Deforestation is a hot topic in Sri Lanka these days. Ever since Bhagya Abeyratne spoke about it on Sirasa Lakshapathi program, social media was abuzz with various kinds of images claiming to be of deforestation happening in various parts of the island.
We noticed a particular Facebook page that had posted a number of posts containing alleged images of deforestation in various forest reserves of Sri Lanka. However, Factcrescendo Sri Lanka’s investigation revealed that these were old images that are not related to Sri Lanka.
Social Media Posts:
Below are four different Facebook posts published by a page called “JVP පරිසරවේදීයෝ” (JVP Environmentalists) depicting deforestations drives in several Sri Lankan forests.
- “Who is responsible for these catastrophes in Pitawala Pathana?” was questioned by the post given below showing two people cutting down trees.
- Another photo showed a tree which had been cut down and claimed that it was “yet another fallen tree in the Sinharaja forest”
- ” Kallawada reserve is over!” was the caption of another image which showed scenes of deforestation
- Final Facebook post also showed scenes of a destroyed forest area titled “Destruction of the Udumbara forest” as seen below.
It appears that this particular Facebook page was created on March 15, soon after Bhagya Abeyratne’s statement was aired. The page attempts to convey the message that it is a Facebook page associated with JVP political party by naming the page as “JVP Environmentalists”.
Performing reverse image searches for each of the above images, we were able to confirm that all of the above images were originated outside Sri Lanka.
- Search results for the first image yielded a news report published by THE TIMES OF INDIA titled “Govt minting money via wood lobby” and the image was related to deforestation in the Bengaluru area. The full news report is seen below.
- Similarly, the post-titled “yet another fallen tree in the Sinharaja forest!” had used an image of a fallen tree in Talabira village in Odisha dating back to 2019, as seen below.
- Reverse image search results clarified that the third post, which claimed” Kallawada reserve is over!” was using an image posted on MONGABAY.COM. Photographer R. Butler had captured the image, which showed “small scale deforestation in the Colombian Amazon.”
- The final image, which is claimed to be of Udumbara forest destruction, does not resembles any Sri Lankan forest. Any native of the island nation can notice this in the very first glance at the image. It turned out to be a photo taken by Vera Kratochvil. This photo has been used as a representative image to depict deforestation on many occasions by media organizations around the world. Vera describes the scene as “Stumps in a forest after trees cut due to bark beetle damages”
Thus, it is clear that all the above photographs are related to old deforestation incidents that happened outside Sri Lanka.
Factcrescendo published the fact check related to these misleading images first in Sinhala. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa had also mentioned about these posts and the concerned Facebook page.
JVP had also filed a complaint to the CID requesting to find details about the origins of the “JVP පරිසරවේදීයෝ” (JVP Environmentalists) Facebook page stating that it was in no way related to the official party.
However, deforestation has been a major area of concern for the Sri Lankans over the past few months. As we can see in this fact check in Sinhala, illegal deforestation figures over the first 70 days of this year have more than doubled as compared to that of 2020.
Thus, it is clear that the JVP Environmentalists page had shared a series of old and unrelated images from foreign deforestation sites, with the intent of misleading the public. However, this is not to point out that deforestation is not taking place in the above areas or other parts of Sri Lanka, but only to show that the photographs used above are not from Sri Lanka.
Title:FACT CHECK: Are These the Images of Deforestation in Various Parts of Sri Lanka? Here’s the Truth!Fact Check By: Sathyajith Subasinghe