Soragune forest reserve along with a tourist hotel. This huge project is being carried out by Alpha and Omega Developers (Pvt.) Ltd. in the name of Hidden Valley golf course despite the objections raised by environmentalists and several other authorities including the Central Environmental Authority and the irrigation department. 

Already the country gloats over the three huge golf courses in Colombo, Nuwara Eliya and Digana, the environmental wreckage done by golf courses are yet unseen by the relevant authorities or rather kept hidden well under the envelope of profit making industry or fairytales of rapid development of constructing the country’s largest golf course and ecotourism resort with a pledge to put a rural area in Badulla district on the world map.

Even though the authorities turn a blind eye on the environmental issues caused by the golf course construction, Buddhist monks gathered together with environmentalists, other religious leaders and villagers of Soragune for the ordination ceremony of the trees in Soragune forest reserve, thus creating an awareness of the rate of environmental destruction happening in Sri Lanka and to build a spiritual commitment among local people and investors to conserving the forests and watersheds.

The ceremony was used symbolically to remind people that nature should be treated as equal with humans, deserving respect and vital for human as well as all life.  Monastery robes of orange and red, respected very much by the Buddhist community and also widely in Sri Lanka, were wrapped around the stem of the trees arousing a hesitation among loggers to chop down the trees.

This activism emphasizes the preaching of Lord Buddha that a tree is considered as a wonderful living organism which gives shelter, food, warmth and protection to all living things which gives shade even to those who wield an axe to cut it down.

This method of spreading the message to protect the nature has been proven to be efficient, clever and peaceful in many Buddhist countries such as Thailand and Indonesia. Therefore this initiative by Buddhist monks bears hope towards the threatened Soragune reserve.

The proposed site for this project is the land belonging to the Kuda Katharagama temple which is for the fact lies in the proposed Bogahapattiya Samanalawewa sanctuary. The proposed 18 hole golf course will be a part of the massive luxury hotel with 5426 rooms, 922 buildings and swimming pools which would necessitate a land area of approximately 227,000 square meters. An extent of 628 acres of land has been already reserved for this project which is for the record, the catchment area for Veli Oya and Kankan oya. Around 27 tanks in the areas of Dahayyagala, Maha Netula, Kuda Netula, Bogas Wewa, Hambegamuwa, Pokunuthenna and Diwulana are being irrigated by the Weli Oya Irrigation Project which feeds more than 7000 farming families.

Environmental alerts over the land usage for golf courses have been raised over the past five decades. Specific issues include the amount of water required for irrigation and the use of chemicals to maintain the greenly field, as well as the damage done for wetlands and other environmentally important areas.

The UN estimates, worldwide, the water requirement for golf courses is 9.5 billion liters per day which averages to 5000 cubic meters of water per golf course per day, equivalent to the water needed for a single season of growing paddy. The proposed Hidden Valley golf course is no exception from this estimation. Of course this will consume a substantial amount of water from either Weli Oya or underground drilled wells which are the only resources of the area and sure to leave a negative blow on the Weli Oya Irrigation Project and its beneficiaries.

According to the media releases and other announcements done by the Co-ordinator for the Project Dr. Kalyani Dias, “The main idea behind this project is to promote the ecological aspect of Beragala and to uplift the standard of living in the locality. Being situated in Beragala, the location is prone to visits from elephants and other wildlife as well as healthy, dense forests. The entire plan was built on the foundation of sustainable development and green business”, the ideas expressed by the project are converse to each other. If the project plans to ‘go green’ the proposed site should not be a dense forest which is a habitat of many indigenous fauna and flora. Not being controversial but being exemplary, a typical go-green project shall be the construction of Old Works Golf Course in Anaconda, Montana which was built to clean up a polluted copper smelter and superfund site. In this case, the building of a golf course was a huge improvement to the environment and the economy of the area. This was of course an initiative to go green by removing large quantity of heavy metal tailings containing pollutants such as arsenic but not certainly falling down forests and polluting natural wetlands.

In general, golf courses typically are among the areas most heavily treated with toxic pesticides. A statistical survey report under the contracts with the Golf Course Superintendents Association (GCSAA) found that golf course superintendents have a higher mortality from certain cancers, including lung, brain, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, large intestine and prostate. This morality facts themselves stand for the harmful effects by a huge golf course.  Of the 30 most commonly used turf pesticides, 19 can cause cancer, 13 are linked to birth defects, 21 can affect reproduction and 15 are nervous system toxicants. The most popular and widely used lawn chemical, 2,4-D, which kills broad leaf weeds like dandelions, is an endocrine disruptor with predicted human health hazards ranging from changes in estrogen and testosterone levels, thyroid problems, prostate cancer and reproductive abnormalities. 2,4-D has also been linked to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.