Mahesh Rathnayake of Commercial Bank’s CSR Unit (left) and Wildlife and Ocean Resource Conservation President Dhanushka Mahanama at the island in Koggala Lake
A belt of 2,000 mangrove plants and 750 mangrove associates is to be planted around a little island in the Koggala Lake, along with 500 terrestrial plants on the island, as part of Commercial Bank of Ceylon’s support to the ‘Koggala Mangrove Restoration and Conservation Project’ of Wildlife and Ocean Resource Conservation (WORC) of Sri Lanka.
The project is the result of a memorandum of understanding between the bank and WORC, for the restoration of a degraded ecosystem and to inspire a culture and community of environmental stewardship in the area.
The island chosen to implement this restoration project is the 13.5 acre ‘Kath Duwa’ in Habaraduwa, situated close to ‘Madol Duwa’, an island memorialised by Martin Wickramasinghe’s famous novel of the same name. Commercial Bank will provide funding for this in stages, and by extension will play a part in contributing towards the development of eco-tourism in the Koggala Lagoon by supporting the lagoon community through reducing the impact of erosion and providing education on how to carry out activities in a more environmentally responsible manner.
Besides funding, the bank will also monitor the progress of the project on a monthly basis, support WORC to build partnerships with local communities, raise education and awareness, and collaborate with the organisation to identify sustainable livelihoods and business opportunities associated with the project and help kick start related activities. The scope of the project to restore Kath Duwa includes discussions with the island owners, preparation of necessary plants and land for planting, implementation of a survey of fauna and flora on the island, planting of mangroves in plastic barrels around the 1,100-metre perimeter of Kath Duwa, constant observation of these mangroves, replanting if necessary, installing of eco-friendly information boards and tree name boards along the lagoon and on the island, and developing eco-tourism in the area. The Koggala Lagoon has a surface area of approximately 7.27 km² and is largely fed by several connected streams. Thanks to its rich bio diversity and ecosystem, it is one of the main attractions for tourists visiting the Southern coast. It sustains a few scattered small islands with mangrove swamps along their shorelines. Human activities and high tide have caused severe lagoon bank erosion and brought about destruction to the ecosystem of mangroves in the past few decades. The ‘Koggala Mangrove Restoration and Conservation Project’ to be implemented in Kath Duwa seeks to remedy part of this problem.
Wildlife and Ocean Resource Conservation is a not-for-profit organisation focused on conservation and ecosystem restoration in Sri Lanka. It supports community-based sea turtle conservation in Panama and Pottuvil, mangrove forest conservation and restoration in Koggala, and coral reef conservation and restoration in Rumassala. WORC offers travel experiences in all of these areas and all income from ecotourism is used to fund ongoing conservation and restoration work.