Cricket has been an entertaining sport throughout for many decades in Sri Lanka. It has a magic attraction of the public and is somewhat like a religion for almost all the cricket fans. Sri Lanka has a unique story in the world of cricket as we are the proud winners of the ICC Cricket World Cup in 1996 and so many other achievements. Fascinatingly, National Cricket players are considered as semi gods in Sri Lanka – legends like Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardena, Muttiah Muralitharan and World Cup winning captain Arjuna Ranthunga are renowned in the cricketing world.
Cricket Bats are fundamental to the game of cricket and it is made of wood (specifically using Willow tree). Inevitable truth is that cricket bats are made by felling of trees. How Many cricket bats are made each year? How Many trees are cut to make cricket bats? Above all, can we stop playing cricket? Can we stop making cricket bats? The definite answer for this question is a big NO as cricket is a game of portrayal of honour, glory and patriotism, loved by many.
While people are enjoying Cricket, they have neglected the fact that average temperature of the Earth has been rising at nearly twice the rate it was many years ago. More broadly, climate change and its dangers are been above the fold a lot lately. The scientists have concluded that this rapid warming trend cannot be explained by natural cycles alone but also has a greater contribution of humans to it. It is true that climate change has always happened on earth, which is clearly seen in the geological record; it is the rapid rate and the magnitude of climate change occurring now that is of great concern worldwide.
Plants play an important role in regulating the climate as they are the absorbents of carbon dioxide from the air and release oxygen back into it. But this natural process is interrupted as humans clear vast areas for vegetation by felling of trees. When trees are removed, the stored carbon is released back into the atmosphere as CO2. These greenhouse gases absorb heat radiation contributing to global warming.
In such a venture, “Earth Watchman” comes in to the play, taking the initiative in creating awareness about climate change and global warming and thus, countering global warming by planting trees island wide. It is a green project jointly ventured by AdeZ Sri Lanka (a company which promotes Sri Lanka as a tourist destination) and Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation (SLRC); the official ICC Cricket World Cup broadcaster. Earth watchman will travel from district to district covering much as possible taking the message to cricket lovers that it is a moral duty of us to plant trees to pay the debt to our earth.
With the message of the media and former sports ministers, the concept was presented to His Excellency, the President in October 2018. After getting the green light from HE, the President, Earth Watchman was taken forward by a joint committee led by Mr Nalin Attygalle, the CEO of Earth Watchman. With this initial step Earth Watchman meets two important stakeholders, namely the Forest and Agriculture departments to obtain plants for the program. It was decided that the project should start from North and then should come down to latter parts of the country.
The project was not only to create awareness on climate change and global warming but also to promote the goodwill and harmony between the universities and communities. Thus, students of Faculty of Science of University of Colombo (UOC) joined hands with the students of University of Jaffna (UOJ) namely from Faculties of Engineering, Agriculture and Technology at Killinochchi. Prof Wipula Yapa; former Head of Department of Zoology and Environment Sciences and Prof A. Atputharajah; Dean of Faculty of Engineering played an important role in joining the two universities together.
The role of ‘Base for Enthusiasts of Environmental Science & Zoology’ (BEEZ); the official student body of Department of Zoology and Environment Sciences should be greatly appreciated as for the massive support extended to make this project a success. This was the first time that Colombo University students traveled to Kilinochchi with the guidance of Prof. Mayuri Wijesinghe and Dr Devanmini Halwatura, to promote ethnic harmony and friendship through green. Back and forth went the communications with support forthcoming from AdeZ Sri Lanka and SLRC.
The welcome that awaited the Colombo undergraduates by hundreds of UOJ students was warm and friendly as they were lined up to great each and every student by shaking hands. All the actions were pointed towards one goal – national unity and reconciliation. Both student groups along with the lecturers and organizers sang “Api okkoma rajawaru – okkoma wasiyo”; a Sinhalese patriotic song by Victor Rathnayake, which was very much appropriate for the current situation of the country.
A cricket match was played in the evening by mixed teams promoting harmony. Students cheered both sides when players did well and jeered when they mis-fielded. No one was offended but all fun was taken in good spirit. The sun went down as UOC friends were taken to the Iranamadu Tank – a landmark of Kilinochchi by their new UOJ peers but all had to rush back to get ready for the bonfire. Everyone enjoyed singing and dancing around the fire carrying lots of memories for their lives.
The inauguration of the symbolic tree planting program took place on the 21st of January 2019 morning at the Jaffna University premises, Kilinochchi. The auditorium was decorated according to the traditional Tamil culture and a beautiful Kolam or Rangoli was drawn at the entrance of the hall. School and club cricketers of Kilinochchi and scouts were eagerly lined up to welcome His Excellency President Maithripala Sirisena. Vice Chancellor of UOJ; Prof. R. Wigneswaran, Prof G Mikunthan and other academic staff from UOJ were also there to welcome His Excellency.
The President arrived with all other dignitaries namely ministers Mr. Daya Gamage, Mr. Rishard Badurdeen, Governor of the Northern Province Dr. Suren Raghavan, SLFP General Secretary Parliamentarian Dayasiri Jayasekara, Secretary to the President Mr. Udaya Seneviratne and member of Parliament Mr. Angushan Ramanathan.
The ceremonial establishment of Earth Watchman was launched by His Excellency the President by planting the first sapling at Kilinochchi premises. The project was planned to plant 2 million saplings and first 1500 saplings are planted on this day by students and undergrads.
The president was assured to the auditorium where he was welcomed by a traditional Tamil dance which depicted the whole concept of Earth Watchman in an innovative way. A special souvenir was presented by the organizers to the President for his eminent present at the event.
A symbolic ‘Goodwill Tree’ sent by the Vice Chancellor of UOC was also planted on this memorable day in the University premises. The tree will grow tall and strong marking the forever friendship and amity of UOC and UOJ.
Staff of SLRC played a vital role during the event as a live coverage of the whole program was telecasted. Lot of contribution has gone into this program from Ms Inoka Sathyangani, the Chairperson of SLRC and the Director General of SLRC Mr. Saranga Wijeyeratne who played a prominent part in his official and private capacity.
Staff of Sampath bank; the exclusive sponsor, headed by Senior Deputy General Manager-Consumer Banking, Mr Tharaka Ranwala was keen enough to look into each and every arrangement to make this event a memorable one.
The famous Sri Lankan cricketer Rangana Herath who is attached to Sampath bank was the star of attraction (until the president arrived). His humble nature was showcased as he stood for each and every photograph requested by the students from the point of his arrival.
Sri Lankan Army, PSD, Police and STF of Kilinochchi played their parts not only with security arrangements but also with advising and supporting with logistics. Earth Watchman team is grateful for their commitment; if not for their support, the program wouldn’t be this much success.
The Earth Watchman team appreciated the support extended by Prof. Mayuri Wijesinghe, Prof W Yapa and Dr Devanmini Halwatura on behalf of UOC and BEEZ.
From the beginning to the end of the event, a lot of effort, time and dedication of Mr Ralph Gunawardena of AdeZ Sri Lanka – the Earth Watchman concept developer, Mr Nalin Attygalle – CEO of Earth Watchmen program, SLRC Assistant Director-Dubbing Mr Anura Dharmasena and Senior Producer- Mr. Dharshana Panangala were behind the accomplishment of Earth Watchmen program.
Everyone along with the organizing committee was seen to be working all through the day and many sleepless nights to make this a memorable moment. One person was outstanding and he was there from the start to advice the Earth Watchmen team and later SLRC team when he became the Chairman of SLRC. He was appointed by His Excellency the President to coordinate the program and he is none other than the former ambassador and current President’s Council Mr. Sarath Kongahage. Thanks giving would not be completed without mentioning his contribution.
Knowingly or unknowingly global warming has already become an unwelcomed guest for our planet. Time is ticking, signalling us all the dangers and repercussions of it. At least now there is some hope due to the awareness initiated by Earth Watchmen to save our planet for a better tomorrow.
Image Courtesy: FOS Media