Biodiversity Sri Lanka heads project to reforest Kanneliya Conservation Forest

By Zahara Zuhair

Biodiversity Sri Lanka in partnership with Forest Department, IUCN Sri Lanka and Private sector partners have decided to initiate a pilot project to reforest a 10 hectare block in the Kanneliya Conservation Forest that has been completely degraded due to human activity by applying an ecological restoration modelling approach.

The project which will go as an CSR initiative was launched recently at an event took place in MJF Centre for dignified and sustainable empowerment in   Moratuwa.

According to them this marks the first in a coalition state private and environmental agencies coming together in a project that has such significance on reforestation, biodiversity conservation, evolution of a biodiversity credit accrual system for Sri Lanka and related
carbon sequestration.

Diesel and Motor Engineering PLC, Dilmah Ceylon Tea Company PLC, Hatton National Bank PLC, Jetwing Hotels Ltd, Nations Trust Bank PLC, People’s Leasing and Finance PLC, Siam City Cement (Lanka) Ltd, and Virtusa (Pvt.) Ltd, will be committing their partnership for the project.
Forest restoration will be carried out in a manner that the species composition stand structure biodiversity  functions and process of the resorted forest will match as closely as possible that of a site specific original forest.

The entire restoration programme will take place over a period of five years. This will be carried out in two phases.

Phase one (the first two years) will focus on site preparation. Establishment of nurseries updating species inventories in the restoration and reference sites and setting up long term monitoring programme and planting of more robust native species.

Phase two (next three years) will focus on increasing the diversity of the site by planting more native spices once the ground conditions of the site are made more conducive for receive sensitive species.

The reforestation programme will be accompanied by a stringent monitoring programme to document the entire process. The information generated will be used to model the progress of forest regeneration, develop methods for calculating enhanced ecosystem services associated with reforestation.

Further, the project aims to develop an ecosystem and species credit accrual system for Sri Lanka using the outcomes of the project with the objective of catalysing private sector engagement and financing for biodiversity conservation by assigning a value for the biodiversity and ecosystem services enhanced.

University of Colombo Professor in Zoology Devaka K. Weerakoon told Mirror Business that the cost of restrain has been estimated to be approximately Rs.250,000 per acre per year.

It was noted that during the last century alone, Sri Lanka’s natural forest cover has declined by about 50 percent and continues to decline even at present at a rate of approximately 7,000 hectare a year.

The event was brought to a close with a demonstration of sustainable cuisine by celebrity chef Peter Kuruvita, who shared his creation
with all present.