To celebrate National Tree Planting Day which fell on November 15, a tree planting event was held on November 14 at the Bellanwila-Attidiya Sanctuary, the site of the WNPS ‘Green Isle Project. The initial idea and commitment came from Seyara and her friends in Visakha Vidyalaya to plant 100 trees of recommended species. A highlight of the event was the planting of five endemic saplings Crudia zeylanica, which was believed to be extinct in the wild.
The Green Isle Project: Restoring a Sanctuary of Critically Important Urban Wetlands
WNPS Green Isle Project President Dr Nirmali De Silva addressing the assembly Himesh Dilruwan Jayasinghe, Central Environment Authority President Siripala Amarasinghe, student of Visakha Vidyalaya Seyara Vidanagamage, the Director of the Department of Wildlife Conservation – Operations Ranjan Marasinghe, and WNPS President Spencer Manuelpillai
The Wildlife and Nature Protection Society (WNPS) launched the Green Isle Project in 2019, to restore part of the degraded urban wetland of the Bellanwila-Attidiya Sanctuary which was published in the Official Journal in 1990. According to records, the sanctuary home to over 150 species of birds. including migratory and endemic, and more than 20 species of mammals. While being a habitat of incredible diversity, it provides essential environmental services such as flood control, air purification, water purification, minimizing the impacts of the “island effect of urban warmth ”and helping to make the urban fringes of Colombo cooler, to name a few.
The main objective of the Green Isle project is the restoration of habitat for species conservation in the Bellanwila-Attidiya Sanctuary, in order to provide refuge for primate species Violet-faced monkey or Nestor commonly referred to as “kalu wandura” in Sinhala, which is an endangered endemic species that is rapidly losing its habitat in urban and suburban areas of Western Province.
Professor Lakdas Fernando hands over a young Crudia zeylanica tree to Seyara Vidanagamage from Visaka Vidyalaya
Through well-planned scientific restoration activities, the WNPS has enriched this space with over 1,500 scientifically identified plants and this marked a historic exercise in tree planting, where for the first time in a tree planting program , five saplings of Crudia zeylanica have been planted on the site – a species that has been in the news lately. WNPS was happy to be joined by Himesh Jayasinghe on this occasion, who in 2019 rediscovered this tree, after it was declared extinct.
Wetlands play an essential role in environmental and coastal protection, and natural urban wetlands are extremely rare. Unfortunately, there are serious threats to wetlands in Sri Lanka, including habitat loss and exploitation, the spread of invasive plant species, and human encroachment for “development”, among other reasons. . The WNPS is grateful for the continued efforts of the Department of Wildlife Conservation (DWC) who wage many legal battles to protect this area.
Urgent appeal to ensure the protection of the Bellanwila-Attidiya sanctuary under the Ramsar Convention
The Metropolitan City of Colombo has been identified as one of the first Ramsar Wetland Cities, comprising the following wetlands:
Beddagana wetland Diyasauru wetlandHeen ela wetlandKolannawa WetlandKotte wetlandMaddinnagoda wetlandMulleriyawa wetlandThalangama Wetland
The WNPS would like to call on the authorities to annex the Bellanwila-Attidiya Sanctuary to the Ramsar List, as this will provide this important wetland habitat with a higher and much needed level of protection.
WNPS would like to congratulate the students of Visakha Vidyala for their participation in this occasion and sincerely hope that this event will be an inspiration for more young people in Sri Lanka to become aware of the environment and choose to protect the rich biodiversity of our homeland.
A collaborative effort
Plantation of Crudia zeylanica at the Green Isle Project by Seyara Vidanagamage de Visaka Vidyalaya, Director of the Department of Wildlife Conservation – Operations Ranjan Marasinghe, Gamini Steinwall, Chairman of the WNPS Spencer Manuelpillai, Department of Wildlife Conservation – Director – Wildlife Management protected areas Manjula Amararathna, Prof. Lakdas Fernando and Dr Nirmali De Silva from WNPS
The WNPS would like to thank the Sri Lanka Land Development Corporation (SLLDC) who provided a robust amphibious dredge to clear thick vegetation during the early stages of the Green Isle project. The project was led by Professor Lakdas Fernando, passionate about restoring habitat that existed many years ago and WNPS is grateful for his environmental leadership.
The project would not have been possible without our project financial partners – Abans PLC and LG. Their partnership with the Green Isle Project at Bellanwila-Attidiya Shrine represents Abans and LG’s latest efforts to promote a sustainable lifestyle in Sri Lanka as part of their “LG Loves Green Sri Lanka” campaign. This CSR initiative aims to contribute to the cause of Sri Lankan wildlife preservation by transforming the suburban wetland into a “green lung”.
WNPS will continue to protect Sri Lanka’s precious natural heritage
Founded in 1894, the responsibility of the Wildlife and Nature Protection Society (WNPS) is the conservation of wildlife, forests, marine ecosystems and endangered species. Their mission is to protect Sri Lanka’s rich natural heritage by galvanizing policymakers, scientists, activists, nature lovers and the general public; preserve nature and wildlife through sustained conservation activities based on science, legislation, education and citizen engagement. Being a 127-year-old company, WNPS has worked with many stakeholders, including government, policy makers, researchers, scientists, environmentalists, educators, activists and the public, to protect the rich natural heritage of the flora and fauna of Sri Lanka, for our future generations.