Celebrating the 2010 International Volunteer Day

08 Feb 2010

On International Volunteer Day (IVD) last month, UNVs decided to do things a bit differently by using the day to raise greater awareness towards cleaner, greener waters in Sri Lanka. UNDP and UNV in collaboration with the Disaster Management Centre and the Coast Conservation Department initiated a watershed based environment awareness programme called “Walk Your Watershed” (WYW).The “Walk Your Watershed” programme was designed with the intention of creating a cleaner environment for the community. The main objective was to test the pollution level of watersheds in the country by measuring and making observations on the indicators of their health through the properties of soil, air and water.

These observations could then be used in mobilizing stakeholders that directly rely on the water to act towards safeguarding the bio-diversity of their watershed. This pilot project of the initiative ‘Walk Your Watershed’ was conducted around Madu Ganga last month. Situated on the southern coastal belt of Sri Lanka, covering 53 hectares, the Madu Ganga watershed is known for its rich biodiversity.

The livelihood of the population of Balapitiya and Karandeniya is closely linked with the Madu Ganga as the majority depends on fisheries, agriculture and eco-tourism. The unrestrained nature of these activities has contributed to the destruction of the bio diversity of Madu Ganga, in addition to deforestation and rapid urbanization.

The session included presentations and discussions on balancing livelihood activities while safeguarding the eco balance of the watershed. The event also saw nearly 250 children from 10 schools in the area participate in the practical experiments to test pollution levels in the Madu Ganga. The practical session gave an opportunity to all participants to interact and learn solid waste management and water quality testing. Participants were instructed on how to divide and categorize waste for further processing and recycling as an opportunity to earn extra income.

Video films were used to describe examples of bad watershed management in the Negombo and Lunawa lagoon systems where conditions were much similar to Madu Ganga before the intensive development.The ‘Walk Your Watershed’ programme helped participants gain awareness on disaster risk management, water quality and concepts of geology and ecology.

The programme aimed to create a feeling of responsibility in each individual to protect and manage their environment, without limiting it to policy makers and international bodies that debate on environmental matters, and to engender the enthusiasm to care for and look after their watershed.