The mystique of a place that’s still relatively undiscovered

Sri Lanka’s mangroves in the forefront of eco-tourism—and saving the planet

Sri Lanka’s mangroves help curb global warming, nurture diminishing fish stocks, are a key target for eco-tourism—and women are in the forefront of ensuring their survival.

A CNN Travel piece about the importance of these salt-water saviours spends the day exploring the lush green expanse in the Muthurajawela wetlands bordering the spectacular lagoon south of Negombo, Sri Lanka’s premier west-coast beach resort.

Tourism upswing

Lifestyle writer Lindsay Lambert notes that “tourism in Sri Lanka—the tropical island nation just a stone’s throw from the tip of southern India—is on an upswing, thanks to thousands of miles of sugar-sand coastline, lush interiors dotted with tea plantations and the mystique of a place that’s still relatively undiscovered.

“And while the country’s pristine beaches, not yet overrun with tourists or towering condos, draw budget and luxury travelers alike from around the world, a different kind of coastal tableau—shallow, shore-hugging waters where mangrove forests grow—is not only worth exploring, but a matter of national attention.”

Amal Priyankara, a 26-year-old naturalist and Negombo native, plays a crucial role in preserving Negombo’s mangroves.

Vital eco-asset

With the help of the Muthurajawela Visitor Centre and Amal Priyankara, a 26-year-old naturalist and Negombo native, Lambert becomes immersed in the ongoing efforts to safeguard what this vital Sri Lankan eco-asset.

“Mangroves are a really big topic in my country,” he tells him. “Schools are teaching kids about them.” Education is key, as mangroves play a crucial role in Sri Lanka’s—and the world’s—coastal ecosystem that extends far beyond the aesthetics they bring to a boat tour.

They provide critical shelter for young fish (replenishing coral reefs and fisheries, thus facilitating the livelihood of Sri Lankans who fish for a living) and sequester up to 50 times more carbon dioxide than other kinds of forests, making them indispensable in combating climate change.

California-based Seacology partnership helping women lead the way

California-based Seacology, which is about halfway through a five-year partnership with Sri Lankan NGO Sudeesa (formerly known as the Small Fisher Federation of Lanka), is teaching Sri Lankans about the importance of mangroves.

Micro loans

The organizations provide small-business tools and micro loans to 15,000 local women in exchange for their commitment to help conserve, rehabilitate and replant all of the nearly 22,000 acres of mangrove forests that grow along the country’s coasts.

Conservation project funnelled through local households

Anuradha Wickramasinghe, chairman of Sudeesa, says that the organizations targets women in particular because “much of the information and direction in households here is funneled down through them.”

Through the organizations’ Sri Lanka Mangrove Conservation Project, women in 14 districts and 1,500 small communities located near mangrove forests complete mandatory three-day training on mangrove conservation, business management and livelihood development before receiving micro loans that allow them to start or expand their own small businesses.

Read more here.

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