Friends who are compelled to live in the urban centres of Sri Lanka often express their envy at what they see as our idyllic existence in “the boonies” of our land..
Let me take this opportunity of disabusing them of these false impressions, even though it might already be too late.
What follows is a very brief sampling of what now constitutes a rural Sri Lankan existence.
As pretty well all of our help, both domestic and field, hail from adjacent “colonies” – squatter settlements harking back to the time when that famous Sri
Lankan ‘land management system’ kicked in and resulted in a complete collapse of what was left after the post-Land Reform “management” of the State Plantations Corporation of hitherto productive agricultural land.
I have previously mentioned the fact that one of the largest cocoa (inter-planted with rubber) plantations in Sri Lanka in a region of the country deemed ideal for the Nectar of the Gods has been reduced to not so much as one cocoa bean being produced on approximately 1500 acres of land. The vegetation here has been totally denuded and anything that could be sold for any purpose whatsoever has been removed over the last thirty years.
Bad enough? Think of the fact that whatever vegetation survived the initial denudation was replaced by Guinea “A” grass. In dry weather, some firebug puts a match to the dry grass and the resultant smoke has a particularly negative effect on the wild bee populations of the area. Where one could, periodically capture a colony of honey bees and, with an adequate expenditure of time and effort, split this original hive into several new colonies, such a basic exercise is no longer possible. How do I know? Because we did exactly this in the time before the malicious machinations of Hector Kobbekaduwa and his Land “Reform” legislation. Now, there aren’t any wild colonies from which to draw and, perhaps even more significant, Apis dorsata, the giant honey bee (Sinhala – Bambara) colonies are beginning to disappear as well.
I distinctly recall counting, in the mid-fifties of the last century, more than half a hundred of these giant honey bee colonies festooning the undersides of the limbs of one particularly huge tree a short way up the road from the Galagedera Police Station on the highway connecting Kandy and Kurunegala. Now? Despite the tree retaining its identity as the “Bambara Gaha” (Bambara tree) there is not one hive on it. These very fierce bees, unlike their smaller cousins who nest in cavities in trees, small caves etc., follow their food supply. If they aren’t there any longer, the reason is simple: their food supply has disappeared.
When one thinks about the international battles waged against the likes of the Monsanto Corporation for their behaviour in the matter of decimating bee populations, we, in Sri Lanka better look at what we are doing to such economic resources, to the one creature without which our very existences could be at risk!
At a more immediate level, a road that provided access to automobile traffic has deteriorated (again) to the point that it is virtually impassable to cars, motorbikes three-wheelers etc. Over a period of almost 45 years, it has seen no maintenance of any description and the only way it has been kept open for emergency use is by the volunteer labour of those who need it to reach a hospital or similar emergency facility.
Immediately prior to the advent of the Good Governance (“Yahapalanaya”) government, we held a small gathering to drum up support from the man who proved to be an incoming Cabinet Minister. In fact, I made the mistake of heaping praise in the media on this individual who promised to rectify this terrible anomaly. As they used to say in the “good old days,” “alack and alas.” Nothing has come out of all that froth and bubble except a string of excuses that are, if nothing else, insulting to the intelligence of those at whom they are directed.