EFL was working with IUCN on an integral component of the UNDP-Ministry of Mahaweli Development & Environment project on enhancing biodiversity conservation and sustenance of ecosystem services in environmentally sensitive areas (ESA). A large number of ESAs are not afforded legal protection and hence not taken into consideration in developmental planning. One such area was the ecologically important Kala Oya river basin. The basin plays a vital role in water purification, water retention and regulation of floods. It is a critical link for migration of fish species between marine and freshwater systems. The ecosystem services provided by the basin are valued at Rs. 23,500 M annually. This project aimed to integrate biodiversity conservation into landscape planning to enable sustainable provision of ecosystem services to communities. Two project areas – Puttalam and Anuradhapura – have been identified within the Kala Oya river basin. The project commenced in June 2016 and will be carried out over a period of three months in three steps;
- Production of a manual with guidelines on developing environmentally sensitive land use plans
- Training of divisional and national level planners
- Recognition and acceptance of the land use plans developed for the two sites
In doing so, the project related to local conservation targets to national levels, enabling strong national policies and helped reduce land use conflicts considerably to facilitate both development and conservation initiatives.