Business and conservation, inextricably linked to each other, will be taken to a higher level with the launch on Tuesday of ‘Biodiversity Sri Lanka’ with a clear focus on national priorities. It would also see the metamorphosis of the Sri Lanka Business and Biodiversity Platform (SL B&B Platform) set up under the Ceylon Chamber of [...]


Biodiversity conservation gets a big boost


Business and conservation, inextricably linked to each other, will be taken to a higher level with the launch on Tuesday of ‘Biodiversity Sri Lanka’ with a clear focus on national priorities.

Solid waste entering the Castlereigh reservoir through the Dick oya. Pic by Buddhi Seneviratne – SL B&B Platform

It would also see the metamorphosis of the Sri Lanka Business and Biodiversity Platform (SL B&B Platform) set up under the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce (CCC) with no legal status to ‘Biodiversity Sri Lanka’, an autonomous body with its own niche as a ‘company limited by guarantee’ giving it more muscle.

The event on Tuesday at the Ramada Hotel in Colombo marks this transformation of the Platform from a seed planted three years ago by a small group of companies to safeguard the country’s environment, to a beautiful tree with its canopy reaching far and wide.

The event is supported by Diesel and Motor Engineering PLC, Dilmah Conservation, Jetwing Hotels Ltd., National Development Bank PLC, People’s Leasing and Finance PLC and Sampath Bank PLC.

Giving the backdrop, it is Platform Advisor Shiranee E. Yasaratne who explains that having serious concerns about the little focus on the environment and the need to have coordination and consistency and no duplication, it was the CCC that acted as the catalyst to form the SL B&B Platform.

Shiranee Yasaratne

Earlier, there were only isolated corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives and small ad hoc conservation projects, she says, citing numerous tree planting campaigns, around 85% of which died a natural death after a while.

With a need for the bigger picture including biodiversity and environmental conservation to be looked at, the Platform has now moved in the direction of ‘Biodiversity Sri Lanka’.

Platform Coordinator R.M. Harshini de Silva talks of the Platform’s beginnings three years ago – how the CCC joined the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and Dilmah Conservation to provide a valuable service to businesses investing in sustainable development and conserving natural resources.

The Platform has as its initial six-member Board of Directors, high-level representatives from the CCC, IUCN, Dilmah Conservation, Rainforest Ecolodge (Pvt.) Ltd., Hatton National Bank PLC and Access Group.

While there are 29 Patron Members and 24 General Members, thetea-giant Dilmah funded the setting up of the Secretariat to facilitate this business-led initiative.

Harshini de Silva

Word got around of the work being carried out by the Platform, the Sunday Times learns, with others showing “enormous interest”.

Now three years on, much behind-the-scenes work has taken place, with the movers and shakers of the Platform being in agreement that it would be better if businesses engaging in conservation could channel their efforts to achieving national priorities without just picking up any project.

It was to list these ‘Biodiversity Priorities of Sri Lanka’ that Sherani Ruberu, under the guidance of the Platform’s Projects and Communications Coordinator Buddhi Seneviratne went a-knocking on the doors of numerous people and groups including Government officials, non-governmental representatives, scientists, researchers, the Department of Wildlife Conservation, the Wildlife and Nature Protection Society, et al.

Pointing out that the mandate of the Platform is fostering dialogue between the private sector and conservation agencies, Ms. de Silva says the purpose is to be a knowledge-sharing system, nationally-owned, member-driven mechanism, while also providing assistance to businesses to find solutions to adjust their activities to ensure environmentally-responsible management and sustainable growth.

Buddhi Seneviratne

One of the objectives is also to add economic value to biodiversity conservation and integrate it into the core business of companies.

The Platform, meanwhile, has set up the Technical Resource Bank which provides an insight into sectoral best practices in biodiversity conservation and also a ‘Project Bank’ on all on-going and proposed projects.

“It also helps businesses to build on their green credentials and be eligible for Best Corporate Citizen Sustainability Awards and other awards in the realm of environment,” adds Ms. de Silva.

Sherani Ruberu

The conservation projects currently being implemented by the Platform’s wide-ranging member-companies are diverse: Reforestation; Species Conservation; Education, Awareness and Culture; Coastal and Coral Conservation; Marine Conservation; Inland Waters Conservation; Solid and E-waste Management; Assessment of Biodiversity; Biodiversity and Communities; and Terrestrial Ecosystem and Habitat Restoration.

These projects are scattered across the country from Colombo to Bundala, Arugam Bay to Mannar, Anuradhapura to Horton Plains, Hanwella to Pannala, Hiyare to Adam’s Peak, Dambulla to Kalutara, Yagirala to Endana and Minneriya to Hiniduma.

However, not satisfied with what they have achieved and always striving to do more, the Platform in three short years has now decided to spread its canopy to cover small and medium enterprises, having received “an overwhelming response” from its members, according to Ms. Yasaratne.


Four projects being  facilitated by SLB&BFour of the numerous projects being facilitated and coordinated by the SL B&B Platform are:
Wetworking and conserving the Bolgoda wetland complex – Bolgoda is the largest natural freshwater lake in the country and a crucial part of the Kalu Ganga basin. Located close to the capital, it faces threats similar to those assailing any natural ecosystem close to a highly urban area.

These threats include reclamation and clearing for urban expansion, unsustainable solid waste disposal by households and industries, especially saw mills, and release of industrial, domestic and commercial wastewater into the area.

The degradation and destruction of the wetlands have in recent times increased flood damage and caused a decline in aquatic biodiversity.

This 18-month project to be launched on Tuesday (October 6), supported by Sampath Bank PLC and implemented by the Sri Lanka Water Partnership, aims to assist in the restoration of degraded areas of this wetland.

It will help conserve biodiversity, maintain the watershed and increase its resilience to climate change for the benefit of the local communities as well as the agricultural and industrial sectors.

A biodiversity assessment and determination of the extent of environmental degradation will be undertaken. A vulnerability index will also be developed and awareness campaigns carried out among the public.

Watershed conservation and restoration in the Knuckles conservation forest and environmental protection area: Mini-watershed of Puwakpitiya oya – Although water-based development is a national priority, watershed degradation is a major issue in highland areas such as the Puwakpitiya oya basin.

Deforestation, agricultural land conversion and growing settlements as well as water contamination by heavy agrochemical usage are some of the dangers.

This three-year project supported by HSBC Sri Lanka and implemented by IUCN, launched on October 1, will promote an integrated ecosystem and community-based approach to watershed management.

It will rehabilitate the Puwakpitiya watershed vegetation, enhance biodiversity and ecosystem services and empower communities and local conservation agencies to manage forest resources.

The project will also provide a pilot model for integrated management of mini-watersheds containing forests and traditional villages in the Knuckles region.

Solid waste management for the Dick oya watershed area of the Castlereigh reservoir in support of Ceylon Tea Trails.

This reservoir is considered a high-value resource by Ceylon Tea Trails, the world’s first bungalow resort, promoting responsible nature-based and adventure tourism in the central highlands.

But much of this reservoir is being degraded due to improper solid waste disposal through the Dick oya and Keselgamu oya. Waste caught in the traps placed on the upper section of the bank of the Dick oya by a privately-owned mini-hydro power plant has also not been cleared.

This year-long project launched in June supported by Dilmah Conservation under Ceylon Tea Services PLC and implemented by the Castlereigh Freshwater Fishermen’s Cooperative Society Ltd. — in collaboration with the local authorities, the Central Environmental Authority and the Ceylon Electricity Board — aims to implement a waste management plan for the town, carry out awareness programmes and develop a monitoring and evaluation programme.

Estimating the sloth bear population density in the Wilpattu National Park: Phase II –  Under this year-long project launched in June, the ‘Biodiversity Education And Research’ (BEAR) group with the support of CIC Holdings PLC aims to extend the population studies conducted in Phase I to cover the entirety of the National Park to identify the sloth bears’ home range using GPS-collaring techniques.

It hopes to develop innovative field techniques to monitor sloth bears, gather data on the ecology, biology of and threats to this species to help in their conservation, strategy formulation and management.

Phase I conducted earlier resulted in new knowledge on sloth bear population dynamics, habits, behaviour, food preferences and precise numbers/abundance based on photo records in a localised area of the National Park.

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