Sri Lanka’s soil, water and air as well as the diversity of plants and animals has placed this island as a unique habitat for humans as well as animals. This natural capital, like all other resources, needs to be conserved and scientifically managed for sustainability and of the country to thrive in the future. While it is clear that we should preserve our natural resources, maintaining and developing it carefully instead of thoughtlessly endangering it by taking ad-hoc measures is an immense challenge that requires long-term vision.
While there’s broad consensus on the fact that our actions must be in harmony with the environment, coordinating development-related activities in an environment-centric manner is not an easy task due to diverse interests and unlimited demands among stakeholders, including government agencies. This requires a policy framework in order to have legal backing as well as an administrative mechanism which prioritises landscape planning and implementation of recommended actions in selected landscapes.
In order to meet this challenge, in response to the request made by ESCAMP, the Ministry of Wildlife and Forest Conservation, and Department of National Planning has appointed a 16-member high-level Advisory Committee representing key Ministries, Departments and Volunteer Experts to develop a conservation landscape planning policy framework.
The first meeting of this committee was held on 15 March 2022 under the patronage of the Secretary of the Ministry of Wildlife and Forest Conservation Mr Somaratne Vidanapatirane, who emphasised the necessity to adopt a novel approach such as ‘Landscape Planning,’ with focus on economic development, and community livelihood enhancement, while safeguarding the environment and conservation of natural resources of the country. Welcoming the newly appointed committee, ESCAMP Project Director Mr Anura Sathurusinghe explained the objectives of the committee, and clarified it’s role while assuring them of providing support to meet their mandate within the stipulated period.
Landscape Management Planning Coordinator of ESCAMP Mr H.G. Gunawardena then presented the manner in which landscape management has evolved; how it complies with national and global commitments as well as international treaties; lapses of present planning process; important elements, methodology and planning process characterised by integrated and collaborative planning process, which address prevailing environmental and socioeconomic issues. He further elaborated the methodology adopted in preparation of two pilot landscape management plans ie; Dry Zone and Wet Zone with the fullest cooperation of stakeholders. Dr Jini Dela’s presentation focused on the biological, hydrological and environmental importance of Sinharaja Forest Range Landscape (SFR) and it’s immense genetic value and global significance.
The meeting ended with a discussion among committee members on the task ahead of them. The committee was able to arrive at the salient points which need to be included when developing the conservation landscape planning policy framework.