Restoration WNPS is at the forefront of conserving Mangrove Ecosystems

Feb 22 2024.

views 222


One of Sri Lanka’s six RAMSAR wetlands, the Anawilundawa sanctuary is surrounded by a colourful coastline, enhanced by the lush mangroves that shield it, and supported by freshwater sources that are essential to life. Numerous plant and animal species can be found within the confines of this sanctuary, in addition to neighbouring communities whose survival depends on the health of this ecosystem for their survival.

The intricate root systems of mangrove forests bridge both land and sea, serving as a powerful ecosystem that supports life and growth. Mangroves are vital towards building the resilience of a nation, by safeguarding our coasts from natural disasters, while enabling livelihoods and empowering communities. Their ability to absorb and store carbon dioxide in greater quantities than other non-coastal ecosystems positions them as an important source of blue carbon that is crucial to the fight against climate change.
Unfortunately, unsustainable shrimp farming and other human activities have taken a toll on the environment. This now-abandoned landscape was altered by the use of dangerous chemicals, and until 2019, about 45 hectares of what was once a lush forest were dead and bare. Restoration was the need of the hour, yet many challenges lay in store.

Firstly, no formal mechanism for mangrove restoration had been established. Accordingly, the Department of Wildlife, the Forest Department, and the Ministry of Environment partnered with the Wildlife and Nature Protection Society of Sri Lanka as its principal science partner. With more than 129 years of experience advancing conservation and research throughout the island, the WNPS was ideally positioned to capitalise on the strength of teamwork, the rigour of science, and the tireless dedication of its people and partners to develop a sustainable solution.

“The WNPS has long established science as the core foundation of all of its work. The Society also served as the catalyst to bring together diverse stakeholders under the mantle of restoration by bringing in government entities, NGOs, academia, the private sector, surrounding communities and the youth to actively participate in these efforts. In doing so, they ensured that the right science is implemented in this restoration site while demonstrating the need for multi-stakeholder collaboration to achieve lasting, viable results,” said Professor Sevvandi Jayakody, Science Lead of the Project.

A topographical map of the area was created with the help of the Sri Lanka Navy to construct canals that would channel water effectively into arid land. Research labs were constructed on the premises and modern equipment was procured with the collective support of the public sector, business community, and non-governmental organisations. Community members and leaders were mobilised to strengthen these efforts further.

“An intriguing feature of this project is that research is not merely being applied to regenerate these mangrove forests. The science also flows into sustainably enhancing and uplifting the neighbouring community's livelihoods, while nurturing future youth restoration leaders, with the goal of maintaining these vulnerable environments in the long run,” stated Graham Marshall, Chair of the WNPS Marine Sub-committee. The WNPS was further instrumental in shifting from traditional one-time interventions towards long-term partnerships, particularly with respect to obtaining essential private-sector funding.  To date, a diverse and growing team of partners have joined hands with WNPS in the journey to restore this vital ecosystem, comprising the Department of Wildlife Conservation (DWC), the Department of Forests, the Wayamba University of Sri Lanka, the Hydrography Unit of the Sri Lanka Navy, Lanka Environment Fund, Hayleys Advantis, CEFAS (UK), CSIRO (Aus), Hemas Consumer Brands, Biodiversity Sri Lanka, Star Garments, US Forest Service, and CMA CGM Shipping.  

The WNPS and its partners are heartened to note that its trailblazing approach towards the restoration of mangrove ecosystems has contributed towards Sri Lanka being awarded a UN World Restoration Flagship in 2024 and look forward to advancing the future of sustainable ecosystem restoration in the years to come.  

(Pix courtesy WNPS)

 



0 Comments

Post your comments

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Most Popular

Instagram