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20 Acres of extremely valuable Bolgoda waterfront land gifted

The aerial view of 20 Acre Bolgoda waterfront land donated to WNPS PLANT

The pioneer in scalable private sector led ecosystem conservation, WNPS PLANT, marked another major milestone on its conservation journey when a 20-acre private land located fronting the Southern Bolgoda Lake was donated to it for ecosystem preservation and restoration under its Emerald Trails initiative. Through this generous donation made on the World Wetland Day, Chanake Seneviratne–the owner of the property, emphasized the importance of preserving natural ecosystems for future generations.

Bolgoda Lake, the largest freshwater lake in Sri Lanka, is a lifeline for many communities and home to diverse flora and fauna. It has been an Environmental Protection Area (EPA) since 2009. However, urbanization, recreational activities, illegal encroachment, garbage disposal and invasive species threaten this ecosystem. To help preserve these ecosystems, Mr. Seneviratne donated 20 acres of land facing the Southern lake in Bandaragama, to the Preserving Land and Nature (PLANT) initiative of the Wildlife and Nature Protection Society (WNPS). As the first private land donation made towards PLANT, this is a shining example of individual commitment to conservation and the welfare of future generations.

The deed of gift being handed over in the presence of the lawyers, by Chanake Seneviratne to WNPS PLANT Directors, Dilshan Hettiaratchi & Shevon Gooneratne

Established just three years ago, PLANT already has a preservation footprint of over 2,500 acres of land in over 20 locations, where it either protects forests or helps restore degraded ecosystems to their original glory, while also providing valuable ecosystem services to nearby communities through strategic partnerships with many private sector partners and individuals (see ).

By securing habitats, PLANT actively helps mitigate human-wildlife conflicts, prevent species loss, serves as a wildlife refuge, and address the issue of climate change. PLANT’s long-term goal is to create an ‘Emerald Trail,’ which is a network of natural corridors that connect fragmented forest patches and facilitate the safe migration of flora and fauna. Although conservation efforts on the island are challenging, PLANT’s tangible achievements serve as a beacon of hope and assurance, demonstrating that conservation remains an essential cause. PLANT properties currently protect many Critically endangered species in several different locations.

Inspired by the efforts of PLANT and its team, Mr. Seneviratne decided to donate this land, even though it has tremendous economic value. His action showcases the core values he holds as a responsible individual and his thoughtfulness speaks volumes and serves as a clear demonstration of his unwavering dedication to ensuring a sustainable environment for future generations.

Mr. Seneviratne stated: “My late father and I both enjoyed lots of time alongside these waters, with the many fish, birds, and other creatures, and his desire and mine were always to see these areas better protected. Neither of us want to exploit these beautiful areas for economic gain, and we would rather sacrifice that opportunity and give our future generations a chance to enjoy and appreciate the beauty of nature. We must preserve these intricate ecosystems for them, and that social responsibility outweighs any monetary benefit I could reap from this location. Donating this gives me immense joy and I hope this donation will support the fantastic conservation work being carried out by WNPS PLANT, and inspire others to come forward, make more land donations, and join forces with them to restore the biodiversity of this beautiful island.”

Overjoyed at this monumental donation, Chairman of WNPS PLANT, Sriyan de Silva Wijeyeratne said that “WNPS PLANT was established with a leap of faith in humanity. We wanted to build over a 100 kilometers of forest corridors, and preserve thousands of acres, but we began with only a vision, our passion, and no money nor lands available to us. The response from many partners has been incredible, but this donation is truly the icing on the cake. To have our first major private land donor gift us a large extent of such valuable land is phenomenal. Chanake’s gesture inspires us to reach even higher and dream bigger, and we are deeply indebted to him beyond all measure. Many Sri Lankan’s inherit large blocks of forested lands and I hope we will see more of them step forward to make a meaningful difference to conservation and to the future of Sri Lanka and all her species”.

Mangrove ecosystem restoration is crucial in addressing issues such as degradation, pollution, and invasion of non-native species. Mangroves play an important role in carbon sequestration, and they also serve as breeding and feeding grounds for various species that thrive in these ecosystems. Therefore, it is essential to create safe pathways for species to migrate between inland and littoral zones, and to preserve and protect these valuable wetland ecosystems and their inhabitants.

WNPS also played a lead role in the recent UN award winning Mangrove restoration work which is ongoing in Anivilundawa and elsewhere. The PLANT team hopes to do a rapid biodiversity assessment as a baseline and will then undertake different ecosystem restoration measures under scientific guidance in the coming years at this location. They will also engage community in their work which is a routine part of their approach. The PLANT team, along with Mr. Seneviratne, explored the location recently to kick off their field work and onsite engagement.

Established over 125 years ago, the WNPS, as Sri Lanka’s largest and most active conservation entity, continues to lead the charge to protect the wild and the free in Sri Lanka through its’ dedicated band of volunteers and staff contingent.

This article first appeared in The Island on the 31st of March 2024.

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