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Serving Sri Lanka

This web log is a news and views blog. The primary aim is to provide an avenue for the expression and collection of ideas on sustainable, fair, and just, grassroot level development. Some of the topics that the blog will specifically address are: poverty reduction, rural development, educational issues, social empowerment, post-Tsunami relief and reconstruction, livelihood development, environmental conservation and bio-diversity. 

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Mangrove Conservation

Mangrove Action Project: "Note: The following article comes from the Small Fishers Federation of Sri Lanka which is a partner NGO with Mangrove Action Project. SFFL and MAP are currently working together in helping to establish other Mangrove/ Coastal Communities Resource Centers in other parts of the Southern Hemisphere.


(First of a three part series on Sri Lanka) By Christie Fernando, Small Fishers Federation, Pambala, Chilaw, Sri Lanka

Introduction: Mangrove forests surrounding the country are increasingly facing serious threats of destruction. At present, the large-scale businessmen who are engaged in the prawn fishing industry, have already destroyed more than 6000 acres of mangroves in the Puttalam district of Sri Lanka. This industry has thus hampered the lives of the fishermen by destroying the mangroves. With the commencement of prawn farming, natural breeding of aquatic species in the wild--such as shrimp, crab and other fish fry-- were affected. In the long run, fish production in the country has diminished, affecting the country's economy. The Mangrove Resource Centre and Biological Garden at Kiralakele, Ambalantota, Sri Lanka With the implementation of the Coastal Resource Conservation programme, a Mangrove Conservation Centre and Biological Garden at Kiralakele, Ambalantota, in the Hambantota district was set up with a concerted effort to focus on the conservation of mangroves and the bio-diversity of coastal resources with a grant of Rs. 2.5 million from the Seacology Foundation, USA, under the auspices of the Small Fisheries Federation, Pambala, Chilaw recently. This Centre, which was officially opened up on July 13th, 2001, was primarily set up as a major step towards protecting the coastal environment. The Kiralakele mangrove forest is being developed with the aim of raising awareness about the importance of the coastal environment among the school children, the adults, the common people and the fisher community in the Southern province of Sri Lanka. 'Kirala' is a mangrove plant, which grows in the coastal areas in Sri Lanka, and Kiralakele (forest of Kirala mangrove (Sonneratia caseolaris)), which is the SFFL Center now being established at Ambalantota, is a captivating site covering 80 acres. This newly restored mangrove forest is earmarked to conserve the trees, fauna and flora, creepers, various aquatic species abounding in the area, as well as birds and insects, for the benefit of future generations. On its own merit, Kirala is a productive plant for the local residents. A delicious and nutritional drink is prepared with the ripe 'Kirala' fruits that contain lots of vitamins. People in the area make a living by collecting and selling the Kirala fruits. The price of a fruit is about five rupees. Kirala roots which emerged from the water level at Kiralakele also have an economic value. These roots are used to turn out bottle toppers (corks). It is also learnt that various aquatic species are natured using Kirala roots. According to local indigenous medicine, Kirala fruits, roots, bark and the flowers are treated as Ayurvedic drugs. The Kirala forest is situated in close proximity to the estuary of the main Walawe river in the Southern part of Sri Lanka. making the area ideal as a fish-breeding centre, Before the intervention of the Small Fisheries Federation of Sri Lanka, the Kiralakele was an abandoned forest. This mangrove forest was used to dump garbage and other nefarious activities before the involvement of the Small Fisheries Federation of Sri Lanka to develop the forest area. The community will reap benefits with the launching of the development activities with the people's participation.
From Christie Fernando-Sri Lanka


Keralakele Mangrove Resource Center Opens

The destruction of the coastal environmental systems in the Southern province of Sri Lanka began with the non-formal tourism industry and unauthorised and unsystematic constructions. To meet this challenge, the Small Fisheries Federation of Sri Lanka (SFFL) has adopted a people-based action programme to ensure coastal resource conservation. SFFL has also taken productive measures to ensure the welfare of the fishermen engaged in deep fishing, as well as the small fishermen who are engaged in their traditional fishing activities in shallow lagoons. In this respect, SFFL is working to protect the fishermen from unscrupuious middlemen. The majority of fishermen use traditional fishing gear, which are not hitherto developed. Their economic situation is below par, and their monthly income is between rupees 2000 to 3000. This social group consists of more than 70 per cent of the whole fisher community. They are represented by the Small Fisheries Federation of Sri Lanka. The aim of the Federation is to uplift the living conditions, build up the identity, and conserve the resources of the fisher folk in the island nation. The Federation has launched three major programmes in achieving this goal. One such programme is social development programme of the fisher community. The main low income group of this community are the fisher women and the youngsters. A special programme has been implemented to develop the living conditions of this group. It has been revealed that only 37 per cent of the total number of fisher women in the island had received some sort of education in the local schools. Others have never received any education at all. Further, it has been found that one out of every six fisher-women is a widow. Therefore, these women have encountered manifold difficulties and hardships. It was revealed that the situation of youngsters is worse as one out of 14 children in the fisher community do not attend school and a socialisation programme has been planned for their benefit. The second programme is to improve the nutritional level of the people of the fisher community. The target is to increase the protein content of the meal. The reason for the increase of the protein content of the meal is to minimise severe malnutrition of mothers and children in the fishing community. It was learnt that 48 percent of children suffer from malnutrition and 37 percent of mothers are stunted and wasted. Therefore, the Small Fisheries Federation has decided to increase the availability of fish in the reservoirs and inland water bodies. For this purpose, fish breeding centres were set up. The support of the Seacology Foundation for the coastal resource conservation of the land has been greatly appreciated by the fisher folk community and the school children. The Small Fisheries Federation has extended its gratitude to the Seacology Foundation for its assistance to set up the Mangrove Centre at Ambalantota, which is named the Kiralakele Mangrove Resource Centre. The Kiralakele area is developed with the aim of creating an awareness of the coastal environment and its value and worth among the school children in the fisher community and the common people in the area, in the Southern province. It is estimated that more than 800,000 school children will benefit from the Mangrove Conservation Centre. Educational and other facilities are provided to students and other major groups who are engaged in the study of mangrove coastal environment systems. The sole objective of this exercise is to create awareness on this aspect for the benefit of future generations. The State affiliated institutions such as the Ministry of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Development, the Southern Provincial Council, Pradeshiya Sabhas, and the University of Ruhuna (Southern) University have extended their assistance to set up the Kiralakele environment centre. This mangrove forest will be developed as a coastal mangrove environment park. The main objective is to conserve trees, flora, creepers, various aquatic species, birds and insects. The casual visitors to the site will doubtless, enjoy a lifetime experience. Mr.Mahinda Rajapakse, Minister of Ports, Shipping and Fisheries speaking at the ceremonial opening of the ultra modern Mangrove Resource Centre and Biological Garden at Kiralakele, Ambalantota said: "It is both our duty and responsibility to conserve mangroves, which are immensely beneficial to mankind...Experts have discovered rare indigenous species of mangroves here. If entrepreneurs cut down these rare varieties for personal gain and advantage, this will be a great loss to the whole island...The fauna and flora that inhabit this vast extent of mangroves at Kiralakele...must be...preserved." Mr.Rajapakse said: "Mangroves should be protected for the sake of prosperity, especially for the sake of our precious children who inherit this land for generations to come. In addition, an overall education should imparted to the residents in these parts regarding the value and worth of mangroves. The study of mangroves should also be included as a subject in the curriculum of schools to inculcate awareness in the students on the vital significance of mangroves..." Mr. Anuradha Wickremasinghe Director , Small Fisheries Federation, Pambala, Chilaw said that, with the help of the Seacology Foundation, SFFL was able to rehabilitate degraded mangroves at Kiralakele, and also has established a mangrove arboretum, and constructed raised walkways and observation areas as an eco-tourism project at this location. SFFL has also launched community- based awareness programs regarding the important role mangroves play in protecting the coastline and acting as nurseries for numerous aquatic species. Mr. Wickramasinghe stated: "We welcome visitors to this Mangrove Resource Center to enjoy the facilities provided. Our main objective is to provide basic information to correct the attitude of many about the mangrove eco-systems, by improving the awareness among the general public in an effort at conservation and management of this valuable resource." Mangrove habitats are unique in their own right, and hence in a mangrove biological garden, a visitor can enjoy a grand spectacle of various plants that are especially adapted to thrive in the harsh environment together with aquatic and terrestrial animals...A mangrove biological garden is indeed a special phenomenon because the mangrove plants have significant forms and functions, which carry out their tasks only in their very particular mangrove habitat. Accordingly, if one wishes to establish a botanical garden for mangroves, he has to take his botanical garden to the mangrove habitat rather than take the mangrove plants to a botanical garden. Hence the Kiralakele Mangrove Biological Garden is the first attempt to meet the challenge of establishing a mangrove park in Sri Lanka,. In this regard, the Small Fishers Federation of Sri-Lanka has exerted its utmost effort to display the mangrove species and associated animal species in Sri-Lanka. To know how a plant can adapt itself to thrive in such a harsh environment will surprise the novices who visit this Centre, and when viewing the mangrove habitat. Any casual visitor who is keen in learning, will know why mangrove plants can be nicknamed 'mammals in the plant world', As they continue to thrive and nourish their saplings or young ones till they are ready to accept the challenges of their difficult habitat...," Mr.Wickramasinghe added. From Christie Fernando-Sri Lanka "

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