A WHOLE NEW WORLD
Becoming a diving instructor was no easy task for Niluka. Her husband Samith, who earned the license early on, encouraged her to follow her passion and was her main support system. She underwent training for swimming, underwater skills and techniques, safety rules and theoretically understanding the ocean current after which she was able to get her license. Together with Samith, she now accompanies tourist groups which consist of 6-9 persons daily during the peak tourist season which is usually from September to April each year. Foreign and local tourists are charged $85 each for the training, diving session and snack box she prepares. In recent years, there has been a steady increase in local tourists, which has helped them to create their own website and be rated on popular travel sites. She reminisces of the time when the Kalpitiya Bar Reef was a colourful and vibrant tourist attraction. Niluka describes it as “a dive into a whole new world!”
Samith, started diving and snorkeling at the age of 13, and has seen the bar reef in its heyday in all its splendor. Due to human activities such as over fishing, dynamite fishing and high speed boats, the coral reef has gradually deteriorated over the years and has lost its beauty. Now almost 24 years later, they’re working together with local authorities and UNDP to bring this natural ecosystem back to life.
ENVIRONMENTALLY SENSITIVE AREAS
In October 2015, UNDP Sri Lanka together with the Ministry of Mahaweli Development and Environment initiated the ‘Enhancing Biodiversity Conservation and Sustenance of Ecosystem Services in Environmentally Sensitive Areas’ (ESA) project to address these issues. Though Sri Lanka has instituted a national system of Protected Areas (PAs) to safeguard its biodiversity, many of the globally important ecosystems, habitats and species continued to remain outside protected areas and face accelerated threats.
Since it is not possible to safeguard the nation's wide-ranging biodiversity only through protected areas, strong measures are needed to put development on a more conservation-friendly trajectory by mainstreaming biodiversity into production activities, especially under the current context of rapid urbanization and high rate of economic development in the country.
The Global Environment Facility (GEF) funded project contributes to safeguarding globally significant biodiversity. Development pressures have affected the Kalpitiya bar reef, impacting the potential benefits and economic gains.