Environmentally Sensitive Areas

Managing Environmentally Sensitive Areas

Sri Lanka is blessed with a wealth of ‘blue’ and ‘green’ resources that are rich in biological diversity within a land area of 6,561,000 hectares and marine area of 51,700,000 hectares. 

A country’s diverse ecosystems has a significant contribution on society’s health, livelihoods and long term sustainable development. It also provides critical environmental services such as water, energy, air plus nutrient recycling among others and protection from natural disasters such as droughts, floods and landslides.

However, the development pressures can affect this rich biodiversity and ecosystems services beyond recovery, impacting the potential benefits and economic gains unless the sensitive nature of the ecosystems were taken into consideration in the development processes. Commendable contribution had been already made by State Agencies to protect the natural and heritage resources within declared wildlife, forest and heritage areas. Nevertheless, there are significantly important and “Environmentally Sensitive Areas (ESAs)” outside the declared areas that also need attention. 

What is this Project About?

In this context, the Ministry of Mahaweli Development and Environment in collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) developed five-year pilot project, jointly funded by the Global Environmental Facility and the Government of Sri Lanka to improve the country capacity to manage Environmentally Sensitive Areas. The pilot project will be implemented in North Central and North Western provinces in the Kala Oya and Wilpattu region and the project sites include Kakirawa, Ipalogama, Palagala, Galnawa and Vanathawilluwa.

Whilst several government policies and legislations provide for the creation of ESAs, there is an unmet need to operationalise them. Following the ecosystem approach and using a land use planning and management framework, the project will pilot multiple land management techniques in a coordinated and compatible manner. This project will use the necessary governance framework at the national level, including enforcement systems and will demonstrate ESA creation and management for the Kala Oya river basin. The project, launched on the on the 28th January 2016, will look at sustainable utilization of sensitive ecosystems and ensure structural long term sustainable development of the biological diversity of Sri Lanka. 

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