Chain saw registration – Another step to curb deforestation | Sunday Observer

Chain saw registration – Another step to curb deforestation

10 March, 2019

Chainsaw registration is the newest piece of regulation that has been introduced to fight the fastdepletion of Sri Lanka’s forest cover. While chain saws allow fast and precise felling of trees, unauthorised deforestation thrives on chainsaws using temporary saw-mills mounted on hand tractors.

They allow unlawful tree-fellers to travel deep into forest reserves unnoticed, and cut down decades old trees mercilessly. Make-shift timber milling equipment such as hand tractor-mounted mills, were banned a few years ago and a significant impact has been observed. Chainsaw registration is yet another step towards curbing the unlawful felling of trees.

Sri Lanka is a tropical country that is home to many indigenous flora and fauna. It is the rainforests that house most of our green wealth. As early as 1980, the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) published a manual on handling chain saws. As dubious as it may sound today, the books’ stated purpose had been - “especially for foresters, loggers, foremen and workers in developing countries. Its aim is to make the use of chainsaws easier, safer and more efficient in the felling, de-limbing and cross-cutting of trees”.It seems like the the writers wanted to get the Third World people to develop the habit of using these machines, for efficiency and precision in felling and logging trees.

Today, the very machine that international organisations have skilled the Third World populations with, have ironically been turned against the very rainforests that such organisations were mandated to protect.

Today, for instance, in the Philippines, strict regulatory mechanisms control the use of chain saws. It is also an interesting coincidence that President Maithripala Sirisena, in his capacity as the Minister of Environment, opted for this following his visit to the Philippines.

First announced in mid-February, Sri Lanka’s registration period is now entering its last week, as the extended deadline now falls on March 15. Some half a century ago, the introduction of the chainsaw was a welcome move, as it was considered a more efficient way to manage forests. However, the outcomes were disastrous, as the potential for becoming a threat to the forests was barely factored in. However, this is another dangerous piece of equipment, when in the wrong hands, and can cause a lot of harm to the greater good of the country.

Sri Lanka has been suffering from a worrying rate of deforestation, for decades. The situation is now becoming an environmental crisis. In 1925, the country’s forest cover was as high as 49 per cent. Unfortunately, by 2005 the country’s forest cover had declined to a mere 26 per cent. According to available records, between 1990 and 2000, Sri Lanka lost an average of 26,800 ha of forests per year.

This amounts to an average annual deforestation rate of 1.14 per cent. Between 2000 and 2005 the rate accelerated to 1.43 per cent per annum.

Deforestation is most severe in the southern plains and the northern plain lands of the country. It is not for want of trying to curb the deforestation. Many efforts have been made for decades. The most important of them could be declaring forest reserves, national parks and sanctuaries, which now cover over 15 per cent of total land area of the country.

Sri Lanka has a declared target of achieving a target 32 per cent forest cover. That is another 3 per cent increase on our official levels.

There is an inter-Ministerial drive headed by President Sirisena to achieve this target. In a national program like this, it is important to plant new forests and also to protect the existing ones. New technology such as satellite images have helped us understand exactly where deforestation has been impacting the the country’s forests. However, the capacity of forest departments’ need further improvement.

As the famous saying in management goes-quote-“nothing measured gets managed”. Chain saws are certainly dangerous tools that need to be managed in order to achieve our National goals for a ‘Green Sri Lanka’.