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17th January 1999
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Gone is the beauty

A former Army general and a few environment enthusiasts 
have come together to restore the lost beauty of Kadugannawa.
By Roshan Peiris
Today people are more conscious about pre- serving the scenic beauty of our country and also keeping the environment clean.

It was heart-warming to find that a respected Army man General Cyril S. Ranatunga, a former Secretary of Defence now in retirement, has launched a Society for the Advancement of Reconstruction and Development Activities (SARDA) which proposes to rehabilitate the Kadugannawa, Balana and Ganethenna Triangle.

General Ranatunga, and his small band of committee members have succeeded in creating an aesthetic awareness among the people who live in these parts.

Fruit and sweetmeat vendors, people washing vehicles and school children have all undertaken to help SARDA keep the environment clean and retain the scenic beauty of the area.

The scenic stretch SARDA is dealing with is between the 95 and 100 kilometre posts on the Colombo-Kandy highway which is a protected area. Just a few hundred metres above the road lies the Colombo-Kandy railway line. This scenic spot which locals call the Kadugannawa climb is one of the most picturesque locations in Sri Lanka.

The total protected area is only about four square miles with a population around 4,000. 

About three decades ago this was such a scenic spot that anyone passing could never resist a brief stop just below the stone tunnel, the "galavidapu tena" to take in the view of Bible Rock, terraced paddy fields, water trickling down clean and cool and listen to the many bird calls.

Now all this has changed.

Fruitstalls disfigure the scenic beauty, people washing vehicles tap water springs leaving waste water on the highway and finally it has been turned into a garbage dump.

There are also other problems like felling of trees for fire- wood, setting fire to the forest to catch wild animals and finally the inevitable repair shops and sales outlets that have come up blocking traffic and depriving people of parking space.

SARDA seeks to solve all these, said General Ranatunga.

Most of the land belongs to government departments such as the Railway Department, Road Development Authority and Forest Department, to mention a few.

There had been no dialogue between these departments said the General, until SARDA came in with its six committee members to whip up enthusiasm.

SARDA is working with local communities who'll be taught to maintain the environment. The people will also be given exposure and training on different soil conservation methods which they can also implement in their own homesteads. Nurseries too will be established by the villagers in their homesteads. 

Seed and other materials will be collected by the community themselves for which SARDA will pay.

The project is estimated to cost Rs. 235,500. At present private funds have been used, said General Ranatunga but they hope enthusiastic donors will help. Banks and commercial companies concerned about the environment could contribute, he said.

SARDA will bear the overall responsibility for the implementation of the project with the Board of Directors being responsible to utilise the money for the different activities under the project.

General Ranatunga has galvanised rural people of Mawanella among whom he spends his days of retirement to help rehabilitate that part of the environment that falls within his immediate purview. 

Uva vignettes 

By Upali Salgado
This story is of the Uva Province, the beauty of her landscape, of the pioneer Coffee and Tea Planters; and also of landmark places in Diyatalawa, Haputale, Gurutalawa, Errebodde, Nuwara Eliya, Mahiyangana and Randeniya. 
Haputale town has an elevation of about 4000 ft. above mean sea level. At dawn one sees a picturesque landscape of the south, seen to the naked eye some seventy miles towards the Indian ocean. This view inspired Revd. Walter Stanley Senior, a British poet, over sixty years ago, to pen the CALL OF LANKA. 
"I climbed o'er the crag of Lanka A
nd gazed at her golden sea; 
And out of her ancient places 
Her soul came forth to me, 
"Give me a Bard" said Lanka My Bard of things to be.." 
A little way beyond Haputale, at the centre of a towering mountain escarpment is "World's End" and Horton Plains (7000ft). On the east side, far below at an elevation of 3200 ft is seen the rolling patana, studded with isolated villages, fringed by gum and Pinus forest cover. This panoramic view is breathtaking on a sunny day. 

Gurutalawa and Errebodde 

Nine miles away from Haputale via Boralanda, an area now known for her potato and vegetable farms, and in close proximity to the Rahangala range, that tapers from Ohiya (6000 ft) is the well- known Gurutalawa Farm, the site of S. Thomas' College, Gurutalawa. The Farm having 42 acres of greenery amidst tall Pinus, was the outright gift of Mr. and Mrs. Stanley de Saram, 56 years ago. This isolated, yet beautiful college designed by Shirley D' Alwis, (he later was the architect with Sir Patrick Abercrombe to design the Peradeniya University Campus) is a residential school, set in idyllic conditions for study. 
Not far away from Gurutalawa (which incidentally is an age- old Muslim settlement), on the bridle path to Pattipola was the Errebodde Hunt Club which the writer recalls seeing about 55 years ago. It was a Planters' Hunt Club, complete with a dozen or more kennels which had housed the hounds, and also several abandoned stables. The Club House displayed on her walls, stuffed heads of elk with large antlers, leopard, and the skeletons of elephant heads. The unpolished heavy furniture, with a Bar Counter silently unfolded a picture of joyful gatherings in years past. 

Maj. T.W. Rodgers and big game shooting 

When land was being opened up for coffee plantations, the sport of most Europeans was big- game hunting. Maj. Thomas William Rodgers, G.A. and District Judge, Badulla, is recorded to have shot dead 1400 elephants and a large number of leopard in the Nuwara Eliya District. Aged 41, he met with an accidental death on 7th June 1845, at the Rest House, Haputale; when under a thunderstorm, lightning had been attracted to his military spurs. Legend says that, Rodgers was killed due to the wrath of the gods, because he had killed many elephants. Strangely, again lightning had struck his grave and dislodged his epitaph, at Badulla. Another big-game hunter who had shot dead about 700 elephants was the great road builder, Major Skinner. 

Diyatalawa ("The watered plain") 

The Boer War fought in South Africa, strangely had a connection with Ceylon. Whilst, General Lord Baden Powell (founder of scout and girl guide movements) the hero of Mafeking, was gallantly fighting in the Veldt, 5089 Boer prisoners-of-war were brought to Diyatawala between 1900 and 1901, to be housed in huts of corrugated sheeting within 2 hectares of land. Quite a number of the prisoners-of-war were educated. Over 30 of them were Engineers, and one was a Medical Specialist who knew all about Leprosy. When the war was over, the Boers were released to go wherever they liked, provided they swore allegiance to King Edward of Britain. One who refused to recognize His Majesty King Edward was H.E. Engelbrecht, a German Boer. Eventually Englebrecht came to live at Hambantota and received an allowance of Rs 1.25 per day from the G.A. Today, his tomb and epitaph could be seen near the Rest House. 
A wave of malaria and typhoid fever hit the Boers, and those who died were buried in a cemetery. The Army has today encroached on most of this property and all that remains to be seen is a Memorial Cairn with a Cross. 
A few of the Boer names on the the memorial Cairn are; P.J. Pieterson, J.J. Britz Za Debeer, D.C. Swart, P.S. Vanterden. 
"Arcadia" Diyatalawa, which was owned by a Planter G.M. Crabbe, himself a great hunter, was sold during the great economic slump in tea prices (1930 -32) to D.R. Wijewardene, the Newspaper magnate. With pride and pains Wijewardene, improved upon the large edifice, and landscaped the garden. 

Badulla and beyond 

There are two hallowed Buddhist shrines at Mutiyangana, Badulla; and thirty miles away passing the Dunhinda Falls at Mahiyangana. The great Chronicle Mahavamsa records that the Buddha with his supernatural powers had visited the site of the great stupa, about 2500 years ago, to preach his glorious Dharma to the Devas, and also to the Yakshas, who inhabited the land. Later, the Buddha's collar bone relic was enshrined in a stupa at the very spot he preached His sermon. This Stupa was in ruins till 1947, when Dudley Senanayake, Sir Bennet Soysa and D.B. Welegedera with many prominent Buddhists helped to restore it. 
The history of Uva speaks of one great battle fought at Randeniya in 1828, on the Wellawaya-Ella road. The Portuguese army though equipped with superior cannon power, and led by General Constantine De Saa, was routed on unfamiliar terrain. In shame De Saa committed suicide, and his head was presented to the King of Kandy. 

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