Deforestation and climate change are affecting our lives


Thanukaran, Climate Change Activist
14 December 2023

Growing up in Sri Lanka, our houses, shops and schools were surrounded by the forests. As children, my friends and I would rush to the woods after school, making a pact to leave all talk of homework behind—it was all about fun and play. Under the shade of towering trees, the air was always cool. We swung from the vines, raced up the smaller trees, and picked the fruits and coconuts.

One of the most special trees amongst these was the old Lebbeck tree. It was a beautiful and massive tree with big thick branches and a comforting shade. My friends and I would carve our names at the base of the Lebbeck tree, thinking one day in the future we will come back here and still find our names etched into it. This time spent with our tree-friends was special. My memories of this time are special.


As we grew up, any time I met my old friends we would recall our childhood days spent at the base of this large tree. A couple of years ago, while I was attending university in Colombo, I heard of an incident in Batticolao, my hometown. A huge tree had fallen over and landed on a city bus causing some casualties and serious injuries. It was because of this that the authorities decided to cut down all the 'risky’ trees along the roadsides. I didn’t give it much thought until my friend called me and told me that OUR Lebbeck tree was also being cut down. 

Stunned, I hung up. I felt like I just learned about the loss of a loved one.  I decided I would go home to see for myself. Before reaching my house, I stopped at the site of the Lebbeck tree, it was really gone. I couldn’t believe it. Along the road all the other larger trees had also been cut down. I cannot explain the heartache I felt. 

This destruction—stemming from the need for urban space, residences, businesses, and industries, poses severe threats to ecosystems. Cutting trees upsets nature's delicate balance, disrupts habitats, and harms countless species. It even worsens climate change, spiking pollution, and soil erosion. Oxygen dwindles, water cycles are disrupted, impacting both people and animals. 

The impact is deeply felt; it's not just about trees but our homes, our land, our water, our air - our future.


With each passing year, more of my country’s precious forests and water reservoirs are disappearing. Not only has it caused serious issues for the environment contributing towards climate change, erosion, landslides, and more flooding in some areas, but it has also become a big threat to Sri Lanka’s rich biodiversity, which includes thousands of species of plants and animals.

The widespread impact of climate change is undeniable—it is reshaping our habitats, altering agricultural landscapes, and impacting our well-being. Its influence touches every corner of our lives, from urban spaces to agricultural fields and beyond. Amidst these shifts, agriculture and forests often withstand the worst of unpredictable weather patterns. To counter these challenges, protecting Sri Lankan trees is critical. Preservation methods, such as creating urban green pockets to reduce urban heating, minimizing large tree felling and adopting agroforestry, a method of integrating trees into farming, prove sustainable. 

Agroforestry strengthens farms, increases productivity, and provides a shield against harsh weather. Rooted in diverse cultures worldwide, agroforestry is not a modern solution but a timeless practice. Its historical resilience continues to safeguard livelihoods, ensuring sustainable food production and offering a sturdy defense against the unpredictability of our changing climate.

Preserving the island's natural beauty heavily relies on safeguarding its trees and natural forests. Nestled in the heart of the Indian Ocean, Sri Lanka boasts a tropical landscape fostering diverse plant life due to its remarkable soil conditions. Sri Lanka owes much of its geographical beauty and valuable resources to the nurturing embrace of Mother Nature.

I wish everyone would teach their children to see trees as their friends. To share their secrets and worries with them. If children are taught the value of planting and nurturing trees instead of simply being preoccupied with material things, they will grow to understand that nature is our ally. These foundational values could shape future leaders, enabling informed decisions and greater societal responsibility. Let's engrain this love for nature as an essential part of our humanity, so that future generations won't experience the heartache of losing a childhood friend like the Lebbeck tree, as I did.

About the author:  

Thanu is a 23-year-old with a passion for capturing the world's beauty through the lens of his camera. He is from Batticaloa, a town with a rich cultural heritage, residing in Navatkadu village.

Currently, he studies at the Ocean University of Sri Lanka, pursuing a Diploma in Maritime and Logistics Management. Beyond academics, Thanu is deeply involved in humanitarian activities, offering his time and skills to various causes from the age of 12 and he loves to document his experience through photography.

Thanu is deeply interested in videography and filmmaking which is not merely driven by the technical aspect of filmmaking but the joy of interacting with diverse individuals and telling compelling stories excites him the most. Besides, he cherishes capturing the essence and beauty of the environment. 

About Blog

The UNICEF Blog promotes children’s rights and well-being, and ideas about ways to improve their lives and the lives of their families. We bring you insights and opinions from the world's leading child rights experts and accounts from UNICEF's staff on the ground in more than 190 countries and territories. The opinions expressed on the UNICEF Blog are those of the author(s) and may not necessarily reflect UNICEF's official position.

Follow UNICEF ROSA on TwitterFacebook, Instagram, TikTok and YouTube

Explore our blog topics: