WNPS Monthly Lecture: Living In The Only Wetland Capital In The World

Jan 16 2023.

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Urbanization is one of the major trends of our time which completely transforms where we live and how we live in the future. This growing urban population together with climate change impacts brings enormous challenges to our cities. Urban wetlands are the only green patches in many cities and through their wide range of ecosystem services, they play a major role in making liveable and resilient cities. Colombo is a city built on a mosaic of interconnected marshes and waterways which is known as the Colombo Wetland Complex (CWC) which expands over 19 km2. 

The Colombo Wetland Management Strategy, developed in 2016, revealed the extremely high dependency of the Colombo Metropolitan Region on the CWC for its ecosystem services - including flood control, cooling effects, water treatment, urban biodiversity, livelihood opportunities, urban food security, recreational and educational opportunities, etc. This relationship between the City and the Wetland Complex, and its integration into urban development, contributed to Colombo being accredited as a Ramsar Wetland City, in 2018; the first and only Capital City which boasts this title. However, despite all conservation activities, the Colombo wetlands still experience significant anthropogenic pressure due to humans’ actions. We need to use the Colombo wetlands wisely to create a resilient Capital City for the present and the future.

Dr. Chethika Gunasiri is an environmental professional who has more than 10 years of experience in the field of urban ecosystem management. Currently, she is working as an Environmental Scientist at Sri Lanka Land Development Corporation and is mainly involved in the restoration, management, and wise use of urban wetlands to achieve sustainable city development. She was a member of the team preparing the Colombo Wetland Management Strategy and the application for the Ramsar Wetland City Accreditation for Colombo City. 

Her main research areas are planning and designing urban green spaces, the Water-Energy-Food-Ecosystem nexus in cities, urban ecosystem assessment, and urban shrinkage and ageing in developing countries. Chethika completed her Ph.D. in Sustainability Science at the United Nations University in Japan. She holds an M.Sc. in Earth Science from the Chinese Culture University in Taiwan, MBA from the University of Sri Jayewardenepura, and a Bachelor's in Zoology from the University of Colombo. She was a former South Asia Regional Representative of the Wetland Link International-Asia steering committee, and member of the Institute of Environmental Professionals Sri Lanka (IEPSL), and the former Assistant Secretary and a council member of IEPSL. 

Photo credits: Talangama Wetland Image by Riaz Cader; Colombo - the only wetland Capital in the World image by Dr Chethika Gunasiri; Purple face leaf monkey, Colombo Wetland - Image by Avijja Fonseka; Water monitor, Colombo Wetland - Image by Avijja Fonseka 

Lecture by Dr Chethika Gunasiri, 6 pm, Thursday 19th January 2023, Jasmine Hall, BMICH. The monthly lecture of the WNPS is supported by the Nations Trust Bank. It is open to both members and non-members. ENTRANCE FREE.


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