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Sri Lanka’s Ocean Conference Commitments

Last week saw the first UN Ocean Conference, where heads of states, civil society organizations, private corporations and scientists came together to reiterate the importance of the ocean and to facilitate actions for the protection and conservation of oceans, seas and other marine resources.  The need for large scale intervention and action to save oceans is pressing. From ocean acidification to mismanagement of marine protected areas to exploitation of fish resources, the threats that this vast vital system faces are

Trashing an Ocean: Sri Lanka’s Marine Pollution Problem

Henderson Island, a tiny remote island in the far flung reaches of the South Pacific Ocean, should bear no trace of human civilization. Instead, the tropical island is covered by a staggering 38 million pieces of plastic trash.  Marine debris is mostly made up of plastic, from waterproof sheets to plastic bottles to miniscule micro-plastics found in cosmetic products. Buoyant and durable, plastic is dispersed over vast distances and is found in the most impenetrable corners of the ocean: even

Putting Biodiversity on the Map

Funded by the Japan Biodiversity Secretariat, Environmental Foundation Limited generated 16 maps based on biodiversity and socio-economic data as well as development plans of the government of Sri Lanka. These maps include existing protected areas, proposed gaps in protected areas, forest areas important for erosion and flood control, habitat suitability and corridor models, as well as areas identified for commodity agriculture and large scale infrastructure. The purpose of this project was to understand where biodiversity targets will conflict with

Sustainable Tourism and Biodiversity: Tackling Marine Debris in Sri Lanka

Tourism has a symbiotic and occasionally parasitic relationship with biodiversity. Biodiversity pulls in visitors with the wildlife and the aesthetic beauty that is associated with pristine natural habitats and in turn, the revenue generated from tourism can go towards conservation efforts and upkeep of protected areas. However, unchecked and unsustainable tourism degrades natural environments, destroying the very thing that attracted visitors there in the first place. Tourism plays a prominent role in Sri Lanka’s post-war economy, generating $US 2.2 billion

Biodiversity and the Law: An Overview of Sri Lanka

From conserving habitats to preventing illegal wildlife trade, the law is a crucial instrument in protecting Sri Lanka’s biodiversity and ensuring that endangered and endemic species are not forgotten and lost in waves of development. While Sri Lanka is bound by international conventions such as the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, it has a diverse range of domestic legislature under which biodiversity is governed and considered. Biodiversity

Curbing biodiversity loss by destructive mini hydropower

Despite global recognition for their biodiversity, Sri Lanka’s moist tropical evergreen forests seem to be less valued by its citizens, as development goals and population pressures have steadily eroded forest cover, often leaving only isolated patches which still sustain rare and endemic species. Buoyed by green credibility and a conducive policy framework that was afforded to renewable energy, mini hydro power projects have mushroomed in the South-west, harnessing water sources that are often found in pristine and untouched rainforests. While the

Wetland to Wasteland – Degradation of Colombo’s Urban Ecosystems

A respite from Colombo’s urban sprawl is often found in an intricate network of urban wetlands across the city. While wetlands regulate temperature, reduce the impact of floods and sequester carbon, these urban ecosystems are frequently and recklessly allotted for the purpose of garbage disposal, with one of South Asia’s largest garbage dumps situated in the Boralesgamuwa wetland. Even designated Ramsar Sites are not exempt, with a recommendation to establish a 5 acre site in Muthurajawela, in the Wattala Divisional

Biofuel from ‘Kalapu Andara’ – Powering Sri Lanka and protecting its ecosystems

Kalapu Andara, Mesquite, or scientifically known as Prosopis juliflora, is a perennial shrub belongs to the legume family, family Fabaceae. Native to Central and South America and the Caribbean region, it has been introduced to Africa, Asia and Australia where it has been naturalized. In 1880 it was intentionally introduced to Sri Lanka as a shade and erosion control tree, in the Hambantota and Puttalam districts. Mesquite is a medium sized tree with an average height about 5m, with an ashy

Aliens in Our Waters: Marine Invasive Alien Species

Alien is a term everyone is familiar with – creatures with long limbs and large eyes come to mind, like E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial from the popular 80s movie. While the existence of extra terrestrial life has been long debated, Sri Lanka is vulnerable to a very real threat from alien species of a different nature. These organisms travel a considerably smaller distance on earth (compared to E.T. from outer space) to colonise Sri Lankan soil and waters. Simply put, an

Invasive Alien Species: A Silent Threat to Sri Lanka’s Biodiversity

We have all heard of “invasive species”, but what are they really, and why are they such a big problem? Through natural and man-made processes, many species are introduced to areas outside of their normal range – these are known as non-native, or “alien” species. Many of these alien species will not be able to adapt to the new environment at all, and may eventually die off. Today, as with the rest of the world, hundreds of new species of