Lanka whets intl appetite for mangrove conservation

August 4, 2016

Sri Lanka’s pioneering nationwide programme to save its damaged mangrove forests is bearing fruit a year on, prompting the U.S. conservation group backing it to look for another island country to launch a similar effort.

Duane Silverstein, executive director at California-based Seacology, a non-profit that protects island habitats, said he was planning to visit a candidate island state in the Caribbean in the next month. “This project, if it happens, is most definitely inspired by the success (in) Sri Lanka,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation, declining to name the potential project site as negotiations were ongoing.

From the late 1980s into the 1990s, the destruction of Sri Lanka’s mangroves had official sanction, as the government handed out public land to large companies to clear for shrimp farms along the northwest coast. “We were helpless – there was nothing we could do.

Earth movers would come in and clear tracts overnight that had taken hundreds of years to grow,” said Douglas Thisera, director of conservation at the Kalpitiya-based Small Fishers Federation of Sri Lanka (Sudeesa), which is partnering on the mangrove scheme. Hundreds of acres of ecologically important mangroves in northwest Puttalam district – around 40 percent of the area’s forests – were cleared and replaced by large ponds, Thisera said.


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