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Sunday, 29 November 2009

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Waterfalls – Nature’s precious gift

Who is not captivated by the beauty of a waterfall? Have you been within the range of the falling ‘mist’ under a waterfall? A waterfall in full flow is one of the most beautiful sights in nature. Our island Sri Lanka is blessed with a large number of waterfalls, which attract both local and foreign tourists.

Did you know that waterfalls have their own day? It is November 26. World Waterfalls Day is dedicated to celebrating these wonderful creations of Mother Nature, from the magnificent Angel in Venezuela to the remarkable Victoria in Zimbabwe.

Why should the world ‘celebrate’ waterfalls? First, they are marvels that few other natural formations on Earth can match. Second, they help sustain whole communities who depend on their waters for agriculture, drinking purposes and other activities. Third, they are in danger. Not all, but a good number of them.

It’s tragic when a waterfall runs dry. Climate change, dam construction and many other factors are literally taking the water out of waterfalls, leaving a ghastly void and a heavy impact on the ecosystem. World Waterfalls Day focuses our attention on this issue. Worldwide, environmental activists are actively campaigning to stop the death of waterfalls.

A waterfall need not be a thing of beauty alone. Here in Sri Lanka, there are many examples of mini hydro power plants that are located near waterfalls, without necessarily erecting huge dams. Such projects add value to waterfalls and could be an effective way for most Third World countries with water resources to generate additional power. Then there’s tourist income from waterfalls which should rightly be channelled to the community itself.

Waterfalls should be treasured by all. It is certainly relaxing and refreshing to bathe under the cascading waters of a waterfall, but those pristine waters should not be littered with bottles, lunch sheets and other polythene, food items etc. The environs of waterfalls should be kept clean at all times. It is not only the responsibility of the particular local government authority but also that of visitors.

Waterfalls do not even to have to be natural these days. At least one passenger ship has an artificial waterfall in its atrium, many public buildings/gardens across the world feature waterfalls and even luxury homes with large gardens have a waterfall built-in. Such is their hold over our imagination. Though artificial, they help us to connect with nature and take our minds to far-off (real) waterfalls.

Visiting such waterfalls is an addictive experience. There are many people around the world who visit various countries just to see their waterfalls. The web has many such examples. After all, only a close glimpse of a mighty waterfall can remind us that we should save these wonders for posterity. This World Waterfalls Day, visit a waterfall and see for yourself.

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